Is it time for my fixed-amount tips to become unfixed?
May 17, 2018 6:43 AM   Subscribe

At some point I picked up a couple rules of thumb for tipping: US$5 per night stayed to hotel housekeepers; US$1 per drink to a bartender when you're paying one at a time. I'd like some opinions on whether it's well past time for these rules of thumb to adjust to inflation.

I think of 15% as a minimum for restaurant bills and bar tabs, and in the few places where staff treat me as a regular I leave more money on the bar, but these fixed amounts have become a reflex and I want a reality check.
posted by Songdog to Work & Money (44 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Seems fine to me, but it also depends on the type of joint and where in the world you are. That fiver means a lot at the Best Western two hours outside of Albuquerque, but might seem a little low for a four star hotel in NYC. Granted, the house staff is doing similar work in both places, and maybe the NYC people get paid a bit more, but that $5 still goes farther some places than others.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:52 AM on May 17

I think 15% on restaurant bills and bar tabs has migrated up to 20% in the last few years.

(And I have always heard/done $3 per night for a hotel stay so thank you for the reality check there.)
posted by AgentRocket at 6:56 AM on May 17 [8 favorites]

I’d bump that 15% up to 20%.
posted by griphus at 6:57 AM on May 17 [13 favorites]

As a former hotel maid, almost no one tips housekeeping, so any amount is a godsend.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 7:01 AM on May 17 [13 favorites]

10% is a shitty tip, 15% is a low-to-decent tip, 20% is a good tip, and 25% is a baller tip.

$5 maid/$1 bartender is fine.
posted by Slinga at 7:05 AM on May 17 [3 favorites]

Those are my numbers too (except my baseline is 20% at a restaurant) so I am curious to see the answers here. Thank you for asking the question!
posted by Emmy Rae at 7:07 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]

20% base for restaurants, 15% for services (haircuts), $10 per stay for hotel maids (but I always refuse daily service so they get the tip when they change over my room)
posted by WeekendJen at 7:09 AM on May 17 [4 favorites]

Also, in a situation you're not sure about, you can actually ask the person doing the service. I asked a man helping with my bags at the airport what the standard tip was - he said $1 a bag. That seemed reasonable to me, but even if it was high, it wasn't outrageous.

I tip 20% in restaurants as well.
posted by FencingGal at 7:11 AM on May 17

Thank you all for the 20% restaurant adjustment. I'll try and rewire myself.
posted by Songdog at 7:19 AM on May 17

I was ill during one trip last year, and when I checked out I completely forgot to leave a housekeeping tip. I realized after my plane landed, felt really bad about it, and called the hotel as soon as I got home to ask if there was a way to get some money to my housekeeper(s). To my surprise and disappointment they said there was nothing they could do for me.
posted by Songdog at 7:21 AM on May 17

Also one point I often overlook/forget about is Don't tip on the tax on a restaurant tab. Tip only on the subtotal of the food & beverages you purchased. I guess my more-often-than-not oversight brings me closer to the 'new' 20% that I should be tipping, though....
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 7:44 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]

I think the bartender tip depends on the drink. $1 per drink is fine for a beer or simple mixed drink, If you are drinking craft cocktails that take some effort to make I'd bump it up to $2 per drink.
posted by COD at 7:44 AM on May 17 [11 favorites]

Oh man, no one ever told me about tipping housekeeping. Physically how do you do it? Do you leave cash in your room? Do it at the front desk?
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:47 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]

What I do is write "Thank you!" on a piece of hotel notepad paper, put cash on top of it, and leave it on the nightstand, desk, or some other surface where I'm sure the housekeeper will notice it.
posted by Songdog at 7:49 AM on May 17 [16 favorites]

I write "housekeeping" in addition to "thank you." I once ended up going to find a housekeeper when she didn't take the money. Fortunately, she was just a few rooms down. (She didn't seem to speak much English - this was in the US - if anyone has better ideas for nonnative speakers, please share.)
posted by FencingGal at 8:08 AM on May 17 [5 favorites]

Personally, I try to tip either $1 or 20% on drinks, whichever is greater - which functionally means that I'm usually tipping a buck if it's a cheap drink I'm ordering in cash, but I tip 20% on more pricey drinks that I typically put on a card/tab anyways.
posted by mosst at 8:09 AM on May 17 [4 favorites]

My mother has worked as a hotel housekeeper for many years (and still works in a hotel as banquet server) so I typically tip a minimum of $20 for a more than one night stay. She was always appreciative of the ones who tipped and it left a lasting impression for me to tip the $20.
posted by driedmango at 8:20 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]

Yeah, if it’s a fancier or more labor-intensive drink I’ll tip $2, or if I’m opening a tab and signing at the end of the night I’ll just do 20% like it’s for a restaurant.
posted by rossination at 8:27 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]

I tip housekeeping $5/night with a "thanks! " on hotel notepad; and I do that daily because I find staff changes. I often get a note back, which is a lovely thing.

