Tipping tips needed

Sep 14th, 1999, 05:41 PM
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Tipping tips needed

As an Australian about to visit the US I need some tips on tipping. It may seem silly, however tipping is not common practice in Oz, except for exceptional service, or "keep the change".

I understand that it is normal to tip around 17.5% of the cost, however I have the following questions:

1) Say in a restaurant, who do you tip? When do you tip? Say you wish to tip $20 and only have a $50 note, is it polite to ask for change for your tip? Say I'm not happy with the service, should I still tip?

2) Does tipping extend to just about everyone you give money to? Would for example I tip the bus driver on public transport?

3) In a hotel, I would probably tip for example the porter. How much should I tip in such an instance.

Also when I'm checking out, am I expected to tip the desk person...if so surely not 17.5% of the total bill.

4) I'm travelling a lot on Amtrak. Who and when should I tip?

Any help that prevents me embarrassing myself would be greatly appreciated.

P.S: Don't expect a tip!
Sep 14th, 1999, 07:11 PM
Posts: n/a
Hi Rob,

I can give you a few hints, but keep in mind that people's tipping habits are quite variable! For good restaurant service, I usually tip around 20%, but 15% is perfectly fine too. If the service is quite poor, I will tip around 10%.

Waiters and waitresses make most of their money in tips. I used to wait tables, and the hourly pay was just over $2/hour. I don't know what it is these days, but I'm sure it's less than most people realize.

At restaurants, they will almost always bring you the check at the end of the meal. At nicer restaurants, you pay and tip the waitperson. At diners, you may need to pay the cashier near the entrance and tip your waitperson at the table. (When in doubt about who you are supposed to pay, it is fine to ask your waiter/waitress if you pay them or at the cashier.)

When they leave the check at your table and you wish to tip 15-20% of the total bill, but don't have the right change, simply put your cash or credit card in with the bill. They will bring you change, and if they know what they're doing they'll make the change in bills suitable for a tip. Leave the tip on the table.

If you are at a diner and are supposed to pay the cashier and don't have correct change to leave at the table for the waiter/waitress, it's fine to get change from the cashier and walk back to the table to leave the tip.

You tip only the waiter/waitress, and only at the end of the meal, upon leaving.

Tipping does not extend to everyone you give money to during the course of the day. Bus drivers need not be tipped. But I usually tip taxi drivers a few dollars, depending on the amount of the fare.

At hotels, definitely tip the porter and the valet. Once at a very nice hotel in Seattle, I asked the doorman who should be tipped. His reply was if you tip the doorman(when you pull up for valet parking, etc.) he will share the tip with the people parking the cars and taking care of your bags, so you do not need to tip everyone individually. I suppose it never really hurts to be very candid and ask, if you are in doubt. Better to seem sincere but unknowing rather than cheap and rude.

If checking into a nice hotel (with valet parking, a doorman, etc.) I tip the doorman $2-5. If a person carries my bags to my room, I usually tip him too (a dollar per each big bag).

You do not tip the front desk clerks.

I have not ridden on Amtrak, but my guess would be to tip in the dining/bar car as you would in a restaurant. Also, tip any baggage handlers who load and unload your things for you. I would be surprised if the ticketperson expected a tip (but I could be wrong!)

In general, don't worry to much about the details of tipping. Everyone does it slightly differently, and I'm sure other people posting replies will disagree with my view. I know people who still tip 5% in fine restaurants, but I usually slip back to the table to leave more money when they aren't looking!

Have a wonderful trip. Sorry this reply is so long. -Mary
Sep 15th, 1999, 04:28 AM
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Mary's tip info was right on. One thing I learned recently though was that you should tip your hotel maid service -- either each a.m. or at the end of your stay (seems to me each a.m. would encourge them to keep doing a good job during your stay). I'm uncomfortable with how much though -- I usually leave $1-2 a night but have no idea if that is being cheap! Would like comments from others on this one.

