have i been an unwitting dick for years?
July 2, 2012 8:36 PM   Subscribe

I'm in the US. A few years ago, I was horrified to learn that almost everybody who stays in a hotel leaves a tip for the housekeeping staff on the pillow before they leave the hotel. I had no idea. Apologies if this has been covered on the green before, but my searches haven't produced anything yet. What are all of the service oriented positions that I am expected to tip? Are there others I might be missing?

My general rule of thumb is that if the person is performing a service for me that I could perform myself, particularly if it is extra personal, I should tip them - I feel comfortable I can handle expected rates, but I just want to be sure I'm not leaving anybody out.

I know that another good rule is "when in doubt, tip" -- but sometimes, you can inadvertently offend someone! I also think that there could be a case where it might be expected and I'm not even realizing it -- or maybe I'm just paranoid after the hotel housekeeping debacle.

Off of the top of my head, I can think of:

Hairstylists (and at some salons, their assistants)
Massage Therapists (say, at a spa)
Cab Drivers/Hired Drivers
Food Delivery folks
Folks who gather takeout
Baristas/Coffee Servers
Housekeepers at a hotel
Bellhops at a hotel
Skycaps (do they even have those anymore?)

Things I am fuzzy on:

Full service gas station attendants?
Massage therapists outside of a spa?
Dry Cleaners?
Shoe repairers?
Tow truck drivers?

I am ready to be horrified that there are people I should be tipping that I never do. Please set me straight.
posted by pazazygeek to Society & Culture (69 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I was horrified to learn that almost everybody who stays in a hotel leaves a tip for the housekeeping staff on the pillow before they leave the hotel.

This is not true.
posted by grouse at 8:40 PM on July 2, 2012 [40 favorites]

The tipping on the pillow thing is somewhat dependent on the location of the hotel you're staying in. If you're at the Days Inn in Cleveland Ohio, most people are probably not leaving tips for housekeeping. If you're at a boutique B&B on Martha's Vineyard (or other chic vacay destination), tips are more common, and I've been to a number of these where they leave out "tips are appreciated" signs, which always get my goat.

At least in my experience, the only place where tipping appears to be very expected is in many Caribbean resorts, especially where the general populace outside resorts (who comprise the housekeeping staff) is typically much poorer - such as in the Dominican Republic. In these locations there appears to be a strong tipping culture and tips are traditionally met with responses of fancy towel animal designs and fresh flowers as thank yous.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:45 PM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I've never tipped housekeeping, for better or for worse.
posted by Stewriffic at 8:45 PM on July 2, 2012

The lady making the bed and cleaning the bathroom I made dirty gets a tip - usually right in her hand if I catch her on the last day, otherwise on the nightstand. Always. This is the one that stays if I can only pick one person to tip. Tailors, dry cleaners, gas station guys - no. Massage therapists - yup, that's normal. Tow Truck drivers - optional - depends 100% on the circumstances. Did they come to your rescue and were they cool? Then yes. Cabbies & food drivers, always, but just decent, not a killer tip. Movers: optional, were they busting ass and taking care? Takeout/counterpeople - optional. I have the same guy for coffee every morning, he starts pouring it while I'm still in line, and we're sympatico, so he gets a good tip. Otherwise, just the change.
posted by facetious at 8:49 PM on July 2, 2012 [5 favorites]

The housekeeping staff are mostly disappointed. Routine stuff, no matter how egregious or silly like "turn-down service" where the bedclothes are turned at an angle and a mint deposited on the pillow does not merit tipping whether discreetly requested or not. If a non-standard or particularly meritorious service is rendered you will recognize it and will be moved to a monetary award not guided by "suggested" scales.

American tipping behavior has gone berserk in several ways. Independent of the fact that many servers are unrecognized, it is only meritorious service that should engender tipping. Not true for wait staff at restaurants. They get 12% for managing to get the comestibles to the table without having to remove carpet fibers, 15% for doing so without clattering the silverware, 18% and up if they contribute to a pleasant dining experience.
posted by jet_silver at 8:54 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Of course I tip at hotels and motels. $5 a day.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:56 PM on July 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

If you're tipping housekeeping, instead of putting it on the pillow (where it might fall off or behind the bed), put it on the nightstand or desk with a note that says, "Thank you." Do this, especially if you are tipping nightly/daily rather than at the end of the trip, so a housekeeper doesn't mistakenly think you just shook out your wallet, accidentally leaving money loose on the bed.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 8:56 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding Ideefixe. I tip $5 a day.
posted by capnsue at 8:57 PM on July 2, 2012

This is not true.

