Ask the readers: How do you tip?

I’ll be honest. Although I grew up in Canada for more than half of my life, I still don’t quite understand the concept of tipping. Tipping is not a common practice in Taiwan (or anywhere in Asia). So when my family and I immigrated to Canada over 20 years ago, it was a complete new concept. Similarly, tipping is not a common practice in Denmark, so it’s a new concept to Mrs. T as well.

Here in North America, the customary rule is to tip 15-20% when eating at a restaurant.

I get it, waiters and waitresses are earning minimum wage, so they depend on tips for their livelihood.

Tipping “rules”

Why is the tipping percentage a fixed number rather a flat per service fee?

Using the 20% tipping “rule”, if I go to a restaurant and order a $10 item, I should tip $2; If I order a $50 item at the same restaurant, I should tip $10.

Do I get a better service by ordering a more expensive item at the same restaurant? Probably not, so why am I expected to tip more because I ordered a more expensive item?

When it comes to tipping, do you tip before or after tax? I have always tipped based on the pre-tax amount, but many people tip on the after tax amount. Which method is correct? (I’m full of questions when it comes to tipping!)

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any problems with the concept of tipping. If I get good service, the waiter/waitress serving me definitely deserves a good tip. I also understand  why restaurants charge a fix percentage of gratuity for a large group. Because it takes more effort to provide proper service to a larger group. My problem lies that more and more people in the service industry just expect their customers to tip regardless of the quality of service.

When we eat out from time to time and receive good service, I generally tip around 15% before tax. But there were a few times I left a very small tip because we had very poor service. For examples, a few times it took forever to get our water re-filled because the server was nowhere to be seen, or one time the waitress told us to use a baby car seat for Baby T1.0 instead of bringing a high chair for him. Tipping shouldn’t be mandatory, it should be based on quality of service.

When and where should you tip?

It’s well understood that one should tip when having a sit down meal at a restaurant where there’s someone serving you. If you order take out, do you tip? I don’t, because in theory I don’t get any service.

Do you tip when you take a taxi? It seems that it’s almost mandatory to tip taxi drivers nowadays, which I find slightly annoying. If a taxi driver gets out of his or her way to take my luggage or open the door for me, I don’t have a problem leaving a tip. Unfortunately I have had a few rude encountered with taxi drivers that made me wonder why I should tip in the first place.

A few times, I was shocked that the taxi driver would ask me why I was tipping so little when all they did was driving me from the airport to my house.

Isn’t the taxi driver just doing his/her job? Why is it expected to tip them? Similarly, isn’t your hair dresser doing his or her job by cutting your hair? Why is it expected to leave a tip?

Lately I noticed a lot of cafes have a tipping option when paying with a debit or credit card. Aren’t the baristas doing their job by making coffee for you? Why do we need to leave a tip?

That leads to the question – just exactly when and where should you tip?

Are we supposed to tip anyone that works in the service industry now? Is this the new expectation?

Do we start tipping cashiers working in grocery stores? What about doctors and nurses? What about janitors? What about house cleaners? What about a retail store clerk?

And how much do you tip? 5%? 10%? 15%? 20%? 25%?

Where does this madness end?

Dear readers, I’m curious, how do you tip?

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74 thoughts on “Ask the readers: How do you tip?”

  1. I totally agree with your statements, Tawcan. I get tipping low-wage serving staff (which is usually the case here in Canada) but I don’t understand why we tip people for simply doing their jobs. I do a great job in insurance sales – should someone also tip me? Haha. If that’s preposterous (which it is) why is it not preposterous that I have to tip my hairdresser when she’s simply doing her job and charging me good money for it to begin with?
    My beef is that it seems more people are adding tipping to their payment POS. I went for a massage by an RMT – a medical professional providing a service my insurance will pay for, seeing it’s health related and not just a day at the spa. I was shocked that there was a tip option when I went to settle the bill! I didn’t tip, because an RMT is a health professional and that would equate it to tipping my dentist, doctor, or a nurse. The receptionist had the nerve to tell me that I missed the tip option! I was astounded!! Who do I have to start tipping next, my mailman? My dentist?

