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An insider’s guide to tipping etiquette

Tipping is a custom everyone is expected to instinctively understand. If you don’t know how much to tip in a given situation, you might feel too awkward to ask. So, you hazard a guess — or skip it altogether.

Although some might argue that tipping is going extinct, this practice hasn’t disappeared yet. So if you always have a hard time figuring out how much to tip your manicurist, the hotel valet or housekeeping, take a cue from these tipping “insiders” and utilize this cheat sheet.

1. Tipping at the Hair Salon and Spa

You treat yourself to a service at the spa, but you have no idea how much to tip the service provider — and that post-massage haze doesn’t help matters. Mindy Terry, vice president of spa and wellness at the Carillon Miami Beach, gave advice on how much to tip at the spa or salon.

“Before you dip into your pocketbook to show your appreciation, check with your spa to ensure the gratuity is not already included in the cost of service,” she said. “Many spas include a technician gratuity in the final bill. If they don’t, it is customary to leave an 18 percent to 20 percent tip for a massage, facial, or hair or nail service that met or exceeded your expectations.”

At higher-end hair salons, it’s “common for an assistant to provide the shampoo and/or blow dry,” added Terry. “$2 to $5 is appropriate for a shampoo — toward the higher-end for longer shampoos with massage, and depending on the length and thickness of hair. A $5 to $10 tip for a blow dry is always appreciated.”

Terry also offered tipping advice for when you are dissatisfied with a spa service, which can apply to other services as well.

“Instead of forgoing the tip altogether, consider a 10 percent tip as a courtesy,” she said. “But, be sure to speak with the manager or owner — they don’t want you to leave dissatisfied. If your experience is completely terrible, no tip is necessary.”

And if you are using a coupon, promotion or online discount toward your service, “it is standard to tip on the full cost of service,” added Terry.

2. Tipping at Hotels

When you visit a hotel, there’s one person to park your car, another to take your luggage, clean your room, deliver food, and the list goes on. Professor and hospitality expert Dr. William Frye of Niagara University’s College of Hospitality & Tourism Management gave the following advice on how much to tip when staying at a hotel:

Doorperson: “No tip is necessary to open the car or taxi door,” he said. “But a few dollars is appropriate if they load or unload luggage, or hail a taxi for you on a rainy day when taxis are hard to come by.”

Bellman: Frye recommended tipping the bellman $5 for the first bag and a few more dollars for each additional bag. For a full bell cart, tip $20. “The higher the room rate and the more luxurious the hotel, the greater the tip amount, generally,” he said.

Housekeeping: According to Frye, $2 to $5 per standard guestroom per night is an appropriate amount to tip housekeeping. “Double this for suites,” he added. “Always tip each morning and not just at the end of your stay, as you may have a different room attendant cleaning your guestroom each day.”

Concierge: “No gratuity is expected,” said Frye. “But if they secure a dinner reservation or prime theater or sporting event tickets for you that you cannot secure on your own, a generous gratuity equal to at least 15 percent of the item market value — not face value — is in order.”

Front Desk Personnel: There’s “no need to tip them, except if they provide an unexpected upgrade,” said Frye. “Then, a $10 to $20 tip would be greatly appreciated.”

3. Tipping at the Airport

When traveling to a different country, you’ll have to adopt their tipping customs. But before you even get on the plane, there are some people you’ll need to tip at the airport:

Skycaps: “Tip $3 to $5 for the first bag and a few dollars for each additional bag to skycaps … that assist with checking your luggage curbside or retrieving your luggage from baggage claim,” said Frye.

Electric Cart Drivers: “For electric cart drivers who drive you to or from a gate, tip $2 to $3 per person,” said Frye.

Other Airport Assistance: If you receive airport assistance such as help with pushing a wheelchair or loading a passenger on a plane, “tip $5 to $10 per person, depending on the distance, time spent waiting for the passenger and amount of carry-on luggage involved,” said Frye.

4. Tipping on Cruises

If it’s your first time taking a cruise, you’re probably unaware of the secrets only cruise experts know. For example, Frye said most cruise lines will charge a flat gratuity per day per passenger — generally $3 to $5 — for cabin attendants, restaurant service personnel, culinary workers, maintenance personnel and more.

“For bartenders and cocktail servers, usually a 15 percent gratuity is added automatically to the check,” he said. “However … bring plenty of $1 bills, and always leave one inside each drink check to receive the most attentive service.”

Frye also said you should never tip ship’s officers, entertainment personnel or security personnel.