Indeed, I stay in a lot of mom/pop hotels and chain hotels and I don't do this. I do not tip full service gas station attendants or any of the other people on your question mark list EXCEPT tow truck drivers who have helped me with particularly nasty car problems.

People also sometimes tip the doorman at their building if they sign for a package and there are people who are often on the holiday-tipping list like your newspaper delivery person or the mailman. Other people I can think of that I've tipped are courtesy van type drivers [to/from a hotel or parking lot] and UPS-style delivery people who were door-to-dooring some bulky package and helped me with it.

Please do not turn this thread into a critique of tipping and just answer the OPs question. Thanks.
posted by jessamyn at 8:58 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Tip tour guides!
posted by oceanjesse at 9:00 PM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

I tip someone like a tow truck driver or a guy who does some service for me particularly well or does not screw up my car, or gives me good advice something like $10 bucks and tell him to buy himself a beer on the way home.

With a full service station pumper like found in New Jersey, if paying by cash and it is near a round number for which I have exact change ($78.11) I sometimes give them $80 and tell them to keep the change. Not sure if that is rude because of the small amount or appreciated, but I do it hoping it is the latter.

I delivered flowers as a kid and expected tips most places but for funeral homes, but if I didn't get one, I never thought badly about the person or not getting it.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:01 PM on July 2, 2012

My husband tipped the guy who dried off the car after we drive through the car way. If never thought to do that! So add car wash attendant to the list.
posted by vespabelle at 9:03 PM on July 2, 2012

Another note on housekeeping tipping (which I do, but it's by no means universal)--some people recommend leaving a small amount each day, rather than a lump sum at the end of the trip, because in many cases, the housekeeping staff changes from day to day. I don't know enough about hospitality to say how true this is, whether it's generalizable to smaller/boutique hotels, but it's worth considering. Also: it's a good idea to clearly mark the money as a tip (e.g. put it in an envelope and write "TIP" on it), since there are strict rules on taking things out of a room (for obvious reasons.)
posted by kagredon at 9:04 PM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

Parking valets, normally at the time of picking the car up.
Coat check attendants, also at the time of pickup.
Shoeshiners but not really repairers.
Hotel concierges.
Doormen if they catch a cab for you.
Shuttle drivers if they help you with your luggage.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 9:08 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Tattoo artists!
posted by mollymayhem at 9:12 PM on July 2, 2012 [9 favorites]

The lady making the bed and cleaning the bathroom I made dirty gets a tip - usually right in her hand if I catch her on the last day, otherwise on the nightstand. Always.

Yeah, I came to say the same thing as kagredon, hotel staff is extremely frequently different one day to the next. I'm of many minds about tipping the people that clean hotel rooms - so occasionally I tip, mostly I don't. I always tip when I've made a particular mess (e.g. that time I spilled my liquid blush [thankfully on tile] and made a mess trying to clean it up) or if the cleaning staff goes out of their way to make me welcome.

I too think that tipping culture is out of control, but as a former server myself who knows how little some servers take home (e.g. the nice steak place I was at last week where my waitress confided she was paid $2.15 per hour, and required to work shitty as well as good shifts in order to keep her job - she said on Tuesday afternoons, she typically brings home <>
So for me: always servers, often coffee people, sometimes hotel cleaning staff... and then all of the other expected ones.
posted by arnicae at 9:14 PM on July 2, 2012

Housekeeping staff at most hotels, both chain, upscale and boutique are not getting rich off their wages. I tip between $3 and $5 a day, depending on my length of stay, type of hotel, etc. I don't leave it on the pillow. When I travel for work, I might stay at a hotel for a week. I want to be sure that the person who cleaned my dirty toilet gets her fair share so I usually ask the front desk if I've had the same person. If not, I make sure I split the tip proportionately. I've done research on the (mostly failed) union movement among hotel housekeeping staff so there is a special place in my heart for them. They work hard. Tip them.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 9:18 PM on July 2, 2012 [7 favorites]

Some people tip the mailman/mailwoman, garbage collector or gardening service at Christmas time. I give a bonus to the gardening service at Christmas, but I have never figured out how to give a tip to the garbage collector (since he doesn't get out of the truck) or mailman since I never see them and if I leave money on he trashcan/in the mailbox it would probably get stolen.