Also -- do you tip curbside baggage handlers at the airport??

Sep 15th, 1999, 04:48 AM
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Hi Rob,

Just thought I would note that it is customary to tip in bars here. I've never been to Australia, but I know that bar staff is generally not tipped in the U.K. If we're paying as we go, we usually tip $1 per order when we pay or get the drink change. If we start a tab, then add 10-15% onto the charge.
Sep 15th, 1999, 04:52 AM
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You should always tip the curbside baggage handlers at the airport. Contrary to popular belief, they are not paid by the airlines and make absymally low salaries. The norm is about $1 per bag.
Sep 15th, 1999, 05:05 AM
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I believe in tipping curbside baggage attendants...BUT THEY ARE NOT LOW PAID!

The Wall Street Journal did a story on them a few years ago and determined theat they were making $75,000 to 120,000 (per year)at most major airports. They can get tips of $5-20 per passenger for about 2 mins work...and they get a lot of passengers. Compare this to how harda waitress must work for comparable tip.

There is a long waiting list for these jobs.
Sep 15th, 1999, 06:14 AM
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Dick, I have to disagree with you. While the Wall Street Journal is a reputable paper, I have to question their facts. Several different news pieces that I have seen (both print and broadcast) all stated that the curbside baggage handlers, or skycaps, actually make below minimum wage.
Sep 15th, 1999, 06:33 AM
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Message: Julie

It's customary to leave $1.00 per person per night ($2.00 nightly minimum) for the hotel maid. Therefore if a family of four share a room, it would be $4.00 per night. The theory being, the more people sharing a room, the more work for the maid.

I generally leave it in the room at the end of my stay along with the room keys. If you leave it on a daily basis, you would need to leave a daily note since maids shouldn't be taking loose money left in the room.

P.S. Mary's advise was excellant.
Sep 15th, 1999, 06:34 AM
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Yes, I always tip the maid in a hotel, but usually leave the whole amount at the end of the stay. At a nice hotel expect maybe $2-$3 per day does it. I tip curbside baggage handlers $2 a bag, doorman $1 a bag, bellman $2 a bag and car valets maybe $2.
Sep 15th, 1999, 06:42 AM
Brian in Atlanta
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I would question as to whether it is "customary" to tip the housekeeping staff at a hotel. I doubt too many people do that (not that it shouldn't be done).

Just to add to the above advice: you never tip at fast food restaurants, with the caveat that some coffee shops, pizza stands (places with counter service) have started placing tip jars next to the register where you pay. Do not feel obligated to tip here unless you want to, and if you do, a dollar or your coin change is enough. I have heard that about half of the customers put tips in these jars. I see them as simply a way for the owner to guilt the customer into paying part of the salary that he should be paying, but I'll tip if the counter person has done something special for me.

Have a great time on your trip!
Sep 15th, 1999, 06:53 AM
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Just a question regarding tipping hotel maids. Aren't they paid at least minimum wage and isn't cleaning the room their job? I seldom tip the maid.
Sep 15th, 1999, 07:57 AM
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Message: Curious

Waiters are paid to deliver food, porters and bellman are paid to pick up luggage, taxi drivers are paid to drive. All are generally tipped for the service they provide in addition to being paid by their employer. Similarly, hotel maids provide a service and it is gracious to leave a tip eventhough you may not have seen the actual person during your stay. Keep in mind that on a cruise, the cabin steward, who preforms a similar service, is ALWAYS left a tip and generally a larger one than has been recommended here. Keep in mind that the small amount left in tips will seem inconsequential when compared to the total cost of your trip.

Sep 15th, 1999, 09:04 AM
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I agree with curious - I already think too many people expect tips, and to me, to tip someone I have never seen, and never asked for anything other than the usual service - well I won't do it. I do tip cabin stewards on cruise ships for 2 reasons - #1 they get paid NOTHING on most ships, the tips are their only income, and #2 I usually meet and talk with them, get extra beach towels, etc. So to this point I have not tipped a hotel maid in a regular hotel and don't plan too, unless I ask for a special request.

