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chapter 10

Tipping customs vary significantly all over the world. It is always a good idea to get some basic information on local tipping practices when you are planning on traveling to a different country. For example, tipping is frequently done in the U.S. and Canada but there is little or no tipping done in Japan, Korea, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Tipping correctly is part of making the right impression on your companions. Wherever possible, tip with cash.
“Tips” are usually given to individuals who perform a personal service of some kind for you. Such people are typically paid low wages for what they do or are self-employed. As a result, the tips they receive represent a major portion of their total compensation. Quite simply, they need the tips to survive.
Consequently, I view tipping as somewhat of a karma issue. When in doubt, it is better to err in tipping generously as opposed to the opposite. In most cases, the higher the quality of service you receive, the larger your tip should be. If the establishment where you are eating or staying is largely self-service, then you do not have to tip.
For convenience and service, it is hard to beat that which is offered by taxis. You get personally driven in a private vehicle to the door of where you want to go. In return, you should tip taxi drivers at least 15% of the fare with a minimum tip of $1. Taxi drivers in England are generally not tipped, however, unless they handle a lot of bags.
A word of caution about taxis — always make sure the driver turns on the meter at the very start of your ride. If this does not happen, say right away, “You haven’t turned your meter on.” On some longer trips, especially to and from airports, taxi drivers are permitted to charge a flat fare but you should be told the amount beforehand so there are no surprises. Avoid taking taxis that do not have meters unless you can negotiate a satisfactory fare before you go anywhere. Even with flat fares you are expected to add a tip. If the driver tells you the meter is broken, say you are sorry, get out and take another taxi.
If you are fortunate enough to have your mail and newspapers personally delivered to your home, both your mail carrier and newspaper delivery person should receive a tip at the end of the year, or more preferably twice a year. The newspaper delivery person should receive a tip of 10-15% of the annual subscription price. The size of the tip for the mail carrier depends on the amount of mail you receive but it should be at least as much as you are tipping the newspaper delivery person. In both cases, it is best to put their annual tip in an envelope with a small thank-you card.
Barbers, hairdressers and manicurists should be tipped a minimum of 15% of their bill. If you use the same person for this service on a regular basis throughout the year, also consider giving them a small present to express your appreciation at the end of the year. Tip the shampoo attendant $1-2 separately each time your hair is washed.
In hotels, bellmen should be tipped the equivalent of $1-2 for each bag or item they bring to your room with a minimum tip of $5. Doormen should be tipped $1-2 for hailing a taxi or parking your vehicle, plus $2-3 if they unload or load your bags from or into a vehicle.
If you order something to eat or drink from room service at a hotel, check the bill when it comes to see if an additional “service charge” or “gratuity charge” has been automatically added to the bill. If so, tip the room server about 5% of the amount of the bill before any such charge was added. If no service charge or gratuity was added, tip the server 15% of the bill. It is best to give these tips in cash. Otherwise, write “tip” on the bottom left of the bill, put the tip amount opposite on the right under the amount charged, draw a line underneath and write below the new total charge on the bill yourself. Calculate such tips on the amount charged for food and beverages, excluding any taxes and service charges.
When you ask a concierge at a hotel to obtain theater tickets, make restaurant reservations or perform any special services for you, tip the concierge a minimum of $10-20. Concierges are usually extremely resourceful and are there to help you deal with problems and difficult questions, including those relating to your travel arrangements or having something shipped home. When you have any travel reservations to be confirmed or changed, ask the concierge to take care of that for you.
If you know the extent you are likely going to be using the concierge at the start of your hotel stay, it is a good idea to give the tip to the concierge then as opposed to when you leave. Put your tip in an envelope with a note saying, “Thank you for your assistance,” sign it and put your room number underneath. Do not worry if there is more than one concierge as they usually share their tips.
The hotel housekeeping staff who clean and make up your room every day probably work harder and are paid less than anyone else at the hotel. At the end of your stay, put a tip of $3-5 for each night in an envelope, write “Housekeeping” and your room number together with the dates of your stay on the outside and leave it at the front desk when you check out of the hotel. Alternatively, give this amount directly to the person cleaning your room on a daily basis. If housekeeping performs any extra services, whoever does so should be tipped $1-2 at the time. Hotel valets looking after cleaning or pressing your clothes should be given a $2-5 tip.
Luxury hotels in Asia, Europe and the Caribbean often add a service charge of 10% or more to your total bill. When they do so, you are still expected to give some cash tips, especially to bellmen and the concierge.
Porters in an airport or train station should be tipped $1-2 per bag carried or handled. With extremely heavy and large bags, you probably should tip a larger amount. Such tips are given after the porter has finished handling your bags.
When you use valet parking at a hotel or restaurant, the person taking your vehicle should be tipped $2 and the person returning it to you afterwards should be tipped the same amount. If you need to use a coat-check service at a restaurant or anywhere else, tip the attendant $1 per item checked when you come back for them.
At spas in the U.S. and Canada, give a 15-20% cash tip to your therapist. Elsewhere, give a 10% cash tip to your therapist even if the spa has added a service charge to your bill.
Some Men’s and Women’s Rooms in restaurants and clubs will have an attendant there to give you a towel or otherwise help you. If this person does anything for you, give the attendant a tip of $1-2.
When you are ordering at a bar, leave a tip of $1.00 for a beer and $2.00 for a cocktail. Otherwise, tip bartenders and wait-staff in bars, dance clubs and other similar establishments 15% of the bill excluding taxes. In some countries, however, it is not customary to tip such people, including bartenders and servers in pubs in the U.K. If you are with a group and two or more of you are sharing the paying of the bill, agree together on the amount of the tip.
When you order take-out food to be delivered to your home, tip the delivery person 10% of the bill even if there is a delivery charge. In bad weather, the tip probably should be increased to 15%. If you are picking up food yourself from a take-out place, give a tip of 10% to the person ringing up the bill.
Give movers a tip of $50 per person for a full day’s work and $25 for a half-day job. Give each person delivering furniture into your home a tip of $10 per small piece of furniture and $20 for larger pieces or furniture sets.
Last, if there is someone you use on a relatively frequent basis to perform an important service for you throughout the year, consider sending that individual flowers or a box of candy together with a thank-you note at the end of the year. Examples of people who might merit this gesture are your doctor, the individual who handles your account at the bank, and the travel agent or person in your organization who books most of your travel arrangements.
By now, you are probably saying to yourself, “Holy smoke, the cost of all these tips is going to add up to quite a lot.” Yes, perhaps it does but you should regard the tip as part of the cost of using a service. If you cannot afford to give a proper tip, skip using the service. Do it yourself. In the end, you will receive the quality of service you pay for, including any tips. If you are perceived to be a “poor tipper”, the level of service you receive will reflect that.
For guidance on tipping practices in different countries, consult on the Internet as well as country-specific guidebooks and websites. Chapter 7, Restaurants, covers tipping in restaurants and Chapter 8, Wine, covers tipping for wine served in restaurants.


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