  2. In UK, tipping isn’t set in stone, but it’s courteous to do so (although restaurants will charge a flat fee of 10% ‘service charge’ for large groups/parties)

    If I’m in a restaurant and I’ve had good service and food, I’ll tip a little more than the customary 10%. If ok service and food, I’ll still tip around 10%. If I’m really not happy with the service, then no tip.

    Taxi driver? If he helped carry my suitcase going to the airport, he’ll get a tip. Otherwise, he may just get the fee rounded up to the nearest £.

    Hairdresser – she spent time washing and cutting my hair so she gets 10%.

    Guy who delivers my takeaway – he gets a little tip, though not 10%.

    Outside of the UK, I tend to find out what the going rate is and tip appropriately. I’ve stayed in hotels abroad where the rooms have been spotless and perfect every day and I’ll leave a tip say under a pillow so the maid will get it.

    • 10% service charge is pretty low. Here in Canada that number can be as high as 25% for large groups/parties.

      Seems tipping amount varies greatly in different countries. 🙂

  3. yeah the tipping thing is very stressful to me. I worked as a bartender for a few years so I always leave 20% but I hate the cups they have out at coffee shops. The reason we tip waitstaff and bartenders in this country is because they don’t even get minimum wage. It is their whole income basically. In 2000 I was making $3.60/hour and the minimum wage was around $6.00-$7.00. Without tips, I wouldn’t have been able to live at all. The people at the coffee shops make minimum wage and some places offer benefits too. It is apples and oranges. They should just give restaurant workers a living wage and abolish tips, it makes no sense because it is confusing. Great Post, thanks for sharing!


    • In that case where you’re making less than minimum wage it makes sense to tip. But here in Canada most servers are making minimum wage, so to me maybe it doesn’t make as much sense to tip on the high end?

  4. I tip between 20% to 40% depending on service and my relationship to the server. I was a waiter and bartender through college and generous patrons helped me pay for school. I had regulars tip me more than 100% on occasion. 50% was common with regulars. I had a retired couple who left me $100 every Sunday on a $25 dollar lunch. Every Sunday for years they visited me and gave me $400 a month. I think about how much this money meant to me and I pay it forward with waiters who treat me well.

  5. Worst tipping story: Took a cab back home from YVR many years ago, driver made us super uncomfortable. At the end of the ride, didn’t help unload luggage or anything. Physically threatened me and MrsSLM after I left without leaving a tip.

    In general I hate tipping, but do it since it’s social convention for things like restaurants. I don’t mind tipping in these situations, but I really really despise the little begging cups that are popping up when you go to buy a coffee or even at the damn grocery store.

    Obligatory video:

  6. I don’t tip. If there were an automatic serving fee included in the price I would cross it out. I expect good service as a normal thing to happen anyway – after all you’re supposed to be doing your own job good – so are waiters, hairdressers, taxi drivers etc., aren’t they?

    If the service is good I will come back and will tell others about the place thereby contributing to higher revenue. If the service is bad then I will vote with my feet and won’t come back and equally tell people about the bad seervice I received.

    There’s an argument to be made that as long as there’s tipping there’s no reason (or not enough reason) for wages to be raised or for things to be changed – because customers tip.

    There is also the fact that business owners have been found to make staff hand in their (cash) tips, pool the money, keep a percentage of it and dish out the rest of it across the board. Not only gets the nice person who has been serving you a tip (probably less than you intended to give) but also the grumpy one who nearly walked into you and didn’t feel the need to apologise as well as the person who was ignoring you for several minutes and who you would not have tipped at all. Fair point though that not all business owners do this but how I am to know?

    • I’ve heard about the tip sharing pool, so cooks and people working in the back would get their shares of tip too.

      I’m totally OK to pay for a slight price increase so I don’t have to tip.

