Cab drivers, waiters, bellhops, hotel housekeepers, valet parking attendants… without them, the gears of business would come to a screeching halt.
It's a symbiotic relationship, too, because many of those cab drivers and waiters of the world depend on tips from business travelers.
This win-win scenario is why I'm a believer in generous tipping.
Technically, tipping is optional, and you won't get arrested for stiffing the waiter.
But in reality, your tip is part of a simple economic exchange. The other party offers a service in anticipation of you giving a little money in return.
Yes, it would be nice if they were paid a living wage in some other way, but that's just not how it works.
Bottom line, many people need your tips to survive.
Payscale.com says the average hourly wage for a waiter or waitress is $4.67. The Federal minimum is just $2.13.
Some workers don't get a wage at all. Your cab driver may be paying to use the taxi during their shift, plus gas, and might even lose money if fares and tips are down.
Many service jobs pay low or no hourly wages because earnings are expected to come in the form of tips from customers.
Whether we like it or not, this is the current system, and it's built into the pricing of the services.
Without generous tips from customers—particularly business travelers who make up most of their client base—many people in these service industries would simply not be able to support themselves and their families.
Here are some basic tipping guidelines for business travel:
- Courtesy Shuttle Driver: Suggested is $1-2 per person; tip more if it's a farther trek.
- Taxi or Limo driver: 15-20% of the total fare. I tip more late at night or for a safe driver.
- Airport Porter or Skycap: $2 per bag, more if your bags are heavy.
- Wheelchair Pusher: If they push you through to your gate, or out to the curb, $5 is standard. If it's a long distance, takes a long time, or if they help with luggage and keep smiling, then $10 or more.
- Valet and Parking Attendant: No need to tip when they take the car. Tip $1-3 when they bring it back.
- Maitre d': No tip needed unless there was extra service, like finding you a table on a busy night without a reservation.
- Server: Tip 15% of the cost before taxes, and 20% if you had great service. If the server screwed up, then leave less, but don't punish a server by withholding your tip for problems they couldn't help.
- Buffet Servers: For people who just bring drinks and take away dishes, give $1-2 per person at your table, depending on how much service they gave you.
- Wine Steward / Sommelier: For help choosing the wine, 10-20% of the wine bill, capping out at about $20 even on a very expensive bottle.
- Bartender / Cocktail Server: 10-15% of the total tab, and never less than $1 per drink.
- Coat Check: $1 per coat.
- Rest Room Attendant: $1 per visit.
- Food Deliveries / Pizza: 15% of the food amount is usual.
- Coffee Shop / Fast Food: Nothing is required if there is no table service. That said, I tip at my local coffee shop and sandwich shop, because I like the people there and I know they don't make much.
- Remember: If you sit at a table or bar chatting for a long time, it means less turnover for the restaurant, and less tips for your server, so adjust your tip upward accordingly.
- Doorman: No tip needed for holding the door, but if they help with your bags, $1-2 per bag. If he calls you a cab, $1-2 is good.
- Concierge: Nothing is required for a simple restaurant recommendation, but if they make reservations for you, $2-5 is customary, and if they work miracles by finding that special gift you need or getting you into the latest hot spot, $10-20 would work.
- Bellperson: $1-2 per bag, more if they go out of their way and show you around your room.
- Room Service: Gratuity is usually already included, so check the bill or ask. If the deliverer goes the extra mile, tip extra; give it to them personally because the added-onto-your-bill tips are pooled, but if you hand someone a tip directly, they can keep it.
- Maids and Housekeeping: Usually $3-5 per day, more if you make a mess. Tip daily because the housekeeper might be different every day. Make it clear it's a tip by leaving the cash on your pillow or in an envelope.
- Maintenance or Service People: Tipping the facilities people is not required, though I'm sure it would be appreciated for a job done well and quickly.
- Delivery of Special Requests: If you call for extra pillows or toiletries, tip $1-2 for delivery.
Most of all, tip with a feeling of appreciation.
To me, the guy who helps me check my bags in curbside, the waiter who serves my lunch, and the woman who drives me safely from the hotel to the airport, all contribute to the success of my day.
I can't do what I do if they aren't there doing what they do to support me.
And the best way I can show my appreciation is by acknowledging them with a smile, saying thank you, and giving them a tip.
Sure, occasionally someone provides terrible service, and when that happens, I don't hold back on specific feedback to them and their manager. I'm kind of picky like that.
But in all other scenarios, generous tipping is good for business all around, and it keeps that energy that we call money flowing.
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