5 Simple Rules for Tipping From Someone Who Hates Tipping

I hate tipping. Full stop.

  • If it’s meant “to insure prompt service” then why do it after service has already been provided?
  • Why do it at all in places you’re visiting and won’t return to, if it’s after service has been provided and there’s no way you can get better service in the future?
  • Why should it be an ambiguous open-ended amount?
  • Why should credit card slips in countries where tipping isn’t traditional include a tip line?
  • Are you expected to tip where there’s already a service charge? Room service is a great example,
    is the service charge going to the person delivering your meal or to the hotel?

I hate the expectation. I hate the ambiguity. I hate tip inflation, when I was growing up 15% of the pre-tax amount of a meal was standard and now I often hear 20% of the total and cabs include those sorts of suggestions and defaults when paying by credit card electronically.

And now it’s tipping not just a few bucks for pizza delivery, but 20% of the total meal price. And tips when you’re picking up the food to go (since ‘someone still had to package it’).

It’s hard enough dealing with tipping expectations here in the U.S. What do you do — as a traveler where you may not understand the local custom? Not worry so much about it.

  • Outside of Japan, where tipping is historically an offense, you can pretty much tip in most countries, even where it’s contra the culture and traditions. When you do, folks just figure “you’re American.”

  • And you can pretty much get away with not tipping (except where tip is added to the bill, like in Italy in the form of “coperto” or as a service charge) since you’re unlikely to see the place again. Or the locals will assume “you’re a Brit.”

I do understand tipping hotel housekeeping. It’s hard work and they’re cleaning up after your mess. But even that’s too complicated, with suggestions like leaving cash every day since your room may be cleaned by someone different each day, and to leave a note with the cash so housekeeping knows you didn’t just leave out the cash. (HT: Alan H.) Who has small bills in cash handy every day let alone enough small bills in cash to leave more each and every day?

I disagree with this advice. If you’re going to tip hotel housekeeping leave cash at the end of your stay. Sure, one member of the housekeeping staff may get an outsized tip. But across all of a hotel’s rooms, and across the year, this should even out as other members of housekeeping get outsized tips as well on any given day and no tips from some rooms on other days.

And while I can be guilted into tipping housekeeping I’d much rather an equilibrium where hotels paid their housekeeping staff at a level where tipping wasn’t expected, and that was then built into the room rate. Why should the hospitality business create anxiety and inconvenience?

Marriott even went out of their way to make this a thing which just goes to show them advertising an unwillingness to own up to compensating their own employees.

Here are my personal rules for tipping:

  1. If there’s a service charge a tip isn’t required. Where places add a “service charge” to the bill, you shouldn’t feel obligated to tip, although if paying cash you can round up to the next major bill if you’d like. Don’t feel obligated to add something to a charge slip.

    One thing I do if I’m not sure the proper etiquette is to ask whether the service charge take care of the person serving me. If it does, I don’t need to add.

  2. Know the difference between a tip and a bribe. In general tipping isn’t customary in Asia. That’s a huge generalization and there are differences, but tipping isn’t the norm the way it is in the U.S. and you won’t find locals tipping (though perhaps they’ll “round up” and leave change) — but at resorts tipping is very common because enough Americans travel throughout the region.

    Just because ‘tipping’ may not be a customary practice, doesn’t mean that bribes aren’t, many cultures that haven’t had tipping in their past do have a history of side payments for services.. not like getting your bags or bringing you your meal but if you want anything productive or ‘official’ done beyond what a tourist might encounter.

  3. Round up, and try to tip modestly where it’s easy and natural. Wherever I go outside North America I’ll round up cabs, figure on 10%-ish at restaurants, and have small amounts ready for folks who help with baggage but not worry about it if they walk off not realizing I was ready to tip them.

  4. Tip less abroad than in major US cities. I don’t tip nearly as frequently as I might in New York. I’m not tipping the bellman on the way in and out of a hotel.

  5. Do what feels natural to you. Somehow after traveling a good amount tipping feels right or wrong in a given situation, based in part on what I’ve heard or seen about a country’s practice but based mostly on watching the person that’s interacting with me.