Meals, taxis, haircuts, etc., 20%. Bar drinks $1-2 per drink.
posted by alwayson_slightlyoff at 8:27 AM on May 17 [9 favorites]

I don't drink anymore but when I did it was with an open tab on my card, $1 per drink, plus 25-30% on the final bill. In general I am physically uncomfortable tipping under 25% on anything that is tippable; restaurants usually get around 30%, and I will always add more if the people I'm with are lousy tippers (luckily that's no one I know these days). I also tip in cash whenever possible because as someone who worked for many years on only tips I know very well that tips you're owed through credit card payments may never make it to your actual hand.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:56 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]

Tim Urban of Wait But Why has got you. The only thing I'd add is that I always tip 20-25% on meals because I live in a large, high-cost-of-living city.
posted by capricorn at 8:59 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]

Yes, leave housekeepers a tip every morning of your stay, as the person who gets your tip at the end of your stay may not be the same one who's cleaned your room every other day. If you can do $5 or $10 per night that's great, but even if it's only $1 or $2, know that it's appreciated. I always leave at least $5, even though it hurts a bit. But please don't just leave your pocket change.
posted by Gnella at 9:06 AM on May 17 [4 favorites]

I tip hotel housekeepers every day, for reasons already mentioned, and $1-2 extra on the last day because it's more work to prepare for a new guest.
posted by brianogilvie at 9:12 AM on May 17

Tipping shoeshiner in NYC has gone up from a buck or two to more like 4-5 in midtown Manhattan anyhow.
posted by shothotbot at 9:15 AM on May 17

If I'm eating at a restaurant by myself, which is most of the time, I'll usually bump my tip up to somewhere around 30% to compensate for what seems to me to be a kind of "overhead" of service/time/effort that gets spread out somewhat when there are multiple diners on one bill or at one table.
posted by ClingClang at 9:24 AM on May 17

My general guidelines:

20% at restaurants as a baseline; 25% if the server is extra solicitous or seems to be having a bad night (spills anything, treated badly by another customer, etc). I try to leave tips in cash even if paying on a card, to ensure the server actually gets it.

Housekeeping: $5/night given every morning; when I'm attending a convention I badger everyone staying in the room to bring it up to about $5/person/night, because I know others in the hotel have probably utterly wrecked their rooms in ways I cannot imagine and want to try to make their day of cleaning less awful. I leave money on a notepad clearly marked with some variety of "Thank you, housekeeping!"

Bags: $1/bag, minimum $5

Bars: $1/drink for beer/wine, $2/drink for cocktails, plus 20% when I close out the tab

Barber/hairdresser: 25%
posted by Urban Winter at 9:28 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]

I have small very messy children so I upped our baseline at restaurants when we’re all out to 30% just for the next few years
posted by sestaaak at 9:35 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]

$1/drink if you are paying per drink is fine. I tip 20% on the total if I am running a tab and paying all at once on my card (or $1/drink if that is higher)

Services (haircuts, waxing, tattoos) 25%; they are getting intimate with my body and that's arguably a little bit grosser than serving me food or drink.

Thanks for the tip on daily tipping for housekeeping! I hadn't considered the staff may rotate during my stay.
posted by assenav at 9:45 AM on May 17

nthing the 20% floor for restaurant meals.

And $1/drink seems low if you're drinking something that costs more than, say, $8/drink.
posted by box at 9:48 AM on May 17

And $1/drink seems low if you're drinking something that costs more than, say, $8/drink.

Well drinks can cost more than $8 in NYC.

I think $5/night is perfectly respectable; I usually run around $3 myself (but then I actually DO DO IT). If I've accidentally created a horrible mess (broken a glass, spilled something sticky, had some bathroom incident), I will leave considerably more--the Lunt Principle. If the hotel has stationery, I'll put it in an envelope, write HOUSEKEEPING on it, and leave in a prominent place, or else fold a piece of a paper from a notepad around it with the same label.
posted by praemunire at 10:09 AM on May 17

Agree with $5/night for hotel, unless I've made more work for them than just changing sheets/towels, e.g. I ordered pizza and there's food waste/empty bottles. Then I throw in a couple more bucks.