I don't always tip housekeeping staff, and if I do, I leave it on the last day.

I do tip delivery people who bring large items into my house (like furniture delivery).
posted by Joh at 9:22 PM on July 2, 2012

I'm not an American but had to learn American tipping culture at the same time as having to travel for work in the U.S. quite a bit, and I was taught by colleagues to leave about $5 at the end of my (usually one- or two-day) stay in a business hotel.

A lot of tipping seems to be a bet that you might be there again, and recognized as having been there before, and you want to be seen as a good customer and treated well. But you might never see the cleaner of your room and they might never see you, so this one seems to be one of the more considerate and altruistic cases in the tipping culture. For that reason, I'm especially happy to go along with it.

Needless to say, some tipping expectations have me scratching my head, but I'm not here to wind anyone up so I'll keep the specifics to myself.

Re: Joh on preview, the one tipping habit I bring from my own country is giving the post/mail person a card with some money in at Christmas, but I only ever manage to do this for UPS guy because I have no idea who my usual mail person is.
posted by galaksit at 9:29 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cigar salespeople, if they're good to you. Did I help you find a great gift for your uncle who you know likes cigars but whose tastes you have only the vaguest idea about? Did I walk you through the humidor, help you pick out the perfect smoke, cut it and light it for you, and generally make you feel welcome and taken care of? Did I put at least as much work into selecting and lighting/packaging your cigar as a bartender would put into making you a drink, and did I talk you through the whole process in a polite and friendly way? Throw a buck in the jar. (Or a couple bucks, if it's a big purchase and/or I went above and beyond.) Believe me, I'll appreciate it.
posted by Scientist at 9:30 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I tip housekeeping because I've worked as a housekeeper and I know what a crappy job it is and the crap wages that go with it. It is by no means universal but we sure did appreciate it when it happened.

I usually leave a card at Christmas in my mailbox for the mail-carrier where they can see it with a big note "TO OUR MAIL-CARRIER" it's not a tip because I understand that tips are discouraged, but a thank you note. If I can catch them in person, I'll hand it to them in person.
posted by patheral at 9:34 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I always tip the housekeeping staff at least a couple bux per person, per night. With a little thank you note.

It's not a great job.

The mailman gets a giftcard every year at Christmas.

The garbagemen each get twenty bux at Christmas, in envelopes, with cards and notes. (All four of them (two for regular trash, two for recycling)).

The yard guys each get fifty bux at Christmas, as does the cleaning lady.

Over memorial day weekend I screwed up and only gave the bellhop dude a couple of bux when he carried our bags up to the room (it was all I had). Five bux per bag is minimum, far as I am concerned. Made it up to him on the way out after he loaded our stuff into the car.

Parking valets.

Delivery people with special deliveries (big stuff, like furniture and appliances).

Car hand washers.

Trades people who are employees of larger companies (the folks who installed the appliances mentioned above). Independent dudes, no.

The barber.

The coffee house people.

There are probably others. Tipping is nice, especially if there's no percentage in it for you (such as the housekeeping staff you never see). You can afford it. The tippee appreciates the thought and the extra dough.
posted by notyou at 10:01 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Among your others....

Xmas cards for the cleaners (no gifts).

Tips for the tow truck drivers I've been saved by.

The balance? Nothing so far.
posted by notyou at 10:04 PM on July 2, 2012

If somebody says 'Oh, I can't take that,' they usually mean it.
posted by box at 10:07 PM on July 2, 2012

Also, strongly seconding tattoo artists.
posted by box at 10:08 PM on July 2, 2012

Full service gas station attendants? no
Massage therapists outside of a spa? In a situation where your insurance is paying for it? No.
Tailors? no
Dry Cleaners? no
Shoe repairers? no
Tow truck drivers? I would lean towards yes only because I tend to tip anyone who is providing me with a service without which I would be greatly inconvenienced, i.e. the cabdriver who stops for me at the end of his shift in the pouring rain/blazing heat is going to get $5 on top of the meter + tip depending on how bedraggled and cranky I was feeling before he stopped, and how far out of his way I am asking him to go.