    I do what feels right and I do not worry if it is right. For instance, do they appear to be waiting around after dropping off my bags, or do they run off immediately?

I remember being 16 and visiting Australia, I apologized to a cab driver that I had only just enough cash to pay him but nothing for a tip. He had a good laugh at my expense I think, as he explained to me that tipping a taxi driver wasn’t mandatory in Australia. On the other hand, I’ve had cabs Down Under size me up as an American and clearly expect to be tipped.

Sometimes it’s who you are (or appear to be) as much as where you are. And the stakes aren’t often as big as you think.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’m sorry to say this is really silly advice. Most people in service industries don’t make a lot of money and if you can afford to tip you should do so. Even when I see a 10% service charge added I typically add more. If the service was bad that is another story then I see no reason to add more than 10% but if the service was good and you can afford it don’t be so cheap. I also don’t see any issues with Marriott leaving a tip envelope. Many of the people reading this blog and the person who writes the blog often uses points instead of cash to pay for their hotel room. What is the big deal to leave a tip for the person who cleans the room for them everyday? The bottom line is put yourself in their situation and then ask yourself if you would appreciate the tip if you made as little money as they did. With regard to very high end restaurants where servers are better compensated, it depends on the service level you received. The norm these days in the U.S. is anywhere between 15-20%. Internationally it depends on the country. If they add 10% again you can decide if the service was good and worth an additional tip.

  2. The problem is that housekeepers with more seniority take the check-out rooms over newer housekeepers. So you’re basically tipping the boss, not the underling.

  3. If I get good service, I tip. Housekeeping, hotel doormen and doorwomen. End of story.

    “Expected gratuity” LOL. Does my head in. As soon as I see “expected”, they can bugger-off.

    As soon as I see “service fee”. Zilch extra. Even in the USA. Give good service and get the tip, it’s an incentive isn’t it?

    If they are not being paid enough, that’s not my problem. It’s the management of the establishment. Or get another job. I work too hard for my dough to be handing it out willy-nilly on bad service.

    Not silly at all.

  4. “Outside of Japan” – well not really…. generally in most Asian countries/culture – you really do not tip (e.g. Korea/HK). Just providing a blanket statement truly is wrong.

  5. If tip is mandatory, it would’ve been written in letters of law. Otherwise, its just plain bigotry trying to be ‘politically correct’.

    Sure, housekeeper, server, cab driver, doorman, bell boy, delivery man, all the kinds work hard. They need to make a living. Bla bla bla, yada yada yada.

    If the government cannot provide good employment, why the welfare of those people suddenly become my burden through stupidity known as “tip” ?

    For an above and beyond service, its nice to tip. Other than that, fuck it.

  6. one of my friend’s dad would lay down a bunch of one and five dollar bills when the waiter would show up. He would exp,sin this is your potential tip. He usually got excellent service but if not the tip was gradually lowered thru out the meal.

    I use a different technique. For example, If I don’t get prompt refills on my drink I deduct the cost of the drink from the tip.

  7. I’m also sorry to say this is really silly advice. A lot of people in this world don’t make a lot of money. You need to give them your money, but only when you want to and feel like it. That’s how the world is supposed to work. Don’t be cheap. They make tiny wages and you are supposed to fill in the gaps, if they are having a good day.

    Take McDonald’s for example. If they get your order right, realize that it took the collective work of a lot of people to make that happen–people who don’t make a lot of money. You need to spread your wealth and make sure to put some small amount in the hand of each employee in the restaurant.

    And don’t stop there. Do you realize the drivers who deliver supplies and ingredients to your McDonald’s aren’t paid much either? Don’t be cheap with them. Wait for them late at night when they show up and don’t hesitate to slide them a fiver.

    Of course, don’t forget the shift workers at the factory who make the sporks and plastic cups, and also remember the farmhands who helped grow the vegetables in your Big Mac. If you don’t seek them out and tip them, who will? They don’t make a lot of money, and they work hard, so be sure to disregard the normal flow of capital and put a little thank you in their pocket. They deserve it.

