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.”

    Amen brother. Was just served a nice Sunday roast and pint of beer by a nice barmaid here in Scotland who is a single mother working extra shifts. The crummy £2 I tip her will potentially make a difference in her life, whereas tipping zero will do nothing. Because nothing will come of nothing, as King Lear once said.

  2. One of the strangest tipping situation I have ever encountered was in Ukraine. Bribe is the norm and the expectation in many situations. Tipping, however, is almost unheard of – especially outside of the big cities, where American tourists are hardly ever encountered.

    The difference? A bribe is given beforehand to an official, with the expectation that the money would entice him to do or not to do something that is is job. A tip is given after service had been rendered, to show appreciation.

    I had countless arguments with cab drivers, waiters, housekeepers and guides who were initially very confused when I tipped them. I explained to them that I was just showing my appreciation for a job well done. Eventually they agreed to accept the tip. The next time I interacted with them, the service was way better.

    Just saying..

  3. The worst experience we had with tipping was at a restaurant in Athens, Greece, where we ended up by a suggestion from our Marriott. The owner greeted us like special guests. The waiter kept on bringing plate after plate of food that we neither ordered, nor could finish. When we were more than full, with more food left-over, we were presented with a check way beyond our expectation. We paid it grudgingly after being insisted by the OWNER. The check included a hefty “Service Charge”, which we paid and started to leave, but the waiter started a scene for not living any “tip”, claimimg tnat the service charge went to the restaurant, and not to him. Finally, we paid everything and walked out.

  4. An Open Letter To The People Who Don’t Tip Their Servers
    This one’s for you.


    Dear Person Who Has No Idea How Much The 0 In The “Tip:” Line Matters,

    I want to start off by asking you a simple question: Why?

    Is it because you can’t afford it? Is it because you are blind to the fact that the tip you leave is how the waiter/waitress serving you is making their living? Is it because you’re just lazy and you “don’t feel like it”? Is it because you think that, while taking care of not only your table but at least three to five others, they took too long bringing you that side of ranch dressing? Or is it just because you’re unaware that as a server these people make $2.85 an hour plus TIPS?

    The average waiter/waitress is only supposed to be paid $2.13 an hour plus tips according to the US Department of Labor.

    That then leaves the waiter/waitress with a paycheck with the numbers **$0.00** and the words “Not a real paycheck.” stamped on it. Therefore these men and women completely rely on the tips they make during the week to pay their bills.

    So, with that being said, I have a few words for those of you who are ignorant enough to leave without leaving a few dollars in the “tip:” line.

    Imagine if you go to work, the night starts off slow, then almost like a bomb went off the entire workplace is chaotic and you can’t seem to find a minute to stop and breathe, let alone think about what to do next.

    Imagine that you are helping a total of six different groups of people at one time, with each group containing two to ten people.

    Imagine that you are working your ass off to make sure that these customers have the best experience possible. Then you cash them out, you hand them a pen and a receipt, say “Thank you so much! It was a pleasure serving you, have a great day!”

    Imagine you walk away to attempt to start one of the seventeen other things you need to complete, watch as the group you just thanked leaves, and maybe even wave goodbye.

    Imagine you are cleaning up the mess that they have so kindly left behind, you look down at the receipt and realize there’s a sad face on the tip line of a $24.83 dollar bill.

    Imagine how devastated you feel knowing that you helped these people as much as you could just to have them throw water on the fire you need to complete the night.

    Now, realize that whenever you decide not to tip your waitress, this is nine out of ten times what they go through. I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to realize that this is someone’s profession – whether they are a college student, a single mother working their second job of the day, a new dad who needs to pay off the loan he needed to take out to get a safer car for his child, your friend, your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, you.

    If you cannot afford to tip, do not come out to eat. If you cannot afford the three alcoholic drinks you gulped down, plus your food, and a tip do not come out to eat.

    If you cannot afford the $10 wings that become half off on Tuesdays plus that water you asked for, do not come out to eat.

    If you cannot see that the person in front of you is working their best to accommodate you, while trying to do the same for the other five tables around you, do not come out to eat. If you cannot realize that the man or woman in front of you is a real person, with their own personal lives and problems and that maybe these problems have led them to be the reason they are standing in front of you, then do not come out to eat.

    As a server myself, it kills me to see the people around me being deprived of the money that they were supposed to earn. It kills me to see the three dollars you left on a forty dollar bill. It kills me that you cannot stand to put yourself in our shoes – as if you’re better than us. I wonder if you realize that you single-handedly ruined part of our nights.

    I wonder if maybe one day you will be in our shoes, and I hope to God no one treats you how you have treated us. But if they do, then maybe you’ll realize how we felt when you left no tip after we gave you our time.