I am also a big fan of overtipping people I see on a regular basis, like the Fresh Direct delivery guys or my trainer at the gym, because I know that on the occasions where I need to ask for special service (delivery outside my scheduled time, being first in my scheduled time, cancellations not within the allowed cancellation time, etc) I will get what I want without the slightest argument. I like getting my way.

In situations where you feel like you should offer a tip for someone going above and beyond in their customer service, but it seems uncomfortable or strange to hand over cash, you can never go wrong with complimenting their awesomeness directly to their manager or supervisor. This works well in airports, on the rare occasion someone actually treats you like a human being.
posted by elizardbits at 10:16 PM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

However, I would not tip the locksmith who comes on a Sunday night when I'm locked out of (or inside, alas) my house, because the $500+ fee is more than fucking enough.
posted by elizardbits at 10:18 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

elizardbits: I am also a big fan of overtipping people I see on a regular basis, like the Fresh Direct delivery guys or my trainer at the gym
OMG I was supposed to tip the personal trainer at the gym? I suck.
posted by Joh at 10:26 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well, but not every time you go? I've been working with the same person for ~2.5 years, so I give him what amounts to an xmas bonus every year.
posted by elizardbits at 10:33 PM on July 2, 2012

Yeah, hotel cleaning staff, like waitstaff, are often expected to make part of their wages from tips, which really sucks, but there it is. Ideefixe is right: $5/day. Actually, I don't think you would tip at a B&B if the owners were doing all the work themselves, but if they get someone in to do the cleaning, they'll usually have an envelope out somewhere in the room for tips. And bellhops ($5 for helping with bags). And, of course, waiters and room service (same as in a restaurant--I always tip 20% or a couple of bucks, whichever is larger, because unless it's an expensive, popular restaurant, they're simply not making much money, especially from all the people who don't believe in tipping). Anything else in a hotel is just for good service. I also always make sure to tip cab drivers and the pizza delivery guy.

Keep in mind that this is true only for the U.S. In many European countries a service charge is added to the bill (imagine that!), so you absolutely do not have to tip. Don't know about other regions, or Canada, for that matter.
posted by tully_monster at 10:45 PM on July 2, 2012

I always tip housekeeping staff, as I have family members who work(ed) in the field and I know they barely scrape(d) by. I also thought it was the norm, like tipping in a restaurant - and I'm not a big tipper nor one who tips for everything.

I tip hotel shuttle van drivers. I tip them based on distance ($2 to $10, if a long way) and whether there are bags. I find that doing so will also mean that they will do anything to find time to pick me up or to find a way to accommodate me when it's busy. For example, if I'm in a busy tourist area and it's $30 in cab fare to the shopping area or a restaurant, then tipping $5 to $10 to the shuttle driver is a good deal, especially if it means they will drop everything to get me. Most of those drivers are working 7 days a week at two or more jobs, at least from what the drivers have told me. A lot of them send money back home to their families too.

I also tip wait staff, tax drivers, bell hops, concierges who go out of their way and hair stylists (unless they own the salon). In the US, Mexico and sometimes in Canada, I tip the drivers and hosts of tour buses and those hop-on/off buses, although it does depend on whether I'm getting off at every stop.

But I'm a Canadian in Canada.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:17 PM on July 2, 2012

I'm another who tips $5 per day at a hotel because the housekeeping staff probably changes every day. I leave it in an envelope on the counter in the bathroom, or fold a piece of hotel stationery and write "Housekeeping" on the front because I know for sure it will be seen there and won't fall off.
posted by angiep at 11:20 PM on July 2, 2012

Seconding tipping the guys and gals who wipe down our cars after they're washed. Also, I don't know how common this is because I've only seen it in one place, but the people who help you out to your car after shopping at the Ft. Sill Commissary? They get tips. Who knew? I wonder if other military bases are like that or if it's an Oklahoma thing only. Oh, and Las Vegas! Everyone gets tipped in Las Vegas.
posted by Lynsey at 11:35 PM on July 2, 2012

elizardbits: In situations where you feel like you should offer a tip for someone going above and beyond in their customer service, but it seems uncomfortable or strange to hand over cash, you can never go wrong with complimenting their awesomeness directly to their manager or supervisor.

