I keep to a very simple rule when it comes to tipping.
Short 10-second version: 20%, $1-$2 per item, value of one “service” for personal service providers you visit regularly at the holidays, err on the generous side.
- If there's a bill or it's a personal service, tip 20% on the bill, before discounts like coupons, happy hours, etc.
- $1-2 per item, such as a bag, beer, coat
- At the holidays, tip the cost of one “appointment” for personal service providers you visit regularly, like the barber, hairstylist, nail place, spa, etc.
- Tip more than you think you should and you'll never go wrong.
Tipping guides always make it too complicated. They give you a million rules about who gets a tip, who doesn't, how much you should tip, 15% or 20%, does tip affect service, …
… it comes to two simple facts about tipping:
- Tip well if you want better than average service next time, and,
- The difference between a good tip and a bad tip, numerical, is minuscule to you – so tip well.
Tip Well For Better Service
Getting good service is about relationships.
If you build a rapport with the server, over several visits, you'll get above average service if you're an average tipper. You develop a relationship. If you tip well on top of it, you're more memorable for the next time.
We see this play out on a daily basis in a lot of scenarios in which a little extra tip could mean a slightly different level of service.
Have you ever hired movers? Buy them lunch and they will probably be a little more attentive and careful.
Have you ever been to a bar? Tip well on your first order and you'll get a more responsive bartender. If you go to the same place a lot, it pays to build a relationship with the bartenders. You'll get served faster and might get some other perks.
Reciprocity is one of Robert Cialdini's six principles of influence and that's the psychological concept you're taking advantage of when you tip. By giving someone a tip, they will seek to return the favor, oftentimes with better service. I'm not sure how strong the tie is but it certainly couldn't hurt.
Tip Well Because … Karma
So we had the pragmatic financial reason for tipping well, here's the other one — tip well because of karma.
The old adage of “if you can afford to go out to eat, you can afford to tip well” is true.
Let's say your dinner bill is $50.
How much should you tip? A 15% gratuity is $7.50. 20% is $10. 25% is $12.50.
The difference between a good tip (15%) and a great tip (25%) is $5. FIVE DOLLARS.
Did you know the Federal minimum wage for servers (tipped employees) is $2.13?
When you elevate your tip from average (15%) to good (25%), it's just $5 to you. It's over two hours of work to the server.
Now I'm not saying $5 is nothing, I respect money. But if you're dropping fifty bucks on dinner, you can and should give an extra fiver to the person bringing out your food and working while you're relaxing.
It's just karma.
What if you don't know how much to tip?
There are a lot of times when you aren't sure if you should tip, trust your gut.
Do you want to give that person a tip? If so, go for it. If not, don't.
For example, some coffee shops will have a tip cup by the register. Should you feel obligated to tip? Go with your gut.
For someone who goes daily, they might throw in a few bucks every so often. For someone who might go each month, they won't feel obligated. You will be the one living with your decision so go with what feels most natural and comfortable.
If someone goes above and beyond, reward them. Reinforce their good behavior and work ethic, we need more of those folks in the world and they need to be rewarded.
Trust your gut and remember…
No one has ever gone broke tipping generously. 🙂
(if you really want a table and a guide you can whip out to wow people at parties, Wait But Why has a good exhaustive guide to tipping backed by data – it has some other goodies in there too).
How do you tip? What are your guiding principles?