  8. I tip where I know the person is making less than minimum wage. Restaurants made a deal with the devil in passing legislation allowing them to be paid less than minimum wage, so the serving staff get tipped. Otherwise? Not getting tipped. Full stop. That means cab drivers, doormen, even concierges (though I could understand them getting tips for good suggestions, I won’t be partaking in that activity).

    Someone’s ability to survive should *NEVER* depend on my generosity and I will do my damnedest to ensure that’s the case. I’m happy to pay more taxes if it’s mean no more expectation of tipping. I will deprive deserving individuals of tips on occasion, because I believe so firmly that tipping is an evil practice that needs to end immediately and I refuse to participate in it beyond what’s codified in law (lower wages for wait staff + IRS expectation of 15% of checks for servers). It’s not a happy war I wage, and I am just one man, but tipping is so evil it HAS to end ASAP.

    For those wondering, tipping is evil because it exposes workers to our worst prejudices (e.g. racial bias, and yes, there is research on this), forces female employees into putting up with sexual harassment in exchange for improved tips (I’ve read first-hand accounts of tips being correlated directly with how much sexual harassment a female server will put up with), allows restaurants to falsely advertise lower prices by “outsourcing” wages to customers via tipping, and makes customers and staff uncomfortable. About the only benefit is that I do think you get better service.

    For me, the worst are places that *insist* on doing things when I know there’s an expectation of tipping, such as fancy hotels that insist on taking my bags against my protestations. They’re still not getting tipped, AND they made me uncomfortable!

  9. @James – Are you sure you’re not remember Third Rock From The Sun? Dick executed that exact strategy in Season…2, I believe.

    I have 2 issues with tipping:

    1) Broadly, I have a real issue with tip jars at drive-thru, or at the counter when you order your food. How do you show your appreciation when you haven’t even received the service? Ridiculous.

    2) The fact that everybody has a different position on what scenario should obligate a person to tip is the exact issue with tipping. By definition a tip is supposed to be an expression of appreciation that is voluntary. How a person gives away their money should be based on whether they want to or not. That’s it. “This person deserves it because” and “this situation requires it because”. Again, ridiculous. If you want to give someone your money (or a compliment, or a handshake, or a pat on the back, or a smile, or advice, or a job offer, or a stock tip, or your time), you should do it. If you don’t want to do it, but do so because you feel pressured or required – that’s not “tipping”, it’s allowing yourself to be taxed by someone who has no authority over you.

  10. Here’s how to deal with tipping: tip low and as rarely as possible. If multi million and billion dollar businesses are too cheap to pay their workers a few bucks more an hour, it’s not my business to be he one that has to foot the bill. Punish the greedy business owners, not the customers. If the average American weren’t so mind-bogglingly stupid, then maybe they would get the government to fix the issue of greedy businesses and underpaid workers. Too bad they have too much of a hard on for the failing free market which lets people a thousand times richer than them rob them.

  11. Don’t even get me started on tipping tour guides. I just got back from Alaska, where day tours can easily run $200-300 and then guides expect a solid 20% gratuity on top of that. I have no issue tipping guides (and often do) but when pre-trip guidelines are emailed out specifically “suggesting” tips of $50pp, that’s just ridiculous.

  12. Always know the tipping culture of the country you are visiting. I am tired of going to countries where tipping is not the norm and then being expected to tip anyway because I am an American. These expectations occur because stupid americans travel the world tipping without taking a moment to check what is normal for the culture. Also, suggestions in tips have gone up from 15% to 20% and now I am seeing some places pushing towards 25%. To hell with that. I typically tip 18-20% but 15% is not unreasonable. I don’t see why the percentage used for tips should be increasing from 15%. It makes zero sense. The cost of food and meals has gone up over time and therefore the size of the tip as increased as well. Not to mention the tax we have to pay in major cities on the bill as well.

  13. @Becky I would never pay that type of money to a tour guide. I mean what are you even paying the company for at that point if you are basically paying the full salary of the tour guide with those types of tips.

  14. As Steve Martin said in my Blue Heaven. I tip everyone
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coFG8jmX2JE In the U.S., Canada and I don’t know what other countries tipping is expected, the servers are not paid well, tipping is how they make a living.