This. For nurses, at least in my hospital, compliments in writing to a supervisor are a huge, huge thing. We get paid pretty well, and it's unethical to accept...really anything, from patients and families, but it's hugely appreciated when patients and families will pass along to supervisors when they feel a nurse took particularly good care of them or their loved one.
posted by alittlecloser at 11:41 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

I was a full service gas station attendant in high school, and I was occasionally tipped a buck or two. It was pretty awesome when it happened, but totally unexpected--you don't need to tip gas station attendants. (In Canada.)
posted by snorkmaiden at 11:44 PM on July 2, 2012

Oh god.
You know when you order food To-Go from a decent restaurant (the type with sandwiches, soups, salads, and a full bar) and all you see is the end result, neatly encapsulated in styrofoam boxes?

Yeah. I made sure everything was ready for your consumption, just as if you were eating on site. I sent your salad back to the kitchen after you (hopefully) made a call that you were going to be late picking up your order. That lava cake dessert was heated in the microwave, the chocolate drizzle placed in a separate sauce bowl, and I made sure that I timed the ice cream to be scooped as close to your pickup time as possible. I made sure you had extra BBQ sauce, plastic-ware, napkins, and threw in a few mints as a final touch.
By the way, while various restaurants handle this responsibility differently, it was your me, your hostess, who handled your To-Go order. Just be aware that the person handing you your food is likely the one who prepared it and tip accordingly.

Also, smiling jovially and handing me a $10 tip on your $340 multi-dessert, multi-course meal intended for your office's lunch hour (but which you still picked up an hour late) does not, in fact, make me feel special.
posted by DisreputableDog at 12:21 AM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah, you pretty much go broke tipping here in the U.S.
Don't forget:

pet groomers
Newspaper delivery person
Garbage man
Mailman (with non monetary tip)
Landscaper/lawn person
Tattoo artist
Pastry chef
Casino dealer

I don't tip most of these people but in the past I have been told to.
posted by KogeLiz at 4:15 AM on July 3, 2012

I'm a massage therapist.

Whether or not you tip your massage therapist has less to do with venue (spa, chiropractor's office, massage chain) than it does with who pays the tab. If it's paid by health insurance, your therapist should not accept a tip (because health insurance companies contract with a provider and the provider agrees to accept X money and no more). Otherwise, do tip if you received good service.

Especially tip if you are getting a massage at a chain such as Massage Envy or Massage Heights. The therapists are paid terribly at places like that, on the order of $15 per hour-long massage (note that's NOT "per hour", because they also have to prep the room and do paperwork) for a job that cannot be done full-time and that is *extremely* hard on the body.

A respectable tip for a one-hour massage starts at $10. $15 or $20 are good tips, and anything above $20 will likely make your therapist's day.
posted by parrot_person at 4:30 AM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't tip people who own their own business. This rules out most LMTs I go too, and quite a few barbers.
posted by ubiquity at 4:51 AM on July 3, 2012

I read (possibly on Metafilter) that if you have your car detailed, you should tip each individual that performs a service - the guy who washes the floor mats, the guy who cleans the windshield, etc.

I am so intimidated by this and so certain that I'll get it wrong, and so bewildered by how I would even have those facts of who did what in my possession, that I have avoided having my car detailed for years.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:55 AM on July 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

Another thing nurses appreciate are food - I've sent a big couple of deli platters of fruit and munchies to nursing and delivery depts and its been greatly appreciated.
posted by tilde at 5:49 AM on July 3, 2012

For what it's worth, the other week I had two people stridently tell me different things about tipping taxi drivers. One argued you should tip a percentage and the other argued you should add a couple bucks (often by rounding to the next five dollars, if that's reasonable), regardless of the fare.

For the bulk of the cab rides in my life, the difference between these two methods is negligible. But a bunch of us were taking a cab to get somewhere public transit didn't go and suddenly they weren't comparable, hence the discussion.
posted by hoyland at 5:52 AM on July 3, 2012

//Also, I don't know how common this is because I've only seen it in one place, but the people who help you out to your car after shopping at the Ft. Sill Commissary? They get tips. Who knew?//

When I was growing up on USAF bases - the kids bagging and hauling your groceries out to the car were working for tips only. I was one of them. As a general rule, the enlisted guys and their wives tipped much better than the officers.
posted by COD at 5:53 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Keep the Change by Steve Dublanica details a similar conundrum. You may find it helpful for sorting out whom to tip and how much.
posted by xenization at 6:06 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I owned a Mercedes, I tipped my service advisor $20. I don't know why I just did. I tried to do that at the Honda dealership and they laughed in my face (and refused the tip.)

