When to Leave a Little Extra

Talking About Tips

In my household during football season Sunday’s are reserved for football. If we are not watching the game on the big screen at our house we are at the game cheering our team on. There is nothing like being in the stadium, wearing your team’s colors and cheering with 70,000 other people who want the same thing as you-for your team to obliterate their opponent.

I really enjoy going to the games. I love the energy of the fans and the people watching. During our last visit to Miami Dolphins game I was watching all the people around me when one scene in particular caught my attention. The roving beer salesmen that walk up and down the aisle were hard at work.

It was the beginning of the third quarter and everyone was buying their last beer before the stadium cut off alcohol sales altogether. I watched as patron after patron handed over their money to the beer salesman. The beer cost $9 so a lot of people would hand the guy a $10 bill and tell him to keep the change as his tip. But not everybody did. Some people didn’t tip at all. And the money maven in me got to wondering who was in the right. Are some people being cheap by not tipping the vendor? The beer already cost way more than it should at $9 a pop so why throw away another dollar.

This caused me to really start thinking about tipping. Who do I tip that I don’t have to? Who am I NOT tipping that I should?

Americans have got tipping down when it comes to restaurants. We leave 15-20 % of the subtotal as a tip for waiters and waitresses. That rule isn’t so cut and dry in other industries though. Do you tip your mechanic? What about waiters in other countries? How about taxi drivers? If you’ve got questions, I’ve got answers.

When Not To Tip

Nowadays it seems like every store you go to have a tip jar or someone with their hand out. No, you don’t need to tip the guy who made your carryout sandwich at the sub shop.  With all this solicitation for tips sometimes knowing when NOT to tip is just as important as knowing when to do it. You don’t want to be throwing your money away unnecessarily, right? In fact, in some places tipping is considered an insult.

This is certainly true in some parts of the world. Believe it or not, tipping is considered rude in Japan. It can be taken to mean that the employees work is undervalued. Servers in bars and restaurants have been known to chase after customers to return money that was left on the table or bar. This goes for cab drivers, waiters and waitresses, bell hops and maids in hotels.

Until recently this was also true of China. Tipping is still not very prevalent in most of the country today except in international cities like Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong. Here they have adopted more Western customs as they have grown. It’s now common to tip bell boys and sky caps like you do here in the states ($1-2 per bag). For taxi drivers, it’s appropriate to round the fare up to the next dollar. Many restaurants include a 10% service fee with the bill so it’s not necessary to tip waiters and waitresses. But it’s customary to leave more for outstanding service.

The custom of tipping differs throughout Europe. Some countries expect tips for their waiters and waitresses and others don’t. In many European countries restaurants include a service fee on the bill. In Norway, a 10 percent service charge is typical (if it’s not, patrons are expected to tip 10 percent on their own). In Aruba, a 15 percent service fee is automatically added to the bill. But in countries like Denmark and New Zealand, no tip is expected at all. A general rule for tipping in European restaurants is to leave a couple of euros if your dining experience was satisfactory. For example, leave 30 euros on a 27 euro bill. When in doubt ask the concierge at the hotel you are staying at what the local customs are for tipping.

My father-in-law was involved in shipping before he retired. He spent most of his career traveling internationally and domestically, staying in all the major hotels around the world. So I took his advice when it comes to tipping at hotels. I used to get so confused when it came who to tip at big hotels. So many people help you before you ever get to your room. One person unloads your bags from the car, another wheels it to reception, and yet another delivers your bags to your room. You could go broke tipping each of them! According to my worldly father-in-law it’s customary to tip only the person who delivers your bag to your room. Bellhops typically rotate jobs with the other porters so at the end of the day everyone receives about the same amount in tips. For the average bag a tip of $1-2 is expected (per bag), a bit more if your bags are bulky or very heavy.

Someone you used to tip, but don’t need to anymore is the staff on cruise ships. It used to be that cruise companies would leave an envelope for you to throw a couple of bucks in at the end of your trip. But now cruise lines automatically add the tip to your bill (this is less true of Mediterranean and other European cruises). Before your next trip check the cruise lines’ website to find out if tips are included. If not, leave a few dollars for them in your room at the end of the trip and the standard 15-20 percent on each bill for cruise wait staff.

The Forgotten

We all know the customs for tipping wait staff in our own country. There is no need for me to tell you how to do that. But there are some people that we don’t typically think to tip, although we should. I’m not about to tell you to tip the bus driver or your babysitter if they do a good job. These next people are the forgotten. If their service is satisfactory, then they’ve made your life easier. I don’t know about you, but anybody that makes my life easier is worth tipping.

Those courtesy shuttles we take from the airport to the car rental lot and from our hotel into town shouldn’t be viewed as a completely free ride. The shuttle driver often lifts my heavy luggage up the stairs into the vehicle and lifts them down again once I arrive at my destination. He is also a great source of information about local attractions and great eateries. Whether there’s a tip jar or not I always hand the driver a dollar or two as I’m getting off the shuttle.

The first time I visited Costa Rica my friend Carlos who lived in the beautiful country for a few years told me about tipping the hotel housekeepers. This something widely done in America, but it’s a little different throughout the rest of the world, especially Latin American countries. Carlos informed me that it’s polite to tip the maid a little bit each day, rather than at the end of my stay. You leave the tip in an envelope or resting atop a pillow on the bed so the maid knows it’s for them. A housekeeper may assume any money left on a dresser or nightstand is not for them and leave it behind after they clean.

Tipping the maid throughout your stay can greatly improve your experience. You may find an extra bottle of shampoo or body wash left for you. One man even told me that the maid put rose petals on his bed one night without being asked. Tipping $2-3 per night is adequate, perhaps a bit higher in high-end hotels. The one exception to this rule is if you are staying at a Bed & Breakfast Inn. In that case, the owners are usually the ones cleaning up your room each day so no tip is necessary.

Another often overlooked service provider is your tour guide. Tips for guides are rarely included in the price you pay to on the tour. Tour guides do all of the hard work, leading you through terrain or museum and imparting you with valuable knowledge, but they don’t get any compensation for their hard work. In general, $3-4 is acceptable for short tours. If you are taking an all day tour or receiving additional support a larger tip of $8-10 is more appropriate. If you doubt my recommendations call up the company that arranged the tours to ask what is considered an acceptable tip or check out the agency’s website.  

We’ve all been there. Do I tip this person, do I not tip this person? That awkward feeling of not knowing the right thing to do is awful. You want to reward good service but you don’t want to throw money away unnecessarily or insult someone. With so many different rules and cultural traditions it’s hard to keep straight who you are supposed to be tipping and whom you shouldn’t be. Next time you are unsure whip out your smart phone and download the app Globe Tipping, which gives advice for tipping in restaurants, hotels and more in over 200 countries. Never be unsure again.

If I’ve left anybody out, send me an email. Tell me who else you tip and how much. I look forward to reading your answers!

Keeping Money in Your Pocket,

Nancy Patterson

 
 
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