First trip to the USA - tipping

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by Mildredop, Apr 25, 2016.

  1. Mildredop macrumors 68020

    Oct 14, 2013
    I'm going to New York in a few weeks, my first trip to the USA.

    I've always been aware Americans have a tipping culture, but I was reading in the travel guide just how expected/essential it is.

    This raised a question: do Americans always have loads of cash and loose change on them in preparation to tip the waiter/taxi driver/shop attendant/porter etc etc.? I so rarely have cash on me, I'm going to find it odd having to keep my pockets stocked-up. Almost everything in England is cashless now - even things like the tube, buses, car parking meters and vending machines don't accept cash - only cards.

    What happens if I get a taxi or something but don't have enough cash to tip?
  2. iLog.Genius macrumors 601


    Feb 24, 2009
    Toronto, Ontario
    While the world keeps getting dependent on technology, it's still a good idea to carry some cash for small payments and expenditures, it's just something someone should do especially if you're not familiar with a city or country.

    But with that said, if there is a method of payment that allows credit or debit cards, there is usually an option on the terminal to add a tip on top of original payment but this is not applicable or available everywhere (at least not in Canada).

    It's more convenient to just carry cards but I find it to be a very good idea to carry about $100 in local currency just for emergencies while everything else paid via credit card.
  3. aristobrat macrumors G5

    Oct 14, 2005
    I rarely have cash on me, either. Taxis take cards (at least where I live, which is much smaller than NYC), although most folks here prefer using Uber/Lyft instead (which don't accept cash).

    Many servers (waiters) earn a special Federal minimum wage of $2.13/hour, which means that they basically work for tips.
  4. rdowns macrumors Penryn


    Jul 11, 2003
    Most tips can be put on a credit card (taxis, restaurants). Hotel personnel will expect cash, you can't add tips to your hotel bill. There is no need to tip shop attendants, regardless if they put a tip jar on their counter.
  5. Tomorrow macrumors 604


    Mar 2, 2008
    Always a day away
    Virtually any place where you can pay with a card - taxis included - there's an option to write in a gratuity at the bottom. In the handful of places where you go that will take a card but NOT have an option to tip on the receipt, you can simply tell them to run your card for an additional $5 or whatever.

    As for tipping people like bellhops, etc. (where you aren't buying something but would still tip them), I bring cash, but it's seldom a problem - it's not like I end up in a surprise situation where I have a bellhop handling my bags unexpectedly.
  6. mildocjr macrumors 65816

    Tip people who perform services for you based on how satisfied you are with it. People tip differently but as a starting basis figure 15% tip, go up or down based on how good the service was.

    For instance, I had a server at a restaurant that did amazingly well, and I tipped them 30% because I enjoyed my time that much.

    On the flip side, I was a server's only table one night, my drink wasn't refilled and condiments were not delivered without me asking several times, I looked around the room and saw this person chatting with a friend at another table and I didn't leave a tip. People have to work for their tips and it's all based on how much extra you think they deserve based on your service level.

    I tip Taxi drivers well if they get me to my location quicker than I expected, I tip bartenders on average $1 per quickly served drink, I tip the barber $5 for a good haircut, $8 if it's great. Pizza delivery gets $2 (they make about $17/hr. here).

    For easy figuring, $60 tab is $9 at 15% but I usually tip $10, $5 at $30.
  7. oneMadRssn macrumors 601


    Sep 8, 2011
    New England
    With taxis, I usually just round up to the nearest $5 if I'm paying cash. Thus, if you don't have enough cash to tip, you probably don't have enough cash to take the taxi to begin with. Plus, almost all taxis now take cards.

    In restaurants, most folks tip 15-20%, unless it's a buffet or fast-food. Either way, it can be put on cards. Note, very few but nevertheless prominent NYC restaurants are changing to a no-tipping system. The Met, for example, is one.

    Don't tip shop attendants. As with most places in the world, just because the credit-card slip has a tip line, doesn't mean you have to use it.