  7. I tend to be a good tipper. For the waiter/waitress I usually go with 20% after tax for good+ service and 15% for average or below. I always feel bad if I see them working hard and I know that I make a lot more money than they do, so I don’t mind being generous. I’m probably a little heavy on the tips for barbers, taxi drivers and pizza delivery guys too. Same rationale. I figure, if I can’t afford a solid tip, I shouldn’t be buying the service in the first place.

    • That’s a good way to see this tipping conundrum and it makes sense too. But at the same time, if you tip for barbers, taxi drivers, and pizza delivery guys…. do you tip cashiers at grocery stores? In theory you’re using them for service too, or you can do self-checkout instead. 🙂

      • Good question – I don’t tip everybody. Besides waiters, barbers and delivery guys, I sometimes tip hotel maids (when I remember) and valet parking too. Nothing for cashiers and definitely not at Subway, Starbucks, etc… I really don’t get that.

        I stick with the ones that are “customarily” tipped. I try to be frugal in many areas, but I don’t think I should take it out on them.

  8. In restaurants I tip a minimum of 20% of the post tax bill. I live in a college town and we have a ton of great places to eat so I figure if I get bad service then I just won’t go back. There are too many alternatives to waste my time and money at a place with bad service. It also means that I am a regular at a couple of restaurants and have gotten to know a lot of bartenders/waitstaff and get really great service (drinks being made as soon as we step foot into the restaurant, not faked friendliness, etc). The minimum I tip anywhere is $5, unless I’ve only gotten one drink. Then it’s $2. I tip high because servers do a difficult job and it saves me time and effort and I will compensate for that.

    I don’t tip at coffee shops if I am just getting drip coffee because that is ridiculous, they are just pouring a cup of coffee. I was a barista and while I appreciated all tips, I did not expect any for a drip coffee. If I came in with an order of more than 3 drinks, then I would tip.

    For pizza delivery I tip $5, whether the pizza was on special or not. Not only do I not have to cook but the food is brought to my house. That is worth the $5 to me.

    I never know what is appropriate to tip when I get my hair cut (which is rarely). I usually do $5-10 but I have no idea if that is insulting or generous. Same with movers. I tipped $10/person but that feels stingy (even though I paid a fair amount to the company).

    • That makes sense how you tip. You bring up an interesting point about not tipping when getting a drip coffee because they just pour a coup of coffee. But how is that different than getting a drink at a restaurant? It probably takes about the same amount of effort. Why the discrepancy on tipping in these cases?

      • Because I never just have one drink at a restaurant? 🙂 But really, if I am sitting down or at a bar then I am taking space away from a potentially higher paying (and tipping) customer. I am not just paying for the drink, I am paying for the real estate. Where as counter service I am only paying for the drink.

  9. Mrs. AE was a server for a few years in college and has some horror stories. People can be so rude – we usually tip well, at least 15% after tax. Up to 20 if the server is good. Unfortunately it’s not always the servers fault when bad service happens – they are the front line for all the mistakes in the kitchen

    • I totally get that it’s not always the servers fault when bad service happens. Sometimes the kitchen screws up. But things like re-fill the water or bringing a few extra napkins, these things are expected from waiters and waitresses. When they fail to do simple & expected tasks or taking forever (like 30 minutes or more), I think that falls in the poor service category.

  10. Ahh yes the tipping conundrum! I usually tip between 15 to 20% depending service and the type of restaurant I’m at. It really is a ridiculous system. I don’t know if you’ve ever watch this comedy called Third Rock From the Sun but there was an episode about it that I found hilarious. Here’s a link to a blog post I wrote which includes that video:
    Feel free to delete the link…I wanted to paste a direct link to the youtube video but I’m at work and youtube is blocked =)

    • Ah I remember that episode vaguely (used to watch the show here and there). I agree, tipping is a ridiculous system. Just include the service charge in the meal cost. That’s way easier for everyone.