I tip food servers 15-20%, porters $1 a bag [what little I use them] and hotel shuttle bus drivers $1. On a valet parking I usually give the valet $1. You do not need to tip on mass transit, nor the front desk clerk. If you order room service, take a good look at the bill first - a 15% tip is often "automatically" included and you don't need to add anything additional to that, unless you got exceptional help [which is rare in room service in my opinion].
Sep 15th, 1999, 10:32 AM
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I don't believe in tipping. It's so mean to the poor cows.
Sep 15th, 1999, 11:44 AM
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Rob: Mary's advice was very good. Just to clarify a couple of things:

1. As Mary said, a tip of 15-20% is standard if you were satisfied with the service -- but note that this percentage is calculated based on the bill total BEFORE TAX. (Your bill should show a total, then the amount of tax, then another total that includes tax.) If the service is truly exceptional, leave more, and if you weren't happy with the service, leave less.

2. In restaurants where you pay at the table rather than at a cashier (i.e. nicer, non-diner restaurants), let's say your bill comes to $42. If you want to, you can just put $50 on the table with the bill, and get up and leave and not wait for the waitstaff to come back. They will understand that the extra $8 you left was their tip. This comes in handy when you're in a hurry -- you don't have to wait for change. If you have put down your money on the table next to the bill, but are still sitting there at the table, the waitperson will come back and will often just pick up the bill and the money without looking at it, and ask you, "Do you need change?" If you don't, you can just say, "No, we're all set." And they will keep the change as their tip. If you do need change, just say yes, and they will bring it to you, and you can then figure out the tip after they bring you your change. And yes, if you don't have the correct change to leave the tip that you want to leave, you can always ask them to break a bill for you and you can specify the particular change you need; e.g. if breaking a $20 bill, you can ask, "Could you bring us back two fives and ten ones?" If you pay with a credit card, just put the card down next to the bill, and they will come and pick it up and bring back a credit card slip for you to fill out and sign, which will have a space marked "tip" for you to fill out, and you then have to write in the new "total" in the space provided, and sign the form.

3. In some REALLY fancy restaurants, if you use the services of a wine steward to help select and open a bottle of wine for you, you may want to tip them separately in addition to your waiter/waitress. In most moderately-priced restaurants, though, your waiter or waitress can help you select a wine and open the bottle and you just tip them once at the end as you usually would.

4. Everyone has their own policy about what to do if the service isn't good. I am reluctant to penalize waitstaff if the problem was simply that the restaurant is terribly busy and the management has a particular waiter or waitress serving too many tables. I view that as the fault of the management, not the waiter or waitress. Likewise, I will not penalize the waiter or waitress if the kitchen failed to serve an item as ordered (e.g. with a sauce on the side, or with a substitution, or cooked medium rare, or whatever) -- that is the kitchen's fault, and the waiter shouldn't be penalized. However, sometimes the problem is not just that but is attributable to the particular waiter or waitress (e.g. they said they'd bring you catsup but then forgot, they cleared away a dish before you had finished eating it, brought you the wrong food, etc.) My own policy, like Mary's, is to leave 10% of the pre-tax total if the service was disappointing. However, if the service is truly TERRIBLE (e.g. the waitperson was rude), you should be sure to say something to the manager and let them know. They may apologize and take something off your bill, or give you free dessert, or send over a different waiter or waitress to serve you, or some combination thereof.

5. If you eat in a large group (each restaurant has its own policy -- often defined as 8 or more people), most restaurants will automatically add a tip onto the bill, which is usually 15-20%.

Keep in mind that tips can be used both to reward good service and also as an incentive for future good service, which is the reason many people tip doormen, valets, concierges, etc. in hotels -- particularly if you know that there is someone whose services you are going to be needing during your stay.

