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Tipping makes me nervous

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.”

Awkward silence.

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!

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Comments

  1. Oh boy. The whole tipping thing, I think, has gotten out of hand. I did a blog post on it once where I researched all the appropriate amounts and stuff. The hair salon is tough. Used to be that if it was the owner who did your hair you weren’t supposed to tip at all. Some places actually have no “tip” function on their debit/Credit Card machine, so you have to leave cash! I think if you leave 20% overall they just split it up among all the service staff. Same thing in restaurants. The server gets the tip, but he has to share out with prep staff, bus staff, hostess, etc.. I think people who own businesses ought to just pay their staff a good salary and/or automatically add gratutities on top of the bill to save you the headache. I think many North American hotels do this already, so you don’t have to worry about it. You should check your bill next time to make sure. Also, when there’s a big party in a restaurant (i.e: you and 10 friends go out) they often automatically add a gratuity which many people don’t notice and end up tipping twice. Taxis I hate so much and most of them are so damn rude and incompetent that I often don’t tip at all. But if I do, I reckon a flat $2 is good unless it’s a really big fare. And for take-out food, I don’t think you need to tip at all. That’s my take on the tip thing anyway.

    • You hit on one of my biggest complaints about tipping — it’s that owners/employers should be paying a proper salary, not forcing staff to rely on tipping. The standard hourly rate for a server in Australia is much higher than here because there is no tipping … but I have to admit, the service is terrible!

  2. Jacqueline says:

    Well love….can’t wait to see your new hair do. Did we go radical??? I believe you mentioned colour in your blog, can’t imagine why you didn’t call me for this service since I only demand a 10% tip!

    Thanks for the laugh…love. That’s classic.

    For me – the hair salon I kind of wing it depending on how long they spend with me. It can range anywhere from $5 to $20 depending on the time spent and what the did. I also tend to give my awesome hair dresser (who is also what I would call a good friend) more during the holiday season. For example, I tipped $15 over the holidays for cut and for her to straighten my hair. Total bill was $60 tax in. So I guess that is just over 20%. Hmm when you think about it – still not a lot considering waiters and waitresses get that for less work.

    Now I am confused….frig. Great, I am going to be consumed by this during my next dinner out and my next hair appointment.

    Happy New Year – Love…

    Jake :)

  3. I hate tipping. When I was in Europe this summer I was ecstatic to know no one tipped.
    I hate tipping when I get the boys’ hair cut. Ten dollars to use the clippers over all their head seems enough to me, personally. If I were more adventurous I’d do it myself…
    Thanks for bringing into the open something that scares us all!!

  4. Ugh, does anyone really know how to handle this stuff? The day I figure tipping out, the day I’ll feel like a real grown up.

    I usually tip my hairdresser around 15-20% of my total bill, although it does seem really high to me. I have no idea if that’s typical or what, though. I only get my hair cut about once a year so I guess I can afford the extra $5.

    As for take-out food, I used to never tip, but now I do. My husband and I rarely eat out (the cost of the babysitter is too much), so on special occasions we really like to get carry out from our favourite restaurants. There I tip a typical amount, because someone had to take our order over the phone, make sure it was right, and package it up for me. Plus, the tip gets distributed to the people who cooked it and make the milkshakes, too, and they did the same work they would have normally. So I do give the 15%.

  5. Jacqueline – yeah, love … you’ve probably been tipping your fave hairdresser all wrong for the past ten years!

    Stefanie – you should totally work out how to use the clippers! You’ll save a fortune. My hubby bought a set up clippers ages ago and does his own. In fact, I think he even used it on our dog too! (But he did such a bad job around the, er, privates area, that I took the dog to the groomer from then on!)

    Lynn – I’m conflicted about this tipping on take-out food. Surely, they have to spend less time on you and they don’t have to clean your dishes or the table? From what I understand the person on the phone and the cooks don’t work for tips and they are the ones preparing a take-out order. Oh, so confusing!

  6. I read this with interest because I also hate tipping. I hate that I hate it, and that it causes me any amount of anxiety.

    I love the new terminals that do the math for me! That makes my life somewhat easier.

    re: hair salon.
    I also heard that if the owner does your hair that you shouldn’t tip, but I do anyway. And I play dumb and never tip the hair wash girl. It’s just so awkward. How much do I tip? And do I put it in her hand or on the counter? So I tip the owner 15% and hope that the hairwash girl gets a cut. (no pun intended)

    re: take out
    I never tip when I pick up takeout. We haven’t had pizza delivered in ages but in that case we used to give a couple of bucks.

    re: Hotel
    We always leave a couple bucks on the bed for the maids for each night we stay – no matter where we are. These are people who might be washing our drinking cups out with the same rag they scrub the toilets – don’t mess with the cleaning staff!!!

  7. wow, i almost totally forgot about tipping (living in korea where it doesn’t exist). it is very hard to figure out! i didn’t even know you were supposed to leave a tip for the maids … whoops!

    i think i am way too big of a tipper, also because i suck at math! but like you said, tipping is a nuisance, but it can provide good service. i should say, that even though korea doesn’t do tipping, the service here is quite good. i am always surprised how hard the service industry works here, for such little money!

    too funny about the ‘love’ comment. so awkward.

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