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Tipping in today’s world

Although it has been a common part of the service industry for as long as most people can remember, tipping has become confusing today. Tip jars seem to be found in places they were never seen before, while many people we think we should tip are forbidden from accepting them. While there are few actual rules about tipping, there are some general guidelines.

Traditional “sit-down” restaurant drinks, snacks, and meals

Most people are comfortable tipping in situations where they sit at a table in a cafe or restaurant, and a staff member brings them their food and drink, but there can still be some confusion about the amount to tip. A standard tip is currently 20% of the order total. If the service was slow, the server was rude, or the food was clearly sitting on the counter for a long time before being brought to the table, 15% is acceptable. For service that was especially fast, a server who went out of their way for you, or staff who made a point to brighten your day, increase the tip to 25% or more. 

Takeout that you pick up yourself

In the past, tipping was not expected at self-service windows. Today, a tip of 10% of the total bill is customary. While you are picking it up yourself, the tip is for the staff who carefully prepared and packed your order.

Takeout that you have delivered using an app

If the driver does nothing more than show up at the door with the correct order packaged neatly, you need to add a tip of 10% to 15% to your total bill. Delivery drivers who go out of their way for you, bringing extra plates and utensils so orders can be shared, or walking up an especially steep hill to get to your home or office should be tipped 20%-25%.

Purchases that you make online and have delivered from the store through apps 

Punching the question “What is the current standard tip for Instacart?” into the Microsoft Bing search engine will cause the little AI content bot to write you a message telling you to tip no less than 5%. Other websites suggest 10%, but the only real way to be respectful of the person and compensate them fairly for their service is to adjust that depending on the size and difficulty of the order. The shopper/driver who picked up two lightweight, easy to find items you simply didn’t have time to go get may get a 10% tip, but the person who shopped for and delivered supplies for a huge summer party or a the weekly groceries for your household of five should probably get at least 15%.

Rides from rideshare services 

Rideshare drivers should be able to count on a tip of 15% to 20%. This is for the average safe, clean, pleasant ride. You may want to offer a slightly higher tip to the driver who helped load your instrument, heavy bags, or other equipment into the car. 

Performances or readings from musicians or other artists that you hire to perform at your event

The standard tip is $25 to $50 per performer. This tip is typically offered by the event’s host or coordinator. Audience members are not expected to tip anyone onstage. 

Performances or readings from musicians or other artists that you watch online via livestream

The standard tip for an online performance is $10 minimum from each audience member. Dedicated fans, audience members who request a song via the chat function, and anyone else who simply wants to offer extra support may offer $20 or more. Tips are not expected when the person records a video and posts it online. 

Recorded music provided by a music program host or DJ at a party or event

Tipping the DJ at the rate of 10-15% of the total charge for the performance is customary. The person who hired the DJ is expected to offer the tip. Audience members may offer anywhere from $1 to $5, but that is typically done only when someone requests a song.

Performances or readings from musicians or other artists at an open mic event

Don’t think you are tipping the performers if you place money in the tip jar on the counter.  Unless otherwise announced, the tip jar money is for the event’s host and their staff, not the performers. Tips for people who take the stage to read their novel or poem or play or sing a song are typically not expected. In situations where they are expected, a basket or jar will be placed on or near the stage. If you arrive at an open mic and see a tip jar for the performers, you may tip one time, tip everyone, or just tip your favorites. There are no real expectations. Most tips are between $5 and $10.

Haircuts, hair colors, lash extensions, fake nails or painted nails, or any other service designed to maintain your look

Tip professionals who help you look your best at least 25% of the total cost of the services. As with all other tipped work, if you asked for something that was especially difficult or time consuming, tip a bit more. This applies to time spent in consultation too. If your goal was to adopt an obscure retro style, and the stylist took extra time to scroll through multiple web searches on your phone with you, or if you weren’t sure what you wanted when you walked in, and they spent time helping you make a decision, show your appreciation with a higher tip. 

Retail employees at “big box” stores and staff workers at fast food restaurants

Retail employees at “big box” stores are one of the few categories of service people you should not tip. They will certainly deserve it, especially if they have gone out of their way for you. But tipping them will likely get them reprimanded, if not fired. And don’t try to sneak them some cash when the manager isn’t looking. Large corporate retail stores and other businesses have cameras all over the place. If the manager doesn’t see them, somebody else on staff certainly will. 

Any typically tipped service you pay for using a coupon or a gift card

Whether you are having a meal delivered, getting a cosmetic treatment done, ordering groceries, enjoying a sit-down drink or meal, or paying for any other service where tipping is expected, calculate the tip based on the total cost before the coupon or gift card is applied. If your bill at a sit-down restaurant comes to $100, and you used a $50 gift card to pay half of it, calculate the tip as 20% of $100, or $20 rather than on the $50 you paid and only tipping $10. The server brought your table $100 worth of food, regardless of how much you paid for it. 

Regardless of the situation, or how much you choose to tip, never use the situation as your chance to make a political statement. Those who may have a more conservative viewpoint, who  believe people should not expect “handouts,” need to realize that a tip is not a gift from you to the worker. Tipped workers are almost always paid much lower wages, with expected tips being figured in as part of their expected compensation. The business pays them to be there and be available to serve their customers, and the customers pay for the actual service. And liberals must remember that they are not punishing the corporation or teaching a greedy business owner a lesson in paying their employees fair wages when they refuse to participate in the tipping economy. They’re just depriving the  person of money they worked to earn. 


Jess Szabo
Jess Szabohttp://uticaphoenix.com
Jess Szabo' is a novelist, writing teacher, and content writer for Utica area artists. Her online workspace can be found at www.artistcafe315.com

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