Tips on Tipping

While I was traveling recently I realized that I’m confused about the finer aspects of tipping. In the U.S., it’s considered proper etiquette to tip a number of individuals, including wait staff, bellhops, and taxi drivers.

Why do we tip these individuals and not others? We tip pizza delivery drivers, but not the guy who comes to install the internet in our homes. We tip baristas, but not the employees who assemble our sandwiches at Subway.

I’ve consulted a few sources on etiquette and finances to learn more about who we should tip and how much we should tip (see the sources here, here, and here).

Why we tip some personnel and not others

Tipping is a common practice (more of a custom than a mandate) in the service and hospitality industries in the U.S. One reason for this is that some personnel (e.g., wait staff, bellhops) who routinely receive tips are legally allowed to be paid less than minimum wage by their employers. Tips compensate for their low pay.

In other situations, tips are given as a reward of sorts for a job well done or for an individual going above and beyond the call of duty in the service he or she has provided. Others view tipping as a form of social equalization (i.e., a way to share wealth with hardworking but underpaid service workers) or a cultural custom. The last view explains why tips are often given to baristas at coffee shops, but not to employees at fast food restaurants.

How much to tip

Here are some general guidelines on who to tip and how much to tip.

Basic Tipping Guidelines | Have you ever been confused about why to tip, who to tip, and how much to tip? Here are some basic guidelines on tipping to alleviate the confusion.

As the title of this table indicates, these are just basic guidelines. Some sources recommend tipping a wider variety of personnel, including grocery baggers, newspaper deliverers, and building superintendents.

If you receive poor service, it can be tricky to determine how much to tip. While we should always be respectful of the individual who provided poor service, many experts recommend paying only a minimal tip so we aren’t rewarding poor service.

It’s interesting to note that there are groups dedicated to the eradication of tipping (read a little about this here). They seek to require employers to pay at least minimum wage to employees so tipping is no longer needed. They make some valid points.

Have you ever been confused about who to tip or how much to tip? Do the guidelines suggested above sound reasonable to you? What are your thoughts on getting rid of tipping entirely?

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Anything Goes.


  1. Charlotte Thiel says:

    I appreciate this concise and general guideline. Though I don’t often have need to refer to 80% of these it is nice to have a way to address them. thank you.

    • I’m with you…we usually don’t have a reason to interact with most of these personnel, but on the occasion that we do, it’s useful to have the reference. 🙂

  2. Norma VanMatre says:

    I was in food service for many years and also was a bartender for several years. I am very generous when it comes to these professions IF the service is good. If not, I may be a little harsh. I do not feel obligated to tip. It is good to know the etiquette however. Just an aside. The word “tips” is actually an acronym meaning “To Insure Proper Service”. In the beginning of the tipping process, the tip came before the service was rendered. Thanks for the post!

  3. So helpful! Thank you!

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