In the 21st century, etiquette has become as much an anachronism as cursive writing: people wear pajamas to the grocery store; written thank-you notes are a quaint relic; and personal information between a patient and doctor can now be the basis of a reality television show.
One thing that hasn’t changed is that service workers expect tips and rely on them to make a living.
Customers can find themselves in a quandary because they are using more services that anticipate tipping, from the drive-through coffee person to a hotel concierge who told them which restaurant to try.
According to Jackie Warrick, president and chief savings officer of CouponCabin.com, customers should consider the type of service that is being provided before deciding what tip to give.
“For services that are more personal in nature or require more effort, like a wax or a pedicure, always tip on the higher side,” Warrick says.
Amy Corvillion of Crystal Lake, a hair stylist for a dozen years and a salon owner for nine, says that most of her clients tip between 12 and 20 percent.
Then there are those who tip as little as 5 percent or nothing at all, despite the fact that she offers an individual, personal service, and her training and certifications are rigorous – 1,500 hours of schooling, passing a state exam and continuing education over the years.
“I think most people compare it to waiting tables, but it’s not at all,” the owner of Crystal Lake’s All About
You Salon says of her job.
The south side salon services everyone from toddlers to seniors, and Corvillion says there are no common links among low or no tippers in terms of age or economic status.
“I have a client who has been coming in every few weeks for 11 years for herself or her kids, and she’ll leave $6 for a $115 service,” Corvillion says. “I know it’s not because she’s unhappy with the service, because she tipped the same amount when another stylist did her hair when I wasn’t available. It’s because they don’t know. They might have learned it from their parents when times were very different.”
Just in case those low tippers think that a trifling amount is OK because Corvillion is the salon owner, that’s literally an old wives’ tale, she says.
“Not tipping the salon owner is a practice from the old days when people thought that the owner got commission from the other stylists,” Corvillion says. “I went to a salon owner for my own hair for 15 years and never once thought about tipping him less.”
Fare for Food
When it’s time to belly up to the bar, Warrick suggests adding a $1 or $2 tip for each drink or, in the end, tipping 15 to 20 of the total bill. In a restaurant, Warrick says customers should pay attention to the service, but leaving at least 15 percent is the norm.
“In most urban areas, though, 20 percent is considered the minimum, with tippers going higher if they receive exceptional service,” she notes.
That rings true for Melissa Gazikas, who has been waiting tables at Crystal Lake’s Around the Clock Restaurant and Bakery for six years.
“I usually get 15 percent, but I think 20 percent should be the average,” she says. “I can get lower tips depending upon the customer’s ethnicity, and I think it’s because they just don’t know — it’s probably a cultural thing. People in the restaurant business, though, tend to tip higher because they understand how much work goes into it, and I can get some bigger tips around the holidays.”
Even though she once snagged a $50 tip on a $20 breakfast tab, other times Gazikas can provide outstanding service with lots of smiles and still get a middling tip.
“Honestly, sometimes you just can’t figure it out — maybe they don’t ever tip or maybe they don’t care,” she says. “I don’t think they realize that we make only $4.95 an hour, and we count on the tips to make a living and support our families.”
Regardless of economic conditions, restaurant staff members are the most likely to receive tips, according to a recent U.S. survey conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of CouponCabin.com.
When more than 2,000 adults ages 18 and older were asked which types of people or services they typically feel obligated to leave a tip, 87 percent said restaurant staff, including the wait staff, take-out coordinator and maitre d’.
When traveling, CouponCabin.com’s president suggests customers aim for 15 to 20 percent the cost of the taxi fare, depending on how good the service is.
“If your cabbie goes out of his/her way to show you sights or spends a lot of time helping you find a specific destination, consider tipping a bit more,” Warrick says.
For hotel housekeeping, she notes that customers should tip $2 to $3 a night, up to $5, and more in high-end hotels.
“Leave the tip in a conspicuous place so the staff knows it’s for them and not left out by accident,” she says.
CouponCabin’s survey also discovered that many U.S. adults who tip admitted that even when they couldn’t afford it, they tipped because they felt pressure to do so.
“Whether you’re at a restaurant or receiving services from other professionals, factor the tip into the overall cost,” says Warrick. “It’s easy to forget that the tip could push you over your budget, so plan accordingly. Take the time to add in the tip ahead of time, and if it exceeds your budget, seek out less expensive services or make alternative plans.”
To find out how to tip all of the other people who service customers these days, from the dog walker and nutritionist to the postal worker and house sitter, check out the extensive list at www.tipguide.org.
And for those who feel compelled to leave something extra, like some of Gazikas’ customers, just be sure to leave adequate coin, too.
“Sometimes people leave religious cards, kids draw smiley faces for me or they make origami birds out of the bills,” Gazikas says.