  11. Its taken a long time for us to get used to the protocols of tipping in our 18 years in the US. In fact it’s still a bit of a mystery to me outside of restaurants. probably doing it wrong most of the time.
    It is odd when we return to the UK though and eat out. We feel horrible not leaving anything, and often tip more than anyone else there would. This results is many thanks, smiles and delight from the server which makes it worth it 🙂

  12. I usually tip 10% to 15% depending on quality of service. I don’t tip below 10% in case I ever visit the restaurant again in the future. What I don’t understand is why we tip in Canada? In some parts of the U.S. servers earn less than minimum wage. It’s not the customer’s problem but I can see the argument for giving them a tip. But in Canada, for example in B.C. restaurant servers must be paid the provincial minimum wage of $10.45/hour. Yet fast food workers who clean up after customers at A&W and McDonald’s restaurants don’t get tips. :*(

    • Haha, one time during my university days we went to a restaurant. The drink menu said $2 per beer so we ordered a few. The waitress brought pints to our table and we had a good time. When we got the bill we saw it was $5 per beer. Confused, we asked our waitress. She told us that pints are $5 and sleeves are $2. Feeling that she didn’t explain and lied to, we decided to leave a very small tip. A friend of mine decided to leave no tip and wrote a message on the receipt. As we were walking out of the door the waitress ran after us and yelled at us, saying that we should never come back. Talk about great service.

      Good point on servers vs ppl working at A&W and McDonald’s. Both are making minimum wage, why do we need to tip one but not the other? Confusing…

  13. I typically tip 20% on the post-tax portion of the bill. A lot of people in the service industry (especially waiters and waitresses) sometimes make less than the minimum wage. I do have the tendency to round up if she’s cute too, but that’s another discussion! A drink from the bartender warrants $1/drink for me regardless of cost.

    I usually tip $1 on Lyft, especially if they actually know their way around and can hold a good conversation rather than just blindly following Google Maps. I usually tip 10-15% on taxis, but kind of feel strange doing it. I don’t tip on Uber though I’ve heard some Uber drivers getting upset if you don’t tip them in cash (that has never happened to me though).

    One thing that gets me is the local coffee shops that have one of those Square credit card readers. Maybe if they are making me a really fancy latte or something I’d tip but for a standard black coffee? No way. It takes a few seconds. However, they get you because when they flip the screen to you there’s a huge option for adding a tip, which is even sometimes preselected. It is easy enough to select 0%, but I can always feel the eyes of the people questioning my decision. Haha.

    • I get in US that many servers make less than the minimum wage. But this is not the case here in Canada. They make minimum wage, so I don’t see why it is mandatory to tip them.

      I haven’t used Lyft but with Uber haven’t tipped. I’m surprised that drivers getting upset if you don’t tip them in cash. But you’re right, typically you have a better riding experience with Uber/Lyft than taxis.

      On your logic on tipping at coffee shops. You’re already paying a higher price for the latte because it takes longer to make, so why tip on top of that? The baristas are hired to make coffee in the first place.

  14. I tip 20% on almost any restaurant bill, hair cut ,etc. Where I draw the line is tipping at a fast-food joint or even a coffee shop (e.g. Dunkin Donuts). They are already getting paid more than a minimum of wage and really aren’t “serving” me as much as other folks. I will most likely even tip 20% with just ok service. My wife worked in the food industry for 2 decades, so she has schooled me in the right way of doing things.

  15. I tip my hair dresser very well. When I want an appointment I have no trouble getting in because she wants my business.

    My garage doesn’t accept tips but they do like my homemade cookies and the occasional email to their head office about the great service I get.

    Being a good tipper and a respectful client gets me better service. Both sides benefit.

    • Hi Beth,

      That makes sense if you go to the same person for service all the time. Tipping establishes a relationship and allows you to get a better service. But when you’re not using the same person all the time, I fail to see why I need to tip. 🙂

  16. To an Australian, tipping is very bizarre. But then again, we have a very high minimum wage so people don’t really need a tip. I agree with your confusion Tawcan, why get a tip for doing what you’re supposed to do? Why do all these tipped-services get tips but not train drivers, accountants, lawyers, doctors etc?


  17. I hate tipping. Traveling to Europe and Japan showed me the error of our ways. It felt strange at first, leaving the okonomiyaki place without leaving a tip for the two old ladies, but it is just so much easier when the menu price is the price you pay. No tax, no tip.

