A Guide to Tipping: Who to Tip and How Much

Sam Dan Truong

It seems like everyone has a different opinion on tipping. Some people are adamant about tipping 15 percent or more at restaurants regardless, while others tip based on service or are only comfortable putting down a few dollars.

And beyond the question of how much to tip, who should be getting tipped? Most people agree that servers and bartenders should be tipped, but what if you order takeout or delivery? Beyond food, should you tip rideshare drivers? What about hotel and spa staff? It’s not always simple to know what proper tipping etiquette is, so we’ve put together this guide to help.

First off, if you’re not inclined to tipping, in general, you should reconsider your spending habits. Earlier this year Aaliyah Cortez, a bartender, and waiter in Austin, Texas went viral when she posted a video of her paycheck on TikTok.

@f.aa.dedPSA #psa #fyp #foryou #bartender #server #work #tips #chooseone #CleanFreshHype #photography101 #hardwork #viral♬ original sound – f.aa.ded

Cortez said she worked 71 hours in two weeks, but her check totaled just $9.28. Her hourly wage was $2.13, and many servers earn similarly low wages before tips. Many people in service industries rely on tips for their livelihood, so leaving at least something should be the baseline.

TIP: Servers and Wait Staff 

As explained above, you should always tip the wait staff. Most experts recommend tipping at least 15 percent with 20 percent for good service. Even if you aren’t satisfied with the service, remember that people occasionally make mistakes and some of the issues may have been out of the server’s hands. It’s understandable if you want to tip less, but don’t cut out the gratuity entirely.

DON’T TIP: Doctors, medical professionals

Legally, a lot of doctors and other medical workers are barred from receiving tips. You may understandably want to show your gratitude to people who took great care of you, but money is not the way to do it.

TIP: Bartenders

As with servers, you should always tip bartenders, but the 15 percent rule isn’t exactly set in stone. Tips at the bar depend on how much you spend there, but tipping $1 for every beer you order and $2 for mixed drinks and cocktails is a good benchmark. If you rack up a big tab, defer back to 15 percent.

DON’T TIP: Teachers

Individual tips for teachers are usually a bad idea. Even if a teacher made a major impact on your child, cash tips can put educators in uncomfortable positions. Homemade gifts and gift cards are a good middle ground to show your appreciation. For instance, a $25 gift card for Amazon, Target and even Barnes and Noble is sure to interest an educator, but be sure to check your school district’s policy. Teachers are dedicated and deserving of tips, but some schools ban or frown upon students and/or their parents giving teachers cash.

TIP: Food Delivery Drivers

If you’re ordering food online you usually get the option to tip your driver as part of the order. You can also give them cash when they get to the door, which is actually more preferred as it ensures they get 100% of the tip. Regardless, always tip at least $5 when someone brings food to your door. On large orders, however, don’t just stick to the $5. 15 percent on larger orders will do the trick.

DON’T TIP: UPS/Package Deliveries 

Unlike food deliveries, you shouldn’t feel inclined to give a gratuity to people who drop off your packages. The only exception is that if you have the same person dropping off your packages year-round, give them something around the holidays to show that you’re thankful.

For instance, this video went viral when Kathy Ouma left snacks out for the delivery driver(s) during the holidays and this man’s gratitude was so infectious and genuine that it spurred people across the country to leave out snacks for their hard-working drivers too.

TIP: Hotel Staff

Amounts differ by the job, but you should be tipping staff at hotels from the bellhop to the housekeeper. The New York City tourism guide has some suggestions for how much you should tip:

  • Housekeeping: $2-5 per night of your stay
  • Bellhops: $1-2 per bag
  • Doorman: $1 for hailing cabs
  • Concierge: $5-10 for dining recommendations

TIP: Taxi/Rideshare Drivers

The emergence of Uber and Lyft has added an extra level of complexity to the tipping debate. The rideshare apps initially had no option for tipping drivers, but now you can leave some gratuity. When given the option, you should tip drivers through the app. The amount will differ based on the ride length, but 15 percent is always a safe bet. In addition, consider throwing in a few extra bucks if the driver helped you with bags.

The Best and Worst States in America for a Service Industry Worker

TSheets by Quickbooks released an infographic on the best and worst states to be a tipped worker. They surveyed 208 anonymous people about their tipping habits from each state, then compared each state’s minimum wage for tipped workers.

TSheets by QuickBooks

The below lists the average tip rate for each state as well as minimum wage an hour.

Here are the best states to be a tipped worker:

10. Michigan: 18.03%, $3.52
9. Illinois: 17.52%, $4.95
8. Arizona: 17.49%, $7.50
7. Rhode Island: 19.09%, $3.89
6. Colorado: 17.70%, $7.18
5. Minnesota: 17.57%, $7.87
4. Florida: 18.21%, $5.23
3. Vermont: 18.32%, $5.25
2. Maine: 19.36%, $5.00
1. Connecticut: 18.58%, $10.10

And the worst states to be a tipped worker:

10. Alabama: 16.62%, $2.13
9. Louisiana, 16.61%, $2.13
8. New Mexico: 16.54%, $2.13
7. Utah: 16.49%, $2.13
6. Oklahoma: 16.45%, $2.13
5. Tennessee: 16.38%, $2.13
4. Wisconsin: 16.18%, $2.33
3.Nebraska: 16.49%, $2.13
2. North Carolina: 16.08%, $2.13
1. Wyoming: 15.91%, $2.13