The Rules For Tipping in America

Tipping is an integral part of American culture, often bewildering for first-time British travelers.

Recently, a Twitter post by an American server shed light on this issue, sparking a debate about tipping practices. Here, we will break down the essential rules of tipping in the United States.

Who Should You Tip?

In the US, tipping is customary in various service-related scenarios. This includes:

  • Taxi and Uber Drivers: Expect to tip at least 15%, with 20% for excellent service being a common practice. Consider keeping $1 bills for cash tips.
  • Bellhops: For help with your luggage, tipping is expected, with $1 or more per bag being appropriate.
  • Tour Guides and Bus Drivers: On guided tours, it’s customary to tip these service providers.
  • Restaurant Staff and Bartenders: Tipping at restaurants is where the rules get intricate. The standard minimum tip has increased from 15% to 18%, with 20% becoming more common. Tips should be calculated based on the pre-tax total.
  • Hotel Staff: If bellhops assist with room lighting and other services, they expect tips. Housekeeping staff may leave notes implying a tip is customary.

Why Such High Tipping Rates?

Many American states permit employers to pay their waiting staff below the minimum wage, assuming that customers will make up the difference. For example, in New York City, a cash wage of at least $10 combined with a tip allowance of no more than $5 can meet the minimum wage requirement.

How to Tip?

Typically, tipping is added to your credit card receipt, with options like 18%, 20%, and 25%. Some restaurants even offer 20%, 22%, and 25% as choices. Calculating these percentages on the fly can be cumbersome, making cash tips a more straightforward option. For instance, tipping 18% on a $55.55 bill equates to $10. A crisp ten-dollar bill is often more appreciated than a slightly higher percentage added to the check.

Tipping at Bars and Cafes

  • Bars: At a bar, tipping $1 per drink is customary, even for happy-hour specials. For intricate cocktails, a higher tip is expected.
  • Cafes: When paying for a coffee, the screen may prompt you to choose between 18%, 20%, 25%, a custom amount, or no tip. Staff members often observe your choice.

Be Wary of Pre-Added Tips

Sometimes, restaurants include a percentage tip in the bill. Even when this is the case, you may still be encouraged to tip additionally. In certain places, there’s a new practice of adding a mandatory 10% for kitchen staff, on top of the standard minimum tip.

Hotel Breakfast and Beyond

Even if your hotel offers complimentary breakfast, tipping may be expected for any personalized service beyond a basic buffet. Breakfast staff may add a tip to your final bill, even if you believe you’ve already paid for the service.

Tolerance for Tipping

Americans are generally more accepting of additional charges in their bills compared to Europeans, East Asians and Australians.

Tipping in Canada

North of the US border, the customary tip remains at 15%, and Canadian staff may be more forgiving of tipping errors. However, some Canadian restaurants have begun adding a 15% gratuity, which, surprisingly, is aimed at Scottish and Australian patrons.

Understanding and navigating the complex world of tipping is essential for British travelers in the US, ensuring a smooth and respectful interaction with service providers.