    I floated the idea of tipping by the plate on my blog. $1 for a drink, $2 for a dessert or appetizer, $3 for an entree, which would really raise the percentage at cheap diners, which was my goal. And it’s also easier the calculate. Just count the things on the table. But I’ll admit I haven’t followed that rule at all on the rare occasion we eat out. I still do 20%.

    • Man don’t get me started on adding tax on top of the advertised amount! Why can’t we just do what most Asian and European countries do and just include taxes in the listed price? It makes calculation so much easier. What do you mean it costs more than $2 when something is listed for $2.00 on the shelf?

      I like the idea of tipping set amount by the plate… but in reality that’s hard to do.

  18. I always try to leave around 15% tip unless the service is terrible or the ‘service charge’ is included in the bill. However, there were a couple of instances when the service was so poor I left no tip.

    • If service charge is included I don’t type. I have been to a few places where the restaurant just adds 20% on post tax amount regardless how large or small your group is. That left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

  19. We don’t eat out very often, but when we do, I tip 20% on the post tax bill as long as the service is reasonable. Usually at a bar, I tip a buck or 2 when we get a couple beers. If we were big restaurant-goers, I could see how this would add up quickly, but since we don’t, I’m comfortable with that amount.

    For other industries, I’m always thrown off… do you tip, do you not tip? Tipping really is a pain in the $%^!

    — Jim

    • Hi Jim,

      Wow 20% post bax bill… that’s a lot of tipping IMO. But since you don’t eat out very often I suppose that’s OK.

      Totally agree that there’s no well defined rules on when and when not to tip.

  20. I have many if the same thoughts as others here, tipping about 20% for good service but if the service is bad they’ll get less and if the service is awful they may get nothing.

    And I’ve never tipped a taxi driver. Maybe I should be…

    I also like to tip maids at hotels.

    • Tipping maids at hotels make some sense, especially if you leave your room in a messy state. I typically tidy up the place myself before they come in so they don’t have to do too much work.

  21. Oh tipping – what a dicey subject! As someone that has worked as a server, they don’t actually make minimum wage, rather $2.13/hr. Here’s a link to a chart on states that still use that metric

    Because of that, I usually tip ~20% sometimes more if service was good. If service was bad, I let Mrs. SSC tip because she’ll tip according to service. 🙂 That’s typically just food service industry for those rules.

    For the non server/food industry I generally don’t tip. If yout ake my orfer at a cash register – why should I tip you for doing your job? Especially since they get paid more than $2.13/hr and their take home doesn’t depend on me tipping them. I just see it as being greedy or entitled.

    • Hmm I didn’t realize that in US many are making below minimum wage. In that case it totally makes sense to tip. But aren’t people working in fast food joints (McDonald’s, etc) making just as little? They don’t get tips….

      Here in BC servers get minimum wage (~$10 I think?), so maybe it makes less sense to tip?

  22. When the service is bad enough, I *don’t* tip. If they do a great job and give great service, I will tip what feels right.

    But 20%? Bah…forget that.

  23. I tip 10-20% at restaurants but the service has to be exemplary to get the high end, really bad to get the low. I think actually I declined tipping once for offendingly bad service.

    I just returned home and stayed at two hotels on the drive back and was surprised to see envelopes in the room for the maids, suggesting to leave money here for your maid “if you so choose”. New trend I guess.

    • That makes sense. Do you tip pre or after tax amount?

      Having done business travels quite a bit I’ve seen more and more hotels leaving envelopes in the room suggesting leaving a tip.

  24. I think a lot on the same line as Dwight on the office when he says

    “Why tip someone for a job I’m capable of doing myself? I can deliver food, I can drive a taxi, I can and do cut my own hair. I did, however, tip my urologist. Because I am unable to pulverize my own kidney stones.”

    I wish I had the courage to tip LESS often. I pretty much do the standard 15% for bad 20% for good.

  25. I tip 20% or more at restaurants when the service warrants. I tip less when it doesn’t. I tend to tip a higher % wise at low cost eateries. If we only spent $20, I often tip $6 to $8.