    In other countries (Not All), the salary and benefits are a good wage, tipping is not expected although I know is many Asian countries where tipping is not expected, China, for example, the wages are low. Japan, I have been warned not to tip because of the custom. If service was exceptional or I know I will be back frequently I tip in fact I overtip. When I do this I believe it shows in the service when I return in many places, not all.

    Anyway, that is my two cents, watch my Blue Heaven sometime, and under appreciated Steve Martin movie.

  15. @Robbo Agreed if I see there is a service charge included then I am certainly not paying any extra tip unless they do something exceptional beyond what is normally expected.

  16. I hate to upset the apple cart folks, I do not live in the US and I do appreciate that tipping is expected almost everywhere in the US.

    But, Why should I be expected to supplement workers wages? Employers should pay their staff an appropriate rate for the job and not expect me to supplement staff wages

    I tip if I get exceptional service, I wont tip if someone is just doing their job

    I am old enough to remember when 10% was expected as a tip, but I have seen suggestions on credit card receipts, menu’s etc of 20%, 25% and even 30%

    Sorry Mr Employer .. pay your staff correctly

  17. @James

    “one of my friend’s dad would lay down a bunch of one and five dollar bills when the waiter would show up. He would exp,sin this is your potential tip. He usually got excellent service but if not the tip was gradually lowered thru out the meal.”

    Your friend’s dad sounds like an unfathomable c**t

  18. Anyone who wants to tip, wherever and whenever, for whatever reason, just do it. Its your money anyway.

    But stating anyone else must tip because bla bla bla, is the same as a christian saying all other religion is stupid since jesus is our savior.

    Keep your thoughts for yourself. Just because you are stupid, doesn’t anyone else must be stupid also.

  19. I also disagree with this advice. Back in my youth I relied on tips for a living after college. In Atlanta at the time waitresses were exempt from minimum wage laws and we were only paid $1.80 an hour. Without tips I could not have survived.

    You can argue that maids and servers should be paid a fare wage, but until (and if) they are why penalize them?

    Because of our Miles and Points obsession we travel the world first class for very little cash. On many trips our only cash outlays are restaurants and tips.

    One of our pleasures when we travel is sharing our good fortune with others. Out of all the service people the housekeepers are always the most grateful. We definitely tip daily. And in Europe we hand the money directly to the housekeeper since managers often check the rooms on their rounds and grab the tips.

  20. As an American, I personally like to tip BIG when I’m in other countries just to show them what America is all about!

  21. @wendy Well said. Until someone walks a mile in the other person’s shoes, that person will never understand.
    Perhaps those objecting to tipping should try being a hotel maid or a waiter for a week. It changes one’s perspective immeasurably.

  22. @warrior
    Your money would go better if you donate to homeless in your country, or maybe is airlines’ cabin crew and gate agent. Since those people are always underpaid and have to deal with rude customers.

    Then again, as an american you always entitled to brag and show off your power and your stupidity at the same time…..

  23. For once I agree 100% with Gary. Well except on the hotel maids. I used to tip them but I found (1) it had no effect on how well my room was cleaned (2) IMO they often do a poor job & my discretionary tips are a reward for good service. Also no tips at Starbucks, fast food, or for takeout. Restaurant tips are traditionally for table service, I see no need to expand that category just because a tip jar is out.

    P.S. My SOP is to sign the bill and let Mrs. B tip in restaurants, as she tends to be more generous.

  24. @Bzv
    Hahahaha…. funniest comment.

    A stupid person is not actually stupid. Those who said the person is stupid should try to be stupid so they can appreciate the stupidity.

    If you are stupid, learn so you can be not stupid. If wages as waiter is low, get a better job. Better, get education to get a better job.

    Idiot trying to be wise is always funny. Hahahahahaha

  25. @ Gary — I no longer even consider tipping uber or lyft. I very rarely have ever tipped housekeeping and never will again. I will never understand why I should tip housekeeping. We should ideally.never see each other, so why should I tip? In the US, I tip 15-25% on meals. Outside the US, 0-10%. Call me cheap, but I really just don’t care anymore.

