The questions of who we should be tipping and how much we should tip them have been debated recently. This is because it seems that just about everywhere you go there is an option to leave a tip. This has created what is called the 'tipping culture in the United States.

It used to be fairly simple to figure out who to tip. It was obvious that you tip your servers at a restaurant, the delivery drivers who come to your home, parking valets, hotel cleaning staff, etc. However, tipping culture has led us to tips being suggested in an increasing number of places, such as fast food restaurants.

According to experts, the three main factors that led to our current tipping culture are:

  1. The pandemic. During the pandemic, we started tipping people we didn't normally tip and we started tipping more than usual as a way to support essential workers in a time of crisis. The pandemic has faded, but tipping expectations have not.
  2. Technology. How many times have you been checking out somewhere and the worker spins the screen around and on the screen are the tipping options? It's very easy to suggest tipping the employee as they stand right in front of you. How often do you tip nothing under those circumstances?
  3. The job market and inflation. As much as businesses are trying to offer more incentives to find and maintain employees, they're also trying to keep prices as low as possible as they know how price-sensitive customers react to any sign of inflation. Tipping is a way to have employees make more without it coming out of the business's pocket and that keeps prices down for consumers.

So, is tipping now more of an expectation than a genuine show of appreciation from the customer for a job well done? It appears that is the case and not only is there a tip expectation, but the amount you tip can be a point of contention.

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If you don't leave a big enough tip, you could find yourself in a heated exchange with a disappointed employee who expected more.

Take, for example, the video below of a recent incident that happened in Texas with a DoorDash driver who was delivering a pizza to a family. The total amount for the order was $22 and they left the driver a $5 tip. One would think that a tip of just over 22% would be pretty good, but apparently not to this guy as his snarky comment and F-bomb show.

While it may seem harsh on the surface, the homeowner involved in this video later learned that DoorDash drivers depend on tips and not hourly pay to make a living wage. But, how are consumers expected to know which business models the various delivery services use? Obviously, the driver didn't handle this situation well and he was removed as a DoorDash driver, while the homeowner received a $75 credit.

This DoorDash incident aside, who do we tip, and just how much are we expected to tip them? According to Partners Healthcare, here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Giving tips for certain jobs is standard in the U.S.
  • Waiters, waitresses, bartenders, and taxi drivers are always tipped 15% of the bill for adequate service, 20% or more for very good service, and no less than 10% for poor service.
  • Hairdressers and spa employees are usually tipped 15-20% of the cost of their services. For other services such as the person who shampoos your hair at the salon, tip $2-5 to the service provider.

They note that for other professions, the amount to tip can vary, but here are tipping guidelines to keep in mind:

  • A person who helps you with your luggage or bags should usually be tipped $1 per bag.
  • Hotel housekeepers are usually tipped $2-$5 per night.
  • Parking valet (the person who parks your car) is usually tipped $2-$7.
  • The person who delivers food (pizza, sandwiches, etc.) to your home or office is tipped 10-20% of the order, and at least $2 for orders less than $10. It’s good to tip 20% for a difficult delivery (some examples of a difficult delivery include bad weather, lots of stairs to your floor of the apartment building, if the store is far from you, or if the neighborhood is dangerous for drivers and they are at higher risk for being robbed).
  • Coatroom attendants are usually tipped $1 per coat.
  • Professional movers hired to move furniture are usually tipped $4-$6 per person per hour

It can all get very confusing, but the bottom line is to be aware of tipping culture and if you utilize a delivery service regularly, or visit a business regularly that has a tip option, perhaps dig a little into just how their employees are paid and how much tips play into it.

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