    I usually drop a $1 in the tip jars at places that have them, especially if they are at least acting like it is a great day. I don’t if I get a Debbie downer.

    I have never had to take a Taxi, but have done a couple of cruises and the fact that tipping is basically required takes all of the fun out of it and for me pretty much means they will get a lower tip than then they might have otherwise.

    cd :O)

  26. I must confess, I have been a tipper my whole life. Typically, I tip 20% for good+ service on the after tax amount; however, I have no problem dropping it down if the service was terrible. You shouldn’t be guaranteed a good tip. However, I understand too that the people who are waiting on you are usually taking a lower hourly rate than normal. So I always keep that in the back of my mind too. In terms of Cafes, I don’t tip if I am ordering at the register, getting my food, and sitting down. I have noticed they added that too and it is slightly agitating to me.

    For services such as taxis, etc. I am definitely not tipping 20%. I’ll usually go between 5% to 10%. I’m a big fan of Uber and Lyft because it takes that whole awkward “Why didn’t you tip me” exchange out of the equation. I’ll run out of a taxi as fast as possible because of it haha I just remind myself that I will never see them again and move on with the day.

    It is fascinating how tipping is different in every culture. I would love to see the differences in wages for each culture compared to the amount of tips that are brought home every night. I’m sorry you and Mrs. T are stuck in this tipping paradox. Hopefully some of my practices help!


    • Hi Bert,

      Wow you sure are generous when it comes to tipping, especially tipping 20% after tax amount.

      Again I don’t have problem with tipping, my beef lies with people expecting you to tip them 15-20% regardless how the service is. If I go to a restaurant and it takes 30 minutes before the server fills up my water, does that count as good service?

      Funny you brought up Uber and Lyft. Didn’t Uber drivers sue Uber about the no tipping option so Uber now added tipping as an option?

  27. We usually tip at least 20%. We often put money in tip jars too when we’re paying with cash – especially if the workers are teenagers or college students. I agree it’s totally confusing.

    When we read the travel books before taking our one trip to Europe, they advised not to tip at all in Italy because supposedly it’s not customary. But that didn’t keep us from tipping.

    Then the rules about hotels are even stranger. I’ve read that staff changes daily and you should leave a tip each day for the maid. So the first day, who would be getting the tip? The maid that set up the room nicely for your arrival and probably won’t get the tip? Or the person who is cleaning the room for the next day – and what if you’re checking out the next day?

    • Do you tip 20% on the before tax or after tax amount? That makes a big difference IMO.

      Usually in Europe tips are already included in your meal, hence no tipping is needed. If you get really really good service, you could always leave a tip.

      • It should be on pretax amount. In NY at one point the formula was easy – double the tax and round up for tip, since tax was 8.5%. We’ve yet to figure out taxes in NC. Mr. Groovy is overly generous and I rein him in when he starts going above 30% on meals. Keep in mind, for the most part we do inexpensive dinners where a few bucks difference has no impact on us.

        • I tip on pretax amount too but as you can see from the different comments, many people tip on after tax amount. That makes a huge difference when tax rate is high.

  28. Tawcan this is a post that really resonated with me. Like you, I never grew up on the common practice of tipping at a restaurant or a cab driver. I was always under the impression that this was their job and that was the end of it. When I came to the US and ate out for the first time my American friend actually looked at me funny when I didn’t tip. Being a college student I ended up usually tipping between 10-15% but if the service was awful and I had a rude waiter they would usually get a very little amount.

    Funny story about a cab driver as well. My mom came up with her school for an event and they got the rudest driver in the world. Did not help with backs, said a bunch of comments and at the end demanded a tip. They walked into the hotel and he followed like it was his right for getting a tip for bad service. Interesting debate and something I try to figure out myself.

    • When I was in university I used to tip $0.01 if the service was god awful just to make a statement. I don’t do that anymore though, just tipping like 5% or so if the service is bad. But the thing is, why should I tip if the service is bad?

      Wow that taxi driver got guts demanding a tip.


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