It’s a tough economy out there, and with two sides to every tipping experience, it’s high time there’s a formula for figuring out the right tip — every time.
Bad economy or not, tipping has been a quandary for customers ever since the custom was introduced in 18th-century British pubs, where a good tip was though to get a heavier pouring hand for that gin and tonic and a heftier turkey leg for a hungry Yorkshireman.
While current numbers are hard to come by, the U.S. Labor Department did track total estimated tips in 2001, finding about $5 billion in tips earned overall in the U.S. — and that was when the U.S. economy was in much better shape. Other studies have claimed total U.S. tips were much higher — up to $26 billion.
Now that the economy has Americans tossing nickels around like manhole covers, what’s a good frame of reference for tipping in the “new normal,” where wallets are thinner and pocketbooks are lighter? MainStreet has some ideas:
By and large, tips for meals and drinks still range from 15% to 20% — less for poor service and more for good service. But that doesn’t cover pit stops for coffee or pizza delivery. For your local barista, make sure to pop in $1 when you order that mocha latte. For the pizza guy, or for the guy behind the deli counter who makes you a sandwich, 10% to 15% is appropriate. Note this: The more you pay, the more likely you’ll be remembered and treated favorably. But tip too little, and you can expect to wait.
If you are hurting for cash, but still want to take care of your cab driver or the doorman at your apartment building, give what you can — and mention that next time, when you’re flush, you’ll dig a little deeper. Service industry professionals are like anyone else — they’ll appreciate your honesty, along with your desire to give what you can.
How about some specifics? For those everyday tipping situations, try these tips:
Hairstylist: 20% — Some high-end hairstylists might complain, but most won’t at 20%.
Babysitters: -15% — They’re already getting all the food they can eat.
Pet care: Pets are family members, too, so pay the same as you would a babysitter or someone who cuts your child’s hair — 15%.