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How To Make Tipping Less Awkward

In the USA, the practice of tipping is everywhere.
In most other countries, not so much.

PS: why do we always have to be so different (ummm, can anyone say metric vs imperial measurements)?!?

A lot of the time, tipping can feel really awkward! How much is enough? How much is too much? When should I give it to them? Should I be discreet or open about it?

Well, I devised a system so you (and I) don't have to stress out about it anymore!  You're welcome =)

First, we need to address the question of "how much":

  • The key here is to realize that every "expert's" answer is going to be different. In researching this article, I ran across literally dozens of different recommendations.
  • My personal belief is that how much you tip should depend on two key factors:
    • How much money you make/have
    • How nice the place is that you're visiting
For example:
  • If you make minimum wage and are at a 3-star hotel, only tip the housekeeper $1-2 dollars per night. 
  • If you make six-figures and are at a 5-star hotel, tip the housekeeper $5+ dollars per night.

Bearing that in mind, I found CNN's tipping charts to be the most helpful and accurate:

Waiter/waitress:15% of bill (excl. tax) for adequate service; 20% for very good service; no less than 10% for poor service
Headwaiter/captain:often gets a cut of table server's tip; so tip your server extra to reward captain, or tip captain separately
Sommelier, or wine steward:15% of cost of the bottle
Bartender:15% to 20% of the tab, with a minimum of 50 cents per soft drink, $1 per alcoholic drink
Coatroom attendant:$1 per coat
Parking valet or garage attendant:$2 to bring your car to you
Washroom attendant:50 cents to $1
Taxi driver:Varies depending on locality. Assume 15% will be enough; an extra $1 to $2 for help with bags.
Food delivery person:*10% of the bill (excl. tax), at least $1 for bills up to $10. Should tip 15%-20% for a difficult delivery.
Grocery loader:Check with store policy if tips are accepted. If so, $1 for bringing bags to car; $1.50 to $3 if you have more than 3 bags.
Barber:15% to 20%, minimum $1, for a haircut. For other services (shampoo, shave or manicure) tip $1 to $2 to service provider.
Hairdresser:15% to 20%. (It is now acceptable to tip owner, unless he or she says otherwise.)
Shampoo person:$2
Spa service (e.g., massage):15% to 20%. If service is provided by owner, no tip.
Staff at coffee/food retailers with tip jars:No tip required. It's completely optional.
Handyman:No tip
Gas attendant:No tip
* Mike Lynn, associate professor of consumer behavior at the Cornell Hotel School suggests tipping pizza delivery folk a minimum of $2 per pizza. His reasoning: Food delivery can be dangerous if delivering to crime-ridden neighborhoods or driving in bad weather, etc. The Web site suggests the following: 15% for normal service, with a $2 minimum; 20% for excellent service; 10% or less for poor service; at least 10% for orders of $50 or more. Don't assume a delivery charge, if there is one, goes to the pizza deliverer. Ask the person who takes your order.
Skycap at airport:$1 per bag if you check-in curbside; $2 per bag if skycap takes bags to check-in counter.
Hotel doorman:$1 per bag for help with luggage; $1 per person for hailing a cab
Hotel bellhop:$1 per bag for bringing luggage to your room (but a $2 minimum if you have just one bag)
Hotel housekeeper:$2 to $5* per night
Hotel concierge:$5 for getting you tickets or reservations ($10-plus if they're hard to get). No tip required when you ask for directions.
Cruise:Varies. Ask cruise line about customary gratuities.


OK, so now we know *how much* to tip.

But how do we make the actual exchange of money less awkward?

As with most things in life, with just a small investment up-front, you can save yourself boatloads of anguish down the road. The small investment you need to make is in a box of "coin envelopes". You can find them at most office supply stores. You can also order them for less than 20 bucks on Amazon:  coin envelopes (for the mathematically challenged, that works out to about $.08 per envelope).

The supplies you will need for this project are:  
  • a storage box/container
  • a box of coin envelopes
  • a stack of $1s and $5s (time for a bank run)
  • a "Thank You" stamp, ink pad, and matching pen/marker (or you can design & print out labels)

Simply stamp each envelope with a "Thank You".
Then add "exclamation marks" to equal the number of dollars in that envelope - this way, you know how much is inside without having to open it. For example:

Then, fold up the bills, insert into each envelope, lick & seal.

Keep the envelopes in a storage box near your front door (or the back door or mudroom ... whichever door you use most). Whenever you're headed out to a nice restaurant, grab a few envelopes. When you're gearing up for a concert where you might have to valet, grab a few envelopes. While you're packing for your next business trip or vacation, stick a big stack of envelopes into a pouch and carry it with you in your purse/carry-on/briefcase.

Pull one out while you're waiting on the valet, or while you're sitting in the taxi, or while the person is hanging up your coat. You'll never have to worry about awkward tipping situations ever again!

What are some of your best travel or tipping ideas?

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