Bartender - $1 for any type of drink, including soda and water. $2 for anything that comes with an umbrella.
posted by AFABulous at 11:53 AM on May 17 [3 favorites]

Also one point I often overlook/forget about is Don't tip on the tax on a restaurant tab. Tip only on the subtotal of the food & beverages you purchased. I guess my more-often-than-not oversight brings me closer to the 'new' 20% that I should be tipping, though....

I agree on tipping on the pre-tax total, but 15% of the post-tax total doesn't get you very close to 20% of the pre-tax total, unless the tax is 33%!
posted by benbenson at 11:56 AM on May 17

Chiming in that I read somewhere that in addition to tipping the hotel housekeepers daily, you should always leave the money with a note that says something like "Housekeeping--thank you!" to protect them from accusations that they just lifted someone's cash off the table...
posted by TwoStride at 12:41 PM on May 17

I tip $2 on drinks if I'm just having one or two. If I'm really sousing it up, then I might drop to $1.

$3-$5/day hotel/motel for first through penultimate days, and the last day I try to throw down at least a $10, preferably a $20. This may seem like a lot but in fact it is not: I am making up for never having tipped housekeeping until the day I heard the Judge John Hodgman podcast episode that shamed me for all time.The shittier the motel, the more I tip, based on the theory that nobody tips at fleabags.

20% minimum at restaurants, and I round up.

Every week I go to a horrible corporate dump chain that I hate so hard flames come out of my eyes when I think of it to play trivia and preferably lose given that the prizes are gift certificates to the horrible corporate dump. I tried to "hack the menu" for a solid year but they have NOTHING GOOD AT ALL except the hamburgers and I don't want to eat a goddamn burger at this goddam place every week of my life. So now I get a terrible, warm $6 martini and nurse it all night and then tip like 150%. The waitress is very green and I know nobody is tipping her because nobody is nice when you're not perfect as a waitress, especially at terrible places like that.
posted by Don Pepino at 1:15 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]

I have a $5 minimum tip on delivery. Those guys hustle
posted by shothotbot at 2:48 PM on May 17 [3 favorites]

Agreeing with most here but diverging slightly on drinks - yes 20% base, yes $5/day for housekeeping.

I tip $1-$2 on drinks depending on which number is closer to 20%. So a cheap beer is $1, a cocktail is $2, and eh I don’t make change or go higher.
posted by OrangeVelour at 4:38 PM on May 17

If you're tipping at m/hotels more than 5 bucks, try to do it in smaller bills if you have it (because sometimes they work in teams). AND absolutely leave a note making it clear it's for housekeeping to take. DON'T give it to the front desk or the housekeeping manager, they will both steal it from the maid staff.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 6:26 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]

Since you mentioned trying to re-adjust to 20%: I actually find it much easier than tipping 15%, because to do the math you just shift the decimal over and multiply by 2 to get a 20% tip (whereas 15 requires extra division and adding). E.g. a $53 restaurant bill -> 5.3 -> 10.6 -> $10.60 tip.
posted by jouir at 7:43 PM on May 17

As a former hotel maid, almost no one tips housekeeping, so any amount is a godsend.

Your leftover liquor is too.
posted by bendy at 8:39 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]

The weird porn you can probably take with you tho.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 6:08 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]

"E.g. a $53 restaurant bill -> 5.3 -> 10.6 -> $10.60 tip."
$11. "$10.60?" Come on. $11.
posted by Don Pepino at 8:13 AM on May 18

Thank you all. I followed this advice on a trip last week. I feel more confident in my $5/day housekeeping trip (I didn’t always remember to do it daily—there’s room for improvement there) and I feel good about increasing my restaurant baseline to 20% pre tax. Bartenders got $1–2 or 20% on the tab.
posted by Songdog at 3:59 PM on June 11

Now I’m wondering what y’all do at the coffee shop (and what if you’re buying beans, and what if those beans are/aren’t pre-packaged) but maybe that ought to be a separate question.
posted by Songdog at 4:00 PM on June 11

Coffee shops I tip like bartenders - a dollar or two a drink depending on price and complexity - and I don't tip if I'm just buying beans.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 5:00 AM on June 12

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