I tip guys who come to the house to deliver and install heavy stuff. Like today, we're getting a treadmill delivered. I'll give each of the guys a $5 for lunch.

I tip the movers each a $20.

I tip tow truck drivers.

I tip housekeeping a few bucks every day, on the nightstand or desk with a note that says, For Housekeeping, Thanks! :-)

I tipped the carpet cleaners each a $10.

When I had painters in the house, I bought a case of beer for them to share on the last day (there were too many to tip to be honest.)

If I have tradesmen in the house over the lunch hour, I'll offer to get them lunch.

I tip about 20% for service in restaurants.

I throw a buck in the jar at the coffee place.

I don't tip the baggers at Publix because it's their policy, That's why it's where shopping is a pleasure.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:15 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I always tip the housekeeping staff at least a couple bux per person, per night. With a little thank you note.

Me too. I'm surprised not everyone does this. They make crappy money and put up with crappy people.
posted by small_ruminant at 6:21 AM on July 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

Another one for tipping housekeeping, five bucks a day (I'm not staying anywhere fancy).

It's a crap job, and god knows what they have to put up with in their day. If I'm cheap enough to want to stay at the airport Motel 6, there's a reason why it's so cheap. That corporate isn't making any big money off me, I don't care, but the lady picking up my dirty towels and making my bed doesn't need to suffer for my being a miser.

And no, it's not a universal habit, but I do find not tipping them extremely rude. They're the ones who actually make a difference in my stay, and it is appreciated.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:40 AM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Valet parking and parking garage attendants.
Car wash attendants (extra if they do any vacuuming/hand washing)
Movers-- I tipped movers $20/each and offered them lunch (which they declined) and made sure I had a case of cold water bottles (which they appreciated)

I always, always tip housekeeping staff at a hotel. However, I always left a lump sum at the end of my stay. Now I don't know if it is more polite to leave a smaller amount each day...
posted by inertia at 7:19 AM on July 3, 2012

I'm in the minority here but I don't think I've ever tipped at a hotel. I'm one of those people who puts the "privacy please" sign on the door through my whole stay, though, so they just have to clean it at the end, and I pretty much pile all the towels in the bathtub and don't leave anything gross behind and empty my trash as I create it.

I also had a friend tell me in high school that the only people who are expected to tip at Starbucks or coffee shops are people who are getting their drinks for free because they know the staff.

A couple suggestions for people you might want to tip -- if a kid carries out your 42 cases of soda at the grocery store or your 18 bags of ice and loads it in your trunk, please give him a couple bucks. My brother did that all through high school and it was rare that anyone thought to give him even a dollar, even when it was raining or snowing outside. And if anybody still has kids delivering their newspapers, it won't kill you to remember them at Christmas with 10 or 20 bucks or so. I had a paper route in the 90s and made an average of 10 cents a day per paper I delivered. I had to go door-to-door to collect money from my customers, and the number of people who got upset because I was short a nickel to give them in change would blow your mind. There's a special place in hell for people who cheat a hard working teenager out of a tip.
posted by jabes at 7:39 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had a job at a full-service gas station as a teenager. Our line was, "Tips are accepted but not expected." This was in Minnesota where full-service stations are pretty rare. When it was especially cold out, we made sure we looked extra cold and miserable and made sure to clean people's headlights (road salt and grime would get caked over them) in addition to their windshields and the tips were very common then.

For the most part, we were happy when we got a tip (usually $1 no matter how much gas they bought) but never disappointed if we didn't. The only customer that we didn't like because of their tipping behavior was the jerk-off who would make us clean the outside and inside of all of the windows in his full-size van while he got $10 worth of gas (at about $1.50/gal). He would only do it when he had someone else in the van with him and then he'd tip us one nickel.
posted by VTX at 8:13 AM on July 3, 2012

I also had a friend tell me in high school that the only people who are expected to tip at Starbucks or coffee shops are people who are getting their drinks for free because they know the staff.


There's a special place in hell for people who cheat a hard working teenager out of a tip.

