When to Tip Cheat Sheet

Tipping is awkward. It’s like a secret language that we’re all expected to speak but nobody ever teaches it to you. You’re just supposed to know when to tip and when not to and how much to give. There’s nothing worse than that uncomfortable moment at the end of a transaction when you don’t know if you’re supposed to tip or not but it feels rude to ask. Plus I never want to spend too much on tipping (I have a budget after all) but I also don’t want to under-tip. Even though I won’t hear it, just imagining the waiter or manicurist complaining about how rude I am once I leave makes me cringe.


As you can tell, tipping gives me social anxiety. But I don’t think I’m alone. Anthropologist George Foster has written entire books on tipping and he proposes what he calls the “social pressure theory of tipping.” He asserts that who we tip in our culture is based on guilt. “We tend to tip in places where we’re having a lot more fun than the people who are serving us: bars, restaurants, cruise ships. But we usually don’t tip in grocery stores or dentist’s offices.”

I think George is on to something. But I also think we tip just because it’s expected of us. I have never not left a tip at a restaurant, even if the service was really bad. I might give a little more than usual if the waiter was really nice to me, but I would never leave less than 15% because I would feel too guilty about it. Society says we should tip certain people, so we do. If you feel like fighting the man and trying to change tip culture, rage on! Stop tipping! But for everyone else, here’s a cheat sheet on who to tip, how much you should give, and what happens if you don’t tip.

Tipping Situation How Much Should You Tip? If You Don’t Tip . . .
Waiter 15% – 20% You’re the worst. On average 85% – 100% of a waiter’s salary is tips. So even if the service is terrible, you should tip.
Delivery 10% – 20% You’re the worst, again. Also add in extra for bad weather.
Takeout No tip necessary It’s totally fine. Maybe give $1 or $2 if you had a complicated order.
Bartenders $1 – $2 per drink You’re evil. Tip more for a fancier drink that took longer to prepare.
Tip Jars Optional You’re normal. Throw in spare change or a few bucks here and there if you’re a regular.
Cab Driver 15% – 20% You’re super cheap. Unless it’s Uber and then you can’t tip anyways.
Valet Guy $2 – $5 You’re mean. Tips are 50% – 75% of their salary.
Housekeeping $2 – $5 per day You’re a little cheap but probably fine. The longer you stay, the more generous you should be.
Hotel Doorman/ Bellhop $1 -$4 per bag carried, $1 – $3 for getting you a cab You’re not very nice but okay. You rarely run into these guys unless you’re at a fancy hotel anyways.
Hair Salon, Massage, Mani/Pedi, Waxing Services 15% – 25% You’re really cheap. Also I wouldn’t mess with someone who has access to hot wax and scissors.

I hope this chart makes tipping a little less complicated. If all else fails, just move to Europe or Australia where there is no tip culture so you won’t have to worry about it anymore.


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