It feels silly to admit that, at the age of 38, I still don’t understand the nuances of tipping. I find the whole custom so uncomfortable.
If I leave an enormous tip, then it feels like I’m saying that I’m wealthy — so pompously rich that I can freely dispense with my money and share it with those working in the service industry. But if I leave a meagre tip, then I’m not just a working-class person — I’m cheap. So I’m always trying to figure out what is the “right” tip to leave. One that meets the expectations of this custom, without overdoing it or underdoing it.
Restaurants are easy enough because I’ve worked as a server and so have my friends so I understand the general custom is to leave a tip of 15-20% of the bill when you receive good service. I’m still not sure if this is supposed to be a % calculated before the tax or after, but whatever, I least I have an idea of what is expected of me. And I’m that wimpy sort that leaves a 15-20% tip even when I’ve had mediocre — or even terrible — service.
But what is expected of me in other situations, I just don’t know. For instance:
- In a taxi, do you leave a lump sum tip, a percentage, or just whatever the change happens to be?
- I know that at a resort, you’re supposed to leave a tip for the cleaning staff each morning in your room … but are you also supposed to do this in a standard North American hotel too?
- I think you’re supposed to leave $1-2/bag if a porter brings your cases up to your hotel room. But if I have only one bag, it feels uncomfortable to hand someone such small change. In that case, are you supposed to pass over a $5 bill?
- If you pick up your pizza or Chinese food from the restaurant, are you supposed to leave a tip then too? Or only if you eat in the restaurant?
- It seems only right that I tip a delivery person for takeaway food, but how much is it supposed to be? The same as a server?
By far the most perplexing tipping situation for me though is at the hair salon. I’ve been to salons where they have one person who washes your hair, another person who cuts your hair, and a different person who colours your hair. I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to give each one of them a tip, but that sure gets expensive! And are you supposed to give the receptionist a tip too?
To avoid all this mental stress, I’ve found a very small hair salon. One woman greets me, washes, cuts and colours my hair, and does the invoice. Although I still don’t know if I’m supposed to tip a percentage of my total bill or a consistent lump sum each time, at least I know who I should give it to!
Last night, I had my hair done. While I’m still sitting in the chair, I’m nervously trying to calculate what my total bill will be and what tip I’m supposed to leave for her. It’s crazy; I’m practically breaking a sweat over this custom. (Oh it was so nice and relaxing to get my hair done when I lived in Australia, where tipping is not part of the culture!)
My hair is done. She passes me the invoice. I pass her some money to pay the invoice. Then I pass some more over to her, saying: “This is for you, love.”
Um, yeah, in my nervousness, I called her “love” (which is a pet name that I use with my husband). We both paused for a moment. Then moved on like it never happened.
Please spare me this kind of embarrassment again and tell me how you handle tipping!