  26. We tip daily in hotels.
    Reason: we’ve found that our room is cleaned much better and our items far likely to disappear if we tip $5 every day.

    We bring five $5 bills on vacation just for that reason

  27. Servers in the US do not make a good living and we have to tip them. They are paid LESS than minimum wage because tips will make up their wage to minimum (not in California, where tips are on top of the wages.)

    If you want to know how this stupid law of being able to pay workers less than minimum wage came into existence, Google Hermann Cain and his law. And then go beat up a Republican. Because all them are assholes that pass laws like these and then complain about tipping.

  28. I agree with those who think tipping should be eliminated completely. It’s a cop out for employers to cut costs and advertise lower prices. I have a restaurant near me that used to include service in the menu price. Then they claimed employees wanted to go to a traditional tipping model. They decreased the prices by 10% and then a few months later increased prices by 20% or so. I interpret this as a way to drop wages and then push the prices back up to snatch more profit. Shame on this restaurant.

  29. I’m also sorry to say this is really silly advice. A lot of people in this world don’t make a lot of money. You need to give them your money, but only when you want to and feel like it. That’s how the world is supposed to work. Don’t be cheap. They make tiny wages and you are supposed to fill in the gaps, if they are having a good day.

    Take McDonald’s for example. If they get your order right, realize that it took the collective work of a lot of people to make that happen–people who don’t make a lot of money. You need to spread your wealth and make sure to put some small amount in the hand of each employee in the restaurant.

    And don’t stop there. Do you realize the drivers who deliver supplies and ingredients to your McDonald’s aren’t paid much either? Don’t be cheap with them. Wait for them late at night when they show up and don’t hesitate to slide them a fiver.

    Of course, don’t forget the shift workers at the factory who make the sporks and plastic cups, and also remember the farmhands who helped grow the vegetables in your Big Mac. If you don’t seek them out and tip them, who will? They don’t make a lot of money, and they work hard, so be sure to disregard the normal flow of capital and put a little thank you in their pocket. They deserve it.

  30. Sorry, but I have to repost this:

    I’m also sorry to say this is really silly advice. A lot of people in this world don’t make a lot of money. You need to give them your money, but only when you want to and feel like it. That’s how the world is supposed to work. Don’t be cheap. They make tiny wages and you are supposed to fill in the gaps, if they are having a good day.

    Take McDonald’s for example. If they get your order right, realize that it took the collective work of a lot of people to make that happen–people who don’t make a lot of money. You need to spread your wealth and make sure to put some small amount in the hand of each employee in the restaurant.

    And don’t stop there. Do you realize the drivers who deliver supplies and ingredients to your McDonald’s aren’t paid much either? Don’t be cheap with them. Wait for them late at night when they show up and don’t hesitate to slide them a fiver.

    Of course, don’t forget the shift workers at the factory who make the sporks and plastic cups, and also remember the farmhands who helped grow the vegetables in your Big Mac. If you don’t seek them out and tip them, who will? They don’t make a lot of money, and they work hard, so be sure to disregard the normal flow of capital and put a little thank you in their pocket. They deserve it.

  31. A New York friend of mine, on being quizzed on tipping habits in that city, advised me of the rule-of-thumb she uses: look what the city tax is on a bill, double it and that’s your tip! As outstanding service warranting extra is a rarity, this works for me.
    On tipping generally, I realise on reading Gary’s article, and the wide range of opinions in Replies, that yes, I do in fact have a pretty firm policy on tipping based on common-sense, and what I feel is appropriate in any given circumstance. If you have a special meal out, which, say, might cost $250 ( not hard to rack up in NYC!) the waiter will not be getting a $50 tip for doing the same service as down the street at Mario’s Pizzaria.

  32. @Credit
    Republicans love to carry big scary assault rifles and if you attempt to beat them up then he will shoot you dead in self defence and we will be with out one more tolerant libtard in the world

  33. I always tip generously when I receive nice service. Internationally I just politely explain to the people that unfortunately some Americans are selfish cheap people who are usually republicans and Trump supporters and they only care about themselves. Not only do they refuse to tip they are also the people who usually steal the down pillows and other things.