    The only place where cash tips are the only option are places like coat-checks, hotels, etc. For hotel cleaning staff, I sometimes leave a $5 under the TV remote but this optional. For hotel valets or bellboys or coatchecks, you can tip a few bucks or more depending on how you feel, but you can also just not use their services if you don't want.
  8. Mildredop thread starter macrumors 68020

    Oct 14, 2013
    Great advice, thank you. Although I can see I'm going to slip-up and offend someone! In England, tipping is entirely optional and never expected, so it'll be an interesting shift in habits.
  9. mildocjr macrumors 65816

    Tipping is expected but they usually don't see the tip until you leave so if you make them mad you won't have to worry about it. :D
  10. Mildredop thread starter macrumors 68020

    Oct 14, 2013
    This is an interesting comment as my travel guide says "Tipping is not optional. Only withhold tips in cases of outrageously bad service". I can't imagine getting service so bad...
    --- Post Merged, Apr 25, 2016 ---
    Probably hard to explain, but why would I tip someone who carries my bag to my room, but not someone who scans my shopping and packs my bags? Aren't they both giving me a service?
  11. mildocjr macrumors 65816

    Bad experiences don't happen often, but expect your server to be at your table within 3 minutes of sitting down and having taken your drink order, drinks should be promptly returned within 2 minutes (1 minute if it's just you), they should get your order right the first time and they should be refilling your drink before you start pulling air through the straw. Once you are done eating you should expect the server to be at your table within 10 minutes (5 minutes if it's just you) with a check, even if they offer you dessert. (Service typically drops during this point because they feel as though they made their tip). I typically hand them my card at this point just to save the possible 3-5 minute wait on them to return to get the card. The server will be back in about a minute with your card and the receipt for the tip to be added. They won't pick it back up until you leave, if you linger they will ask if you want something else. This is typical good service, great service is when they exceed your expectations, or you don't think you could have done it better.
  12. oneMadRssn macrumors 601


    Sep 8, 2011
    New England
    The best answer I have is "tradition."

    The more logical answer, but oddly probably not the correct one, is a combination of economics and need. Economically, I think bellboys that carry your bags make less money than the person who runs the register at a store. With regard to need, you have no choice but to interact with the cashier at a store - it's compulsory. However, having a bellboy bring your bats up to your room is optional - you can refuse this service and bring them yourself.
  13. iLog.Genius macrumors 601


    Feb 24, 2009
    Toronto, Ontario
    There are many answers that could be given but the one I find most applicable is wage gap. Someone who bags your groceries or shopping bags are protected that is they're given a minimum wage and their job is the same regardless of volume. I don't know about bellhops but they may or may not be given minimum wage so tipping is required.
  14. Mildredop thread starter macrumors 68020

    Oct 14, 2013
    I'm definitely going to upset some people! Thanks for the advice.
    --- Post Merged, Apr 25, 2016 ---
    As a tourist, I can't possibly know whose wages I should supplement and whose I shouldn't. In advance, to all Americans, I apologise.
  15. mildocjr macrumors 65816

    Just tip based on what you think the service was worth to you.
  16. hallux macrumors 68030


    Apr 25, 2012
    And if you're driving in NJ and get gas, do NOT tip the person that pumps your gas, they're actually not allowed to accept tips.

    I live upstate, near Albany, for waiters I usually tip 2x the tax (7-8% tax rate up here, depending on where you are) plus a buck or 2, that gets into the 15-20% tip range. The tax is printed on the receipt you get, itemized so it's easy to identify. If the restaurant has one of those on-table swipers with a touchscreen, so the server doesn't even have to bring you the receipt, they sometimes start the tip pretty high, PAY ATTENTION on those. I don't tip if I'm getting take-out at a counter. As was noted, tipping is not a requirement. If you're in a large group, some places will add gratuity automatically, you can add on to that if you feel the service was worth it, this will be noted on the menu but sometimes in small print at the bottom so pay attentions for that also.

    I never tip the cashier or bagger (if there's a bagger helping) but if I had them help me to the car with my bags I'd give a tip. As for why to tip a bellhop vs. the person bagging your groceries (especially if the person ringing up is also bagging), what are they SUPPOSED to do with the stuff after scanning it? The bellhop is actually exerting effort to get your bags to your room and is also performing a final once-over of your room to ensure everything is in order before you settle in. That said, you are not REQUIRED to make use of the bellhop services, unless you can't handle getting your bags to your room on your own.