  5. Amen, Mark!
    Some, and maybe all the Hyatt Regency and Grand Hyatt properties create a pool for all the tips received during service. It is then distributed equally among ALL the service staff: greeters, waiters/waitresses, bus boys, dining room managers and assistant managers, etc.
    The effect this has is to forge a tightly knit team that moves through the evening in a superbly choreographed ballet of service. The staff is mentally attuned to watch each other’s backs; whatever needs doing is accomplished by whomever can do it in that moment.
    Do I always leave an extra tip?
    You Betcha!

  6. It was one of the things I USED to like about Ubër: no tip. I prefer the simplicity of telling me upfront what I will owe for a given service.

  7. For Mark – Servers out in the west make anywhere from $11 – $15 an hour mandatory by state law (I understand not all states do this). Throw in tips and that’s $30 – $35 an hour or about $60k annually if averaged out. Also it is fact and proven there is NO correlation between tipping and service which makes the hole idea a bit preposterous. Restaurants should pay the going wage – if one feels so inclined then tip if not so be it. I personally have only “stiffed” a waiter/waitress maybe 5 times in my life and each time there was a conversation with the manager as to why (waiting an hour for food, or order simply wrong not once or twice but 3 times). Or I never saw them again at my table. I waited tables back in the day and no way was I worth the $25 an hour I was pulling in at the time (half of which was tax free mind you, I know I know they’re supposed to declare their tips but come on any cash doesn’t get declared). The tip culture has simply gotten out of control.

  8. Living in London, I can say that I regularly ask servers whether automatically-added discretionary service charges go to them. The standard answer here is “some of it does” (which is a separate travesty); in such cases I will ask them to remove the discretionary service and tell them that I’ll leave it in cash. I know this is very specific to London, as even outside the capital it’s less common for these service charges to be included, though to me it goes to the heart of what it is to compensate the person serving you as opposed to lining the pockets of restauranteurs.

    As a side note, if you order at the bar in England, don’t leave a tip. If someone takes your order at your table and the service was good, leave 10%. In some touristy bars and pubs the bartenders will keep tips, though more than once at more “local” pubs I’ve seen a bartender shout down a patron who left change behind because he assumed it had been forgotten rather than left on purpose.

  9. If you receive lousy service or are treated rudely then don’t leave a tip. Just realize that most servers or maids for that matter don’t make much money and often support families. Yes, some states require higher minimum wages but that is the exception not the rule. I doubt servers in most red states make more than $5.00/hour plus their tips. I have been blessed in life so I am happy to tip when someone has provided me with good service. If you don’t feel the same way then do whatever makes you happy.

  10. My 1st rule of thumb: tipping is ENTIRELY your own decision, don’t feel guilty and don’t feel pressure to tip 20% – the supposed norm today.

    Never tip with SC unless very extraordinary service/product.

    You never know how the tips are distributed, only front of house?, shared equally?, % kept by management (not unheard of)?

    It has to really good service for a really good tip. There are lots of servers(both highend and low end) who rake in the tips why? Because the know their job and do it well and deserve tips

  11. When I was growing tipping was 15%,

    Maybe but when I was growing up it was 10%, then as price went and inflation took over I heard it should be 15% then 20%.

    Now think about this false logic here, I will explain

    Price goes up from $10.00 to $12.00 waiter now expects 15% vs 10% because of inflation. FALSE LOGIC
    Price goes from$10.00 to $12.00 inflation waiter wants more right, well they got 10% of $10.00 $1.00 and 10% of $12.00 is $1.20

    unless of you are doing Obama math, I still tip 10% if they do not like it they can work hard and get out of the profession that is supposed to be high school or college kids, everyone want work menial jobs and get top wages with benefits and a full retirement plan.

    wake and smell the B.S. people

  12. Inflation wouldn’t impact the the percentage you tip. That’s the point of using percentage: it automatically accounts for inflation.

    Tipping is a meme. It’s an idea that spreads from person to person. There is no “normal”; there’s only a particular meme that gained dominance because it made sense to people.

    That original meme of tipping was to help financially motivate service people to do a better job. This makes sense, but it only works if the tip givers follow the rules of adjusting tips based on service. This system makes sense.

    Of course, as with anything, the market reacts. Knowing that good servers can make money and bad servers will make less, companies started to make wages more and more based on tips. This is a merit based system, and it does encourage better service since only the best will work in the industry.

    Over time, economic illiteracy has dominated and people have grown entitled. They believe they “deserve” to be paid certain amount even of their job performance doesn’t warrant the amount. Also, other people believe it’s customer’s jobs to subsidize server’s pay (which it’s not).

    This has led to another meme: the idea that servers are entitled to tips because reasons.