That's why I tip the kid at the coffee shop.
posted by box at 8:31 AM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Tip based on service vs.set price. I dont tip at hotels because for the price I pay there SHOULD be clean towels. When I get a $10 manicure the woman spends an hour on and looks amazing, I will give her a 100% tip.

Tip based on what you think the services are worth, not arbitrary guidelines other people have set.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 8:37 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, don't feel guilted into tipping because someone makes crap money at that job. You don't tip the cashier at the grocery store do you?

As someone that worked minimum wage for three years in a service area I rarely got tips and didn't hold it against the customers. Its my boss's job to pay me, not theirs.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 8:43 AM on July 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

I always tip housekeeping. I know many do not. It seems odd to me that some folks will tip a valet a dollar or two, or give $3-5 to bell hop for carting bags to a room (both activities take five minutes or less) but neglect the housekeeper who works much harder.

I sometimes wonder if this has something to do with gender, and women's labor being less valued. Dunno. But it does make me happy to throw some $$ their way.
posted by elf27 at 9:05 AM on July 3, 2012 [6 favorites]

P.S. by valet I mean the guy who parks your vehicle.
posted by elf27 at 9:06 AM on July 3, 2012

I will check through the comments in a minute, but I would say tipping is not usually required for housekeeping staff. Many years ago, I was a maid at a motel, and only got a tip at a holiday from a couple who had taken up residence there. A few years later, at a different facility, I worked as a desk clerk. Tipping was not expected at all. If you are staying at an upscale place, it may be expected in some circumstances, if you are getting some personal service.

I have been surprised to see that some people do tip regularly for this sort of thing.
posted by annsunny at 9:17 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh God I used a Skycap once and had no idea I was supposed to tip. I was very hungover and wondered why the guy kept saying, "Thank you for using this service of whatever airlines" (he seriously said it like five times) until I got in the airport and realized what had happened. Glad to hear a dollar a bag is standard, I'll make it up next time.
posted by jabes at 9:29 AM on July 3, 2012

Greg Nog: "Skycaps (do they even have those anymore?)

Yes! I used to be a Skycap! Dollar per bag is standard, two dollars per bag is Super Nice, anything beyond that leads to me sauntering over to the other Skycaps all, "Damn y'all guess who just helped out a fuckin' Rockefeller or somethin"

Here in NY, I give the skycap $5 per bag or $20 if there are 5 or so. To me, they usually work hard, help me avoid lines inside, and it is cheap insurance against the first place something could go wrong that causes my bags to go missing. I once also gave the gentleman a miniature Leatherman because I was too late to go back to my car and did not want to give it to the TSA. He really appreciated that tip.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:29 AM on July 3, 2012

I tip the flower guys when I buy fresh flowers. They add some greenery and trim the stems even and generally make a nice show of arranging the color choices I've made. They get a few dollars on the $12 or $15 the bouquet winds up costing.
posted by gyusan at 9:49 AM on July 3, 2012

Having recently stayed in a goodish hotel in DC for the first time, and having lived for a couple of years in a very rich country where waitstaff and taxi drivers are pretty miserably paid, I tend to tip fairly generously. But the hotel added 18% service to the breakfast bills, so no extra tips. And the Shuttle added a gratuity too (it was actually called that). But I did leave the housekeeper a tip (with a note saying thanks, because she really had been pretty good). No taxis, and no help from the porters, so no tips there.

Incidentally, Bunny--here I have seen people tip the packers at the supermarkets. I don't because the checkout chick isn't allowed to take a tip and I don't think it right to tip one and not the other.
posted by Logophiliac at 9:53 AM on July 3, 2012

It's just so interesting to see all the different takes on this. I tend to tip for personal, face-to-face services. The shuttle driver, delivery men, (who always seem surprised). I think many people skip that particular area of tipping. Hairdresser, manicurist, masseuse, baristas, my cleaning lady gets a holiday bonus, car wash people. At my car wash, they make a point of saying the tips are distributed evenly. At the holidays I send a bonus to the newspaper carrier. Waitstaff are always tipped generously, because not only do they get paid extremely low wages, usually less than $3/hour, they have to pay taxes calculated on 10% of the food they serve.
posted by annsunny at 9:54 AM on July 3, 2012

In addition to your lists, I've also tipped furniture deliverymen when they've dropped off heavy or bulky items, especially if they spent time assembling and cleaning. I've typically seen two men come around for this and I will give them $10 each.