Tipping in the U.S. is confusing even to those of us who live here so don't worry too much about it -- just keep a few $1 bills handy at all times! Have a great time here in the states.
Sep 15th, 1999, 01:19 PM
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rob's question seems to have been well addressed, but since i spent three years waiting tables i have to add one thing: waiters/waitresses in most restaurants do make a mere $2.13/hr...if your party lingers for a long time talking or finishing off drinks after you've finished eating, which you should feel free to do, please be aware that you are prohibiting other patrons from dining in your server's section and thereby preventing him/her from earning money. your tip should reflect this. the same goes for those who sit in a restaurant and eat very little or nothing. for example, if your party has a $5 pitcher of beer and sits around talking & drinking in a busy restaurant for 2 hours, a 20% tip of $1 is not acceptable. as a general rule you should never, ever leave less than $1 per person at any place where you are waited on at the table...this is the bare minimum of decency.

by the way, servers in many restaurants are required to "tip out" a percentage of their tips to the bartender and host/hostess. also, i personally find it unacceptable to penalize servers by giving them less than 15% unless they are just outright rude. most people are starting to recognize 20% as the standard amount to tip...i give just 15% only if the server was really inept and 20-30% for decent to great service.
Sep 15th, 1999, 01:28 PM
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ps. the tax at restaurants in the states generally will run you 4-10% depending on the city...please feel free to calculate the tip before or after taxes. no one will notice except lisa.
Sep 15th, 1999, 07:56 PM
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Skycap income debate:
If a skycap moves 30 bags an hour (not too difficult during main hours, when they could easily move twice that many) and gets $1 a bag, they'll easily clear over $60,000 a year (simple math).
Sep 15th, 1999, 08:39 PM
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I was once a maid at a Holiday Inn and received exactly one tip the whole year I worked there. The hotels here are advertising for maids at above minimum wage, as are most employers of formerly minimum-wage jobs. I would have been happy to get tips, but I didn't expect them.
Sep 15th, 1999, 08:59 PM
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In restaurants, I do NOT believe in tipping even though the service was poor. I waitressed while going to school, so I know what they're up against. I am very careful not to blame poor service on the wait person if it is not their fault. However, if they walk by and don't notice you standing and waving for their attention, disappear for more than ten minutes (especially after they've delivered your meal and omitted an essential item, such as a fork or cream for your coffee), or have a nasty or condescending attitude, I do not leave a tip. I do leave a note on the back of the check as to the reason no tip was added. On the other hand, if the wait person is obviously doing their very best, even though the service was less than excellent, I leave 15%. If the service is really fine, I'm very generous, figuring an few dollars will mean a lot more to them than to me, and, perhaps make a difficult work night more bearable. Tipping chamber maids has always perplexed me. Who knows if the same maid did your room every day? It's also difficult to know what their "orders" happen to be. Would the room had been a bit more spiffy if, perhaps, management didn't require them to be in and out in 10 minutes? If the housekeeping is meticulous and there are lots of extra touches, I leave a dollar or two per night (or, in a foreign country, all my coins). I'm especially generous when I leave a note for extra towels and pillows and they are left every single day of our stay, even when I forget to leave another note. As for all the other folks (porters, doormen, taxi-hailers), I use the usual tipping guidelines (outlined by others above) if service is cheerfully provided. However, I've never heard of tipping the public bus driver or front desk clerk (unless he fills an unusual request of some sort, which I've never had occasion to try). Once, I left a brand new pair of prescription glasses in a cocktail lounge. Long story short, the waitress had taken them home with her for safe keeping (apparently, the lost and found was not reliable in this particular establishement) and had told everyone who might receive and inquiry that she had done this, along with permission to give me her home phone number to arrange a time to collect them (on her day off, as it turned out). I was SO glad to find my (very expensive) glasses, and felt most stupid for having left them behind. I gave her a $20 tip (which she declined, but I forced upon her anyway). Replacing those glasses would have cost a whole lot more...

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