Service in America is "an opportunity not an obligation," Daniel Post, the great-great-grandson of etiquette expert Emily Post, told Huffington Post Travel this week. Yet, the finer points of tipping are something that often concerns Americans traveling abroad and even at home.
We spoke with Post, as well as etiquette expert Lisa Gache, founder of Beverly Hills Manners, to get a sense of what's typical protocol here and compiled a list of 'how-tos' when abroad.
Restaurants: Gache suggests not to tip less than 15 percent in restaurants in the U.S. You can, however, leave an especially big tip if you ordered expensive wine. "I'd suggest leaving an extra 10 percent for that," says Gache. Post seconds Gache, saying: "Tipping after a meal in the United States is a fundamental part of our social contract. If you can't do the math of what a 20 percent tip would equate to, just move the decimal point in the total over one space and double it." After all, "one of the worst offenses a person can do is come to the restaurant with a calculator," says Gache. "That does not give the United States a good name."
Bartenders: For bartenders, it often depends on the number of drinks you ordered and whether those drinks were beer, wine or a mixed drink. (Gache suggests leaving over the usual $1 to $2 per drink in that case.) Similarly, the folks at Emily Post suggest tipping $1 to $2 per drink or 15 to 20 percent of the tab.
Bell caps: "Tipping bell caps depends if you travel heavily or not. If you do, I'd go as high as $5 per bag (with a minimum being $2 per bag)," says Gache. Daniel Post says that "$2 for the first bag and $1 per additional bag" is standard for bell caps. "And a smile and a thank you is huge for doormen."
Concierge: "If you're using the concierge in an ongoing manner, i.e. lots of requests over a longer period of time, I suggest giving a lump sum when you check out. At the very least, I'd tip $3 to $5 per request and even $20 for larger requests," says Gache. As for the concierge, Post says you don't need to tip for asking directions or simple requests but if they nab you a hard-to-get reservation, do tip.
Maid service: The problem, Gache notes, is that people don't know to tip housekeepers in this country. The act "comes from your family and where you've traveled in life." That said, Gache suggests leaving a cash tip of $2 to $3 per day at the end of your stay (if you're messy, leave more). Adds Post: "A couple of dollars per day is pretty standard, but it's also about the amount of service they give the room. If you have the 'do not disturb' sign up for three days straight, you