Tipping Savvy

by Julie Ann

A few days ago I was walking by a cookie shop in the mall and noticed a tip jar sitting by the register. These little tip jars seem to be popping up at more and more places.  As I continued walking down the corridor smelling the aroma of chocolate chip cookies, I started thinking, “Do I really need to tip someone just for reaching in a display case, grabbing a cookie, and ringing up my purchase?”

Oh tipping, it’s confusing, often controversial and only seems to be getting more so.  How do I know who to tip? How much should I tip? Do I tip on the pre- or post-tax total?  What about bad service?  I’ve scoured the opinions of etiquette and financial experts and have put together a few tipping scenarios and guidelines on how you should handle these situations.

1.  Cookie Counter Tip Jar

Let’s say that cookie smell wafting through the mall had driven me bonkers and I had satisfied my craving with a delicious chocolate chip cookie.  Am I obligated to tip the cookie lady?  Typically workers at these cookie shops, coffee shops, do-it-yourself-yogurt shops and the like are not working for tips so you shouldn’t feel like you are under any obligation. However, if the circumstances warrant (the employee is particularly friendly or helpful, or is working quickly and efficiently to deal with a long line) then it may be polite to throw in your spare change or a buck into the tip jar.

2. Gift Certificates, Coupons and Vouchers

Now what if you are using a gift certificate, coupon or voucher for a service or meal?  If you are using some sort of discount you should still tip on the amount before any deductions, discounts or taxes are applied.  After all, just because you get half-off your services doesn’t mean the worker put in half the work.

3. Know Before You Go

When discussing this column with my editor, Donna, she mentioned that she recently had a massage and was wondering about tipping the masseur and how much.  The experts agree that a 10 to 20 percent tip should go to a massage therapist in a spa or hotel setting. However, if it is a medical massage within a clinical setting, tipping is not expected (you wouldn’t tip your doctor for giving you a shot, would you?)

One issue that I’ve always struggled with (but never bothered to look up before now) was how much to tip my hair stylist. I’ve typically just rounded up to give her a couple bucks extra.  But I always wondered if this was enough.  Tipping etiquette suggests that I give my stylist a tip of 15 to 20 percent.  I’ve been giving more along the lines of 10 percent, so next time I will know to throw in a few extra dollars.

If you know you’re going to be in a situation like these where you are unsure if you are to tip and how much, run an Internet search beforehand so you don’t get caught wondering if you made a tipping faux pas.  When traveling, it is especially helpful to know how much to tip bellhops, shuttle drivers, concierges or tour guides. If you are traveling internationally always check before you go, as tipping is illegal in some countries.

4. Bad Service

One of the most controversial subjects surrounding tipping is what to do when you get bad service.  Let’s say your waiter was slow, rude, didn’t keep your drinks filled and never brought you ketchup when you asked.  Do you stiff him or leave a significantly reduced tip to prove your dissatisfaction?  If you ask 10 different people you’ll get 10 different answers on what you should do, so it’s really a matter of opinion and how you view the circumstances.  But here are a few things to consider.

First, be gracious. Perhaps your waiter just got bad news and his attitude and lack of focus weren’t intentional.  Leave a full tip, but perhaps mention it to the manager before leaving so that she will be aware of the problem and deal with it accordingly.

Second, be aware of how service employees (wait staff) are paid. In some states, wait staff are paid minimum wage, but in other states they are paid only a few dollars an hour and are expected to make up the difference in tips.  Also be aware that they often split their tips with other employees like kitchen staff, hostesses or bussers.  So if you refuse to tip you may truly be hurting your waitress’s income and denying other employees of extra pay.

Finally, if you do choose to tip a dime or leave no tip at all, you might not want to frequent that establishment for a while.  If your stiff a waiter, he very well might remember you, and while I hope this wouldn’t happen, you may just get some “extra ingredients” in your food if he is as big of a jerk as he seems.

In my opinion, your best recourse for bad service is to tip the minimum amount (10 percent) and then speak to the manager or write a letter to the establishment.

Beyond these generalities lies the real confusion – which is why there’s such thing as a tip calculator. You can’t expect to carry all this info in your head, so familiarize yourself with some common tipping scenarios and then be proactive by using the links below to figure out how to tip your mail carrier when Christmas rolls around (it can’t be in cash since giving money to federal workers is illegal) or whether your barista should get a bit extra for your complicated coffee order.

 

How Much To Tip: http://money.cnn.com/pf/features/lists/tipping/

Holiday Tipping: http://www.emilypost.com/out-and-about/tipping/92-holiday-tipping-is-really-holiday-thanking

Tips on Tipping: http://blog.couponsherpa.com/tips-on-tipping-for-63-services/

2012 Minimum Wage Tipped Workers per State
http://www.paywizard.org/main/minimum-wage/tipped-workers

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