  34. Not all servers are poorly compensated. San Francisco has a high legislated minimum wage, no wage tip credit, mandated tip sharing is prohibited , and legislated benefits. My standard tip is 0%, 5% if exceptional. I also avoid stopping in this city as much as possible.

  35. @ James

    That story about your friend’s day makes him sound like the dooshiest person I’ve ever heard of.

  36. @ ucipass — McDonald’s, or whoever, should be paying their employees not me. That is what I am paying for when I buy a hamburger. Why should I pay twice? This is a ridiculous concept and the problem with tipping. If I want to pay someone directly to make a burger for me, I will hire a cook to work in my home.

    @ Mark — I loathe Donal Trump and most Republican politicians, but political party and tipping probably do not correlate much at all.

  37. Hey Mark, has it ever occured to you that YOU are the embarrassing, boorish and stereotyping moron? Yeah, didn’t think so. They must love you everywhere you go…

  38. @Mark.

    depends on jurisdiction.

    I come from a hospitality background in Aus.

    i was being paid $25 an hour 35 years ago, as a teenager, on penalty rates, Sat, Sun, and more on public holidays.

    Thanks back then to the Liquor and Allied Trade Union.

    because Aus is heavily unionised, and history of healthy wage negotiations for the hospitality workers, you have a completely different climate to the US, therefore tipping isn’t required because service staff get paid so well.

    that’s why you don’t have to tip in Aus.

  39. One argument that people have is that tipped employees make less than minimum wage is not true. According to US Department of Labor, If an employee’s tips combined with the employer’s direct wages of at least $2.13 an hour do not equal the minimum hourly wage, the employer must make up the difference. Not to mention tipped employee in certain state such as California make same minimum wage as none tipped employee.
    If argument that minimum wage is not a living wage, that sounds like a government problem and you need to go complain to your representative.

  40. I am sorry to say, but this is really silly advice in the comments. Most of Asia, service people are paid similar wages to other staff, and do not receive or expect tips. Encouraging people to tip in non-tip cultures just starts to perpetuate the symptom overseas. Why don’t we tip people in other professions? Tip your kid’s teacher, tip your accountant, tip your broker. It’s just spiraling out of control in the US- please don’t export your bad practices overseas.

    Now, I do leave something for the person who cleans my room, as they make very low wages, and I figure that has the biggest impact. But I don’t tip bellboys or door attendants in Asia- please don’t tip them, either.

  41. I hate that, in today’s culture, tipping is expected for doing the basics of a person’s job. If you want a tip, especially a good one, you need to have a positive attitude and work for your money just as hard as I work for mine.

    Tipping for doing your job is the workplace equivalent of participation trophies!

  42. Though the article (and many comments) describe the practices around the grey area of tipping, only a few of them describe WHY the tipping practice is so aggressively used in the U.S.

    As @Abner and @Kaioo mention, there are legal and economic reasons for management and line workers to prominently push tipping. Out of this line workers gain additional income, and management externalizes a portion of their cost.

    Tip inflation as a result is nothing more than a marketing gimmick structured over business and compensation reasons that align both management and worker’s incentives.

  43. I love taxi drivers in the Emirates. They all give a sob story about how they can’t afford to live there to drum up tips. The icing on the cake is that a lot of them have been there for 10-25 years. Something doesn’t add up.

  44. Agree with Lee Huff/ Bald Thoughts post..

    What about airport lounges? Drinks? Food? Do you tip a certain amount?

    What about take-out? I used to write in “to go” assuming a tip was for table service. One of my friends had a fit! She tips 20% of after tax bill.

    It gets crazy, and frankly does not ensure better service!

  45. As an American living abroad, I dread going to the US and the hassle of tipping. Needing so many small bills for everybody and their brother with their hand out, esp when you first arrive and need to tip at the airport, hotel staff etc. And with e-money accounting for more payments there’s less reason for carrying cash at all. I find the entire process annoying for me and degrading for the individuals. Why don’t hotels, restaurants and others simply add a service charge and be done with it? When some attempt to do it, the tip lovers arise claiming they only get good service by extending the4 “discretionary” tip. Where will it end?

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