5. Tipping Restaurant Servers and Food Delivery People

These days, your food or bar bill might include the calculations for several tipping options — but which option is the right one? Richie Frieman, aka Modern Manners Guy, shared a few rules of thumb:

Waiters and Servers: The better the service, the more you should tip, advised Frieman. However, “you shouldn’t go broke trying to impress your waiter or your guests by going over the top,” he said.

Still, you should always leave something for your server. “Never humiliate the waiter for poor service by leaving nothing,” said Frieman. “But surely let the manager know [if you are unhappy]. It’s proper to always tip 15 percent to 20 percent, with 15 percent being on the lower end of service. And yes — it’s proper to [tip below 15 percent] for terrible service.”

Delivery Person: Tipping the person who delivers food to your home can be a little tricky.

“This always comes down to the type of delivery and what they had to do,” said Frieman. “For example, if your local pizza place is right around the corner, and your pizza is at your door even before the driver has time to finish a song on the radio, you know there is not much effort in the drive. However, when you know there is gas and time involved, you can … offer up a higher tip. I think 10 percent of the meal is good, but no less than $3.”

Restaurant Host or Hostess: Do you tip the host or hostess? April Masini, etiquette and relationship expert said tipping hosts or hostesses is not necessary — unless they “get you a table when you wouldn’t otherwise be able to get one, and you’re grateful.”

Bartenders: Masini also suggested bartenders should be tipped $1 to $2 per drink.

6. Tipping Car Washers and Valet

Taking care of your car can be expensive — and so can having someone park it. So, how much should you tip someone for watching — or washing — your car?

Valet: “Valets are tricky because you can have multiple interactions a day with valets at a hotel or office,” said Frieman. “I recommend a $3 minimum, but if you have constant interaction with them, don’t feel like you have to go broke every single time, having spent almost $15 at the end of the day.”

Car Washers: Assuming that a normal car wash costs you around $20, “you can end up offering an arm and a leg to the crew, which can be many,” said Frieman. “And with that, always tip for the crew and not each person. I say a $3 minimum is proper, and if you have a high bill — like with waxing, cleaning, tire work, etc. — and the bill is around $50 or higher, then up it to around 10 percent.”

7. Tipping Uber, Limo and Taxi Drivers

With so many car services — taxis, Uber, Lyft, etc. — it can be confusing figuring out how much to tip the drivers for each of these services. How quickly you get to your destination and the driver’s level of professionalism will help dictate how much you should tip.

Taxi Drivers: “Tip 10 percent to 15 percent of the taxi fare before tolls if the driver was courteous, offered a clean cab and operated it in a safe manner,” said Frye.

Limo Drivers: “A 15 percent gratuity is appropriate,” said Frye. “Beware that some limo companies will include this in the cost of renting the limo; others will expect you to pay cash directly to the driver.”

Hotel Shuttle Drivers: Tip “a few dollars for pick-up or drop-off at the airport,” said Frye. “For other trips, a few dollars to $5 per person depending on distance, timeliness and courtesy.”

Airport Parking Lot Shuttle Drivers: You should tip “$1 to $2 per bag that they assist with,” said Frye.

Uber and Rideshare Drivers: If you’re an Uber or Lyft customer, you probably don’t think you need to tip. Teajai Kimsey, who blogs about Uber in Kansas, thinks otherwise.

“You should tip … based on the quality of service and length of ride,” she said. “In the Midwest, $5 seems to be the normal tipping amount…”

Frye agreed. “You may tip at your discretion if they offered exceptional service or assisted with luggage,” he said.

Who Not to Tip: Teachers, Tutors, Coaches and More

Typically, people who are paid a full, non tip-dependent salary — or an agreed-upon fee to provide a service — are the people you don’t necessarily have to tip. For example:

Tutors: Masini said academic tutors do not need to be tipped. But, “if your child does well in a class or on an SAT test as a result of the tutor’s hard work, give them a bonus,” she said. “One-hundred dollars is usually a good amount. If the tutor works for a company, make the gift cash.”

Teachers: Masini also advised against tipping school teachers. “It looks like you’re trying to buy your kids’ grades,” she said. But, gift giving at the end of the semester or school year is acceptable.

Coaches: Like with teachers, giving your child’s coach a gift at the end of the season is appropriate — but tipping is not necessary. “A typical amount for each parent to chip into a collective gift is $25,” said Masini. “If your kid’s coach made a difference, give him a personal gift of $50 or $100 with a nice note.”

Other people who, in most cases, don’t require a tip include nannies, personal housekeepers and the people who service your lawn. At holiday time, however, thank these hard-working individuals for their good service by giving a bonus, gift card or a gift of appreciation.

From GoBankingRates.com: Insider secrets of tipping etiquette

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