What’s your tipping philosophy?

photo by consumatron

My husband and I are usually pretty generous tippers.

When we go out to eat, we always tip at least 20%. We often tip above and beyond that for exceptional service. I have never stiffed a server, even when the service is bad. I’ve been in their shoes, and I know that everyone has bad days. I also know that servers often make well under minimum wage without tips. To me, tipping is just a part of the cost of eating at a restaurant (which is part of the reason I prefer to cook at home).

I usually tip at least 20% at the salon, too. If my stylist is particularly talented or attentive, I often tip more.

At hotels, we usually leave $5 to $20 for the chamber maid depending on the service and the length of our stay.

When we moved here, we hired movers to unload our truck since we didn’t have family and friends nearby to help. We tipped about 30% because it was back-breaking work in 100-degree weather, and we were so grateful that we weren’t doing it ourselves after driving for 3 days.

I guess I’ve always viewed tipping as sort of a luxury tax. If we make the decision to pay someone for services we could do ourselves, then we tip to show our appreciation. The better the service, the higher the tip.

I’ve always thought that if you can’t afford the tip, then you can’t afford the luxury.

Over the weekend in D.C., we parked our car at a garage near the hotel. The garage offered a discount for guests, but it still cost $15 a night.

When we arrived to pick up the car, we were in a hurry. I’m used to self-service garages, so I was surprised when the attendant walked off with the keys to pull the car around. It was parked on the first floor of the garage about 50 feet away from where we were standing, so I was a little confused as to why we needed valet service.

We had used the last of our cash to tip the chamber maid in the hotel. When the parking attendant waited expectantly by the door, we didn’t have any cash to give him.

As we drove away, I felt guilty. But the more I thought about it, the more I wondered why.

If we had requested valet because the car was parked far away or outside in the rain, we would have gladly offered a tip to show our gratitude for the service. If we didn’t have cash for a tip, we’d walk to the car no matter how far away or rainy it was.

But is a tip required when you don’t request the service or even want it? In this case, I would have preferred to get the car ourselves. I wasn’t really comfortable with a stranger driving it.

These are all thoughts I had after we drove away. We didn’t refuse to tip the valet out of principle — we just ran out of cash. Even though we hadn’t requested valet service and the car was only 50 feet away in the sheltered garage, we would have given him a tip out of habit if we’d had the cash. If there was a line for a tip on the receipt when we paid our parking fee, we would have added one simply because it was expected.

I usually tip to show gratitude, but this experience made me realize that sometimes that’s not the reason. Tipping is so ingrained in our culture that I often tip just because it’s expected.

What about you? Do you always tip when it’s expected, or are there instances when a tip is expected and you don’t give it?

5 thoughts on “What’s your tipping philosophy?

  1. mrsdirtyboots

    It’s terrible that you should end up feeling guilty for not paying someone to do something you never asked or expected them to do in the first place.

    I think you should never tip out of guilt or expectation. It should always come from the payment to someone for their service which you’re grateful for.

    It is awful that people don’t make minimum wage but this obligation to tip only perpetuates this cycle surely?

  2. Cathy

    We try to leave 20% also. However, there have been a few times that it didn’t work out that way. Once, I brough cash only to the hairstylists. I had just enough for a cut and tip. However, she had raised her prices so I could only give her the amount of tip I had left. She understood. I think there will always be times that it just doesn’t work out.

    Cathy’s last blog post..A Good Night’s Sleep and A New Attitude

  3. Jennybeen

    I generally tip at restaurants only, and it’s usually grudgingly unless the service is really good. I live in Canada though, and everyone makes at least min wage (8.50$ or so per hr) and usually more due a labor shortage in my city.

    I would tip in situations like your movers, where someone worked extra hard (becuase of the heat) and I was very grateful for it, but I wouldn’t for a regular haircut (not that I’ve had a professional one since I was a kid, my mom does a fine job) because it is just their job and they are already paid for it, only if they did an exceptional job or did something extra. I don’t know if it is expected in Canada though, not having had one in ages.

    I work front desk in a motel with an attached restaurant. The waitresses and I make approximately the same wage (depending on time worked, shifts, etc) and I think we work similarly hard and we deal with the same customers. This is a small motel with only one person working after the housekeeping has left, so I am often fetching towels, pillows, etc, helping with luggage, looking up directions, information, doing small maintenence jobs, showing guests to rooms, not just sitting behind the desk like in larger motels.

    I have worked there 3 years and have recieved (I’m thinking) 10-15$ in tips the whole time I have been there (Except for a drunken hooker with about 1000$ in her hand who gave me 40$ because I seemed underappreciated, but that’s another story).

    The waitresses in the restaurant almost always get tips, and it is just expected that it is part of their wage. In fact we have a certain cultural group that gets rooms and meals paid for by the government in certain situations, and the waitresses always complain that these people never tip (I think it is just part of their culture), and really dislike and resent them for it. You are seen as the worst kind of cheapskate if you don’t tip a waitress.

    I don’t expect tips for what I do, its just part of the job (but it is appreciated when I do get one), and it bothers me that it is just expected for waitresses to get them. We work simlarly hard and get the same wages, so what is the difference? I understand that it is different in the US where everyone doesn’t get min wage.

  4. Bobbi

    I usually tip 20%. That said, what about the people that stand at a counter. How do you, or do you tip them?? I am not talking about McDonalds, more like the coffee houses or sandwich shops, etc. Some of them in my town have a tip jar on it for them. I leave a tip for the waitress that cleans the table, but a counter person?

  5. Jill

    I always, always tip my waitress/server at a restaurant and my hairstylist, and if I get my eyebrows waxed or a pedicure now and then, I tip them too. I really hate the presumptuous person, though. This was probably a year ago, but I got a massage at a place recommended by a friend. They were running a special, $40 for an hour. I paid in cash, but I had three 20-dollar bills. When I paid, the guy asked, “Would you like 10 back?” I was floored. Of course I would have tipped, but for him to assume kind of irritated me.

    Jill’s last blog post..things I suck at

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