    This meme is silly, and not based in economics. This is probably why you “hate tipping.” In reality, you hate self righteous, entitled people who are economically illiterate.

    Above, a person went on a screed about why it’s okay to be a bad server and still get tips. Well, when a customer orders a side of ranch and the server fails to bring it, that’s a big deal. Many times, condiments missing prevent the start of the meal and thus they have the highest priority. Everything should be dropped to fix that first. Also, a lot of servers in such a position won’t check in to ensure everything is okay (they just drop the food and run). These are the bad servers and they need to not be financially rewarded automatically.

    It’d be better if they could receive feedback on what they were doing wrong. A good server would ask themselves “why am I not getting tips?” And try to improve. A bad one will eventually wash out, or decide to find a new job.

    It’s the system working.

  13. If you are really rich, you should not tip because you will need to invest that money so you can make MORE! On the other hand, it was probably such a magnificent experience for the server that just being in your presence was more than they could ever expect out of life! They already know that it is the average Joe who will tip them so they can buy milk for their children; so just keep your money for yourself. We sat next to 4 people who were decked out in gold and jewels and bragged all through their meal how rich they were and how “last night, the Club” had a totally free event with drinks and everything and the one guy said he got so smashed that he did not know how he would get home! When they left, I asked our server to show me their check (he really hesitated, but I insisted) and for four people, they left a whopping – $8 TIP; and oh, they had to split the check. Unbelievable!

  14. My god, people, cough it up! It means so much more to the servers who keep us travelers going, well-fed, in clean rooms and shuttled around, than it does to us!

    I can’t believe the mention of tipping on the PRE-TAX amt vs including the tax when calculating the tip. Do really mean you would go thru the extra mental calisthenics to deduct the 9% tax? 20% of 9% is less than 2%. See the above: it means way more to that hard-working server than it does to you, or at least it should. Pry open your wallet and share a bit with the folks who keep all of us going on the road!

  15. I was raised with a dollar for every ten dollars spent for “good” services rendered. The key word there is GOOD. The better the service, the better the tip. Of course TIP also depended on how big or small the group being serviced is, and whether the bill can be split before or after services rendered. This is another important fact not touched on in this article, because lots of food establishments are now adding a “gratuity” tax based on the size of a group being serviced. This means that a table of seven people could (and I have seen this happen more often than not) have a 20% gratuity already added to their bill even if it is a SPLIT check, and not everyone had “good” services rendered.
    Here’s an example of what I am saying, Bob reserves a table at Olive Garden for a party of seven at 4 PM. They check-in and the server asks them “will this be one, or several checks?” Bob says “there will be three checks. Check A is mine alone, Check B will be chair 2, 4, and 5, and Check C will be for Chair 1, 3, and 7.” Bob orders an entree, and a water. one of his other groups of friends orders the table Salad and bread sticks, waters, and two entree’s. And the third group buys two glasses of wine, and three entrees. The Total bill is 90.69 before taxes, and BEFORE the split check request. With Taxes (not Split checks): $109.03. Now this needs to be split into the three Checks previously asked for. The server could do this one of a few ways, she could ask the table if they want to split the current check by three, making the bill roughly $37.00 each, or by the A,B,C system they started with which would be A=$21.59, B=$61.78, C=$25.16 (grand Total $108.03). Although there is a DOLLAR discrepancy between the “whole” total, and the split check totals – is the fact the server applied ONE 20% gratuity to the whole check, and 20% gratuity to each of the split checks. If you look at the bigger picture, the servers service went from a 20% tip to a 60% tip regardless of whether the server was “eh, oh my, cool, WOW, or OMG-G!!” with the whole table, let alone one person flirt, s/he has an excellent tip. However, if s/he was “eh” the whole time (and remember this is at 4 PM and NOT busy), the server received the better part of the deal, and what a deal, because 9 out of 10 people won’t compare their checks with the others at the table to KNOW that the server added the full gratuity for a party bigger than six people to each paying check. Some places will go so far as to bring one check, and accept more than One persons payment and still add the 20% gratuity to EACH of the paying card receipt, regardless of whether YOU wanted to give him/her a 20% more/less tip. If you think I am joking, or full of sh*t, review your past and current eating establishment receipts (even if it was a BUSINESS meal).

  16. Tip is a recognition for an extra effort in the service provided.
    My experience in places like Vegas is the service provider (taxi drivers are the best example) expect a tip for nothing, included a simple welcome to town or good morning or to help you to put your bags in the trunk. Should you tip a non courteous service provider? My answer is NO unless they earn the tip in some way.

  17. I have never tipped the housekeeping staff. Hotels should pay ALL of their employees adequately and fairly. They should not expect their guests to subsidize the wages of some of their hardest working employees.

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