How Much Should I Tip?: An Essential Guide to Giving Out Gratuities

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — From hairstylists to manicurists, the rules for tipping the various service people in our lives can sometimes be a bit hazy. While we don't want to tip too little and be seen as stingy and even offensive, giving too much can take a serious toll on our budget. To find out what's appropriate to give several different types of service people, MainStreet asked etiquette experts to offer some much-needed guidance. Read on for their advice.

Hairdressers/barbers

Whether you're a man or a woman, you should aim to tip the person who cuts your hair 15% to 20%. If you're also purchasing other hair care services at the salon, tip 15% to 20% on the total. If different people are providing each service, tip each of them that amount.

"I go to my hair salon every five weeks, and I have a colorist and a person who cuts my hair, and I give 20% to each of them every time," says Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach in Palm Beach, Fla.

Manicurists

The same rules for getting your hair cut also apply to getting your nails done. "The gratuity for a manicure is 15% to 20% of the total amount of the manicure," says Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick, founder and president of The Etiquette School of New York in Manhattan. "If a person is getting a manicure and a pedicure, the tip would be 15% to 20% of the total amount of the two services."

Of course, you might want to consider tipping more than 20% if you are particularly pleased with your service, if you've developed a good relationship with your manicurist or if the cost of your service is low but the quality is high—such as if you paid $10 for a manicure that took 30 minutes to complete, says Napier-Fitzpatrick.

Taxi drivers

"The basic tip for taxi drivers is 15% to 20%," advises Napier-Fitzpatrick. "However, if a taxi driver helps you with your luggage or stroller, or does anything special for you, I would recommend a higher tip of least 20%, if not 25% if the cost of the trip is not very high."

Richie Frieman, a manners and etiquette author known as "Modern Manners Guy," also thinks it's O.K. to give more for good service.

"I am a big advocate for 'keep the change,'" says Frieman. "For example, if the fee is $11.56, giving them $15 to keep is fine. Change these days gets annoying."

Waiters/waitresses

Whitmore says that you should aim to tip waiters and waitresses between 18% and 20%. While some people might choose to tip less if the service is slow, Whitmore says that you shouldn't be too quick to pin the blame on the wait staff.

"It might not be their fault—the service may be slow because of something that happened in the kitchen," says Whitmore. "In the United States, we rely on our tips to pay our mortgages and send our children to school, so if the service is terrible, mention it to the manager first."

Hotel maids

"Tip $2 to $3 per night and if you are in a suite, you may want to tip more," says Napier-Fitzpatrick. "Leave your tip with a note or in an envelope marked 'Housekeeper.'"

Whitmore says that you should also take into consideration the length of your stay and any special services you requested, such as extra towels, extra pillows and other amenities.

Bellhop

When you arrive at a hotel, it's a good idea to offer a gratuity to the bellhop who brings your bags to your room.

"Tip $2 for the first bag and $1 for each additional bag," says Napier-Fitzpatrick.

Babysitters

While parents aren't typically expected to tip their babysitter on top of their normal wages, offering your babysitter a gratuity from time to time can be a great way to show your appreciation.

"Reasons for giving your sitter a gratuity would include if your babysitter goes above and beyond what is expected of her, if you come home later than promised, if she comes when called at the last minute, and certainly if she is asked to watch, not just your children, but your children's friends as well," says Napier-Fitzpatrick. "And if she is someone you like and want to develop a relationship with, a gratuity will help cement the relationship. Good babysitters are hard to find."

Whitmore says that while there's no standard percentage for tipping babysitters, giving a couple of extra dollars is appropriate, depending on your financial situation.

Cable guys

Contrary to popular belief, it isn't necessary to tip your cable guy.

"That's his job to come into your home and hook up your cable," says Whitmore. "That's what they're there for, kind of like the plumber or the telephone guy. You pay the company and the company pays them."

However, Napier-Fitzpatrick says that she isn't opposed to tipping a few extra bucks for a job well done.

"If your cable guy comes on time and does a good job, I recommend a tip of $10 to $20, depending upon how many TVs he had to connect, how difficult the job was and his attitude," says Napier-Fitzpatrick.

—Written by Kristin Colella for MainStreet

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