    If you make use of services from someone at the airport to help you to your car or taxi with your bags, tip them also. The taxi driver would deserve a tip if they help you unload your bags also.
  17. nebo1ss macrumors 68030

    Jun 2, 2010
    When you visit a titty bar you always get some cash before you go. Try doing the same thing each day in NY.
  18. Macky-Mac macrumors 68030


    May 18, 2004
    relax, it's not that complicated

    usually they beat you to a pulp......some of them will also hold your luggage hostage :p
  19. AlliFlowers Contributor


    Jan 1, 2011
    L.A. (Lower Alabama)
    There's a great app for NY cabs. You pay from the comfort of the back seat, and add the tip from m the app as well. The app even gives you the tip options. (ARRO) I use cabs, my son uses Uber.

    $1.00 per bag for the bellhop. I usually take my own bags and don't not worry about it.

    Restaurants, I pretty much always leave 20%.
  20. Ray Brady macrumors 6502

    Dec 21, 2011
    All NYC cabs take credit cards now, and you can add the tip directly from the little backseat computer screen. It's also very hard to find a restaurant anymore that doesn't accept cards. The same with bars; tips can go on the card.

    If you use bellhops or concierges, then you are expected to tip, and you should have a few bucks ready for this purpose. If you're comfortable carrying your own bags, then a polite, "no thanks, I've got it" is all you need.

    The only other situation where you might want to have a few dollars available is if you go to the theater and get a drink at the bar. Those folks derive almost all of their income from tips, and not all of the theaters are equipped with card readers yet.
  21. AustinIllini macrumors G3


    Oct 20, 2011
    Austin, TX
    It's unclear to me and I have lived in the US for 25+ years.

    Tip food service people that isn't fast food (bartenders, wait staff), bellhops, valets and you're probably good. A number of those positions include tips as part of their income, and therefore is a big part of their livelihood.
  22. A.Goldberg, Apr 25, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2016

    A.Goldberg macrumors 68020


    Jan 31, 2015
    Who knows.

    Sometimes it is customary to to tip more for dinner than breakfast or lunch (15%-1&% vs 20-30%), when Dinner usuallt costs more so the server would be getting more money anyways. Some restaurants if you have a big group (~6+ automatically include the tip in the bill), the menu usually notes this.

    In places where you have the option of cash tips (restaurants, taxis), cash is preferred because if it goes through credit, they are probably going to be taxed on it. So if you really like the service, do a cash tip even if you pay CC for the bulk of it.

    In places like bakeries, coffee or shops that have tip jars, a tip is not really expected. Usually if anything people just throw their change in the tip cup (ex coffee costs $3.60 and you pay with a $5 bill, leave the $.40 and take the $1 bill).

    If you forget to tip someone they probably won't say anything.

    Oh and don't try and tip a fast food worker, only servers at conventional sit down restuarants.

    Edit: If you plan on using Uber, the tip is included in your payment. Ubers are not always cheaper than taxis in NYC btw.

    Lastly, most of the taxis have a tip option for 20% 25% or 30% or a custom amount. I'd never pay a taxi driver more than 15-20%. (Around 2012 all the taxis started went to the digital payment systems and they set the default tip options pretty high. As a result the average tip went from 10% to 22%!) Unless the taxi is a Rolls Royce I see no purpose in tipping 30%, that's just crazy.
  23. shinji macrumors 65816


    Mar 18, 2007
    It's not optional to tip the housekeeping staff. Actually, it's pretty rude to stiff the people cleaning up after you.
  24. 0007776 Suspended


    Jul 11, 2006
    I've never tipped hotel staff other than on a cruise. And I don't know anyone else or at least many people that do it regularly.
  25. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    If you get good service then you should provide a gratuity. Many people who receive tips make less money and rely on tips to live on, and so if you or others short change them, that's going to hurt their ability to live. Obviously, if you receive bad service then a reduction in the gratuity commensurate with the service is expected. At times, I've tipped my waitress generosity even though I waited a long time for my food, or it was poorly made. My reasoning was, she was working hard and it wasn't her fault the cooks let us down.

    I usually provide the bell service with 10 to 20 dollars, and the cleaning crew with a small amount as well, depending on my stay. I think the cleaning staff probably has the hardest job in the hotel, and makes the least amount, so leaving 20 to 40 dollars is a nice gesture in my book.

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