Etiquette expert lays out tipping rules

June 29, 2010 2:15:09 PM PDT
There's the valet driver, the hotel bellman, the restaurant wait staff. A tip here and a tip there can really add up. But are you tipping the right person the right amount?

Let's face it -- most of us really aren't sure about the rules of tipping. And especially when you're travelling, if you don't know how much you're supposed to give, you could end up tipping too much.

"If we get good friendly servers, and the food is excellent, then you get a good tip" one Houstonian said.

Most of us have a general idea of how much to tip a waiter. But these days, with so many service providers, it's become more and more confusing.

"The whole idea of tipping is to ensure prompt service, that is T-I-P, and it's discretionary," Etiquette expert Diane Gottsman said.

Gottsman is the director of the Protocol School of Texas. She says the rule of thumb is that you tip anyone who provides a service to you. At restaurants, Gottsman's say a standard tip for average service is 15 percent. Exceptional service is 20 percent.

If service is awful, you still should tip 10 percent.

"You are going to leave a small tip, but you are going to talk to the general manager," Gottsman said.

Having a drink at the bar? You should tip a dollar per drink.

When it comes to valet parking, many Houston restaurants, like the Dolce Vita, offer it for free. But should you still tip the driver? Yep. $2 to $5.

Now what if the valet service is not free? Even if you pay $12 to valet park, Gottsman says you should still tip the driver a couple of bucks.

"Yes, tipping does get very costly, but you plan in advance for your tips," she said.

At the airport, gratuities are expected for curbside check in. Even though you may have already paid the airline to check your luggage, Gottsman says tip the sky caps. It's $1 to $2 per bag.

When it comes to your hotel stay, Gottsman says it can get tricky. You have the doorman, the bell hop, the valet and the Maitre D'.

"You are paying all over place," Gottsman said.

But you should tip the bellman who handles your luggage, and $1 to $2 per bag is recommended.

"So this would either be $1, $2, $3, $4, $5, or if I was really generous, I can go up to $10," Gottsman said.

You're not obligated to put money in tip jars at coffee and sandwich shops, since you're walking up to a counter to get served.

And don't forget the taxi cab driver. The recommendation is 10 to 15 percent of the fare.

Among most industry services, 15-20 percent tips are the standards.

Hair stylists -- even if they own the salon -- and technicians at nail salons are no exception to that rule. Gottsman says that even owners of the hair salons have expenses, so the 15-20 percent tip is encouraged.

Over at the car wash, several different people work on one car. That's why there is a tip box for customers. Gottsman says, once again, the tip here is 15 to 20 percent.

If there isn't a tip box, Gottsman says, "The person that is spending the most time and giving you the most energy is the one you are going to tip the most."

But regardless of the service you're receiving, keep in mind that tips actually factor into the total cost of your service, Gottsman said.


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