I've also tipped those who've come to haul away bulky items. I suppose both of these types of companies would classify as movers, but regardless I greatly appreciate their doing the hard work and saving my own back ($10 per person doing the hauling).

Personally, the amount isn't a strict hard-and-fast rule. I tip what I think is appropriate, and err on the side of over-tipping even if I felt the service was "satisfactory." What it really comes down to is how much I appreciate their efforts, and I want to go beyond a spoken thank-you.

I learned from my parents to tip housekeeping for each night I stay. Back then they dropped a couple of dollars, but with inflation today I give $5. And don't forget to ask for soap.
posted by CancerMan at 10:12 AM on July 3, 2012

Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth: "Also, don't feel guilted into tipping because someone makes crap money at that job. You don't tip the cashier at the grocery store do you? "

At the store I used to shop at (before they left town), the cashiers who had been there a while made more than $15 an hour, plus benefits.
posted by wierdo at 10:55 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Do not debate tipping in this thread.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:23 PM on July 3, 2012

No to self-employed massage therapists.
Yes to massage therapists at a spa.
posted by honey badger at 1:11 PM on July 3, 2012

I have lived in New Jersey (where all gas stations are full-service by law) my entire life, and have never tipped a gas station attendant or heard of someone doing so. It actually came up in conversation with friends recently, and one person knew of one other person who does it, but that's it.

I leave money for hotel housekeepers, whether I'm staying at a cheap chain motel or a chichi boutique place.
posted by booksherpa at 4:27 PM on July 3, 2012

A useful (though admittedly classist) way of remembering who to tip is:

Are they performing servant's work for you, or are they engaged in trade?

If they're performing servant's work for you - bringing you or preparing your food, cleaning your home or temporary room, taking care of or watching your children, washing your clothes for you or purchasing them for you, driving you someplace, or performing the duties of a maid (dressing you, arranging your hair or makeup, etc) then you tip them.

If they're engaging in business or trade - selling you a product, performing a specialized service such as fixing a car, delivering paid-for products to the door, etc, they do not receive a tip.

I believe the cultural expectation for this was that servants were generally provided with compensation above and beyond mere wages. By the cut-up nature of services, you are unable to provide the extra compensation that would have been provided, so you up the wages.
posted by corb at 8:10 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you travel first class on Amtrak, train attendants and those working in the first class dining car expect tips.
posted by Napoleonic Terrier at 10:15 PM on July 3, 2012

To answer the poster's specific question, I've always been aware that "some" people tip a couple dollars for the housekeeping staff at hotels/motels. The many posters chiming in with, "of course, $5 per night" seems on the high side to me. And the way most people describe when they tip generally makes it seem like you are the selfish rube when you don't.
This question turned out to be quite interesting with regards to societal conventions on tipping and when it is required/expected. In the end, I basically agree with corb--it is generally reserved for when someone is performing a servant-like job for you, with the accompanying expectation of undercompensation. It is actually really difficult to define, because I tip my hairdresser "because everyone else does", though I think that is a ridiculous reason for the OP freaking out about not tipping housekeeping. And many posters make the argument that good tipping gets you good service, yet nobody would think of tipping the person from whom they want the best service, their doctor. In fact, for many higher income (status?) occupations the exact same notion of 15% extra for services rendered is seen as a bribe rather than a tip.
I would argue that the instances where you are a jerk for not tipping are those when tipping is absolutely expected in the pay. For example the minimum wage of waiters is less than the actual minimum wage, as tips are expected. Bartenders, also. I don't know of too much else, but feel that is likely due to my own ignorance and something the wisdom of the crowd could clear up. For instance, I worked a couple months at Starbucks and (though I had never tipped a Starbucks barista) was surprised to see that I was paying taxes on my hourly wage and an expected tip income (I have no idea how this was calculated, but it seemed accurate enough that I didn't worry about it--it's possible they calculated off some sort of store average/month as tips were pooled). Though if other (likely large corporations) report these expected tip incomes for the sorts of jobs, you are doubly hurting the possible recipient of the tip as s/he may receive less than the projected tip income and pay for it either in money or time spent accounting for actual tips vs projected tips.
posted by ...tm... at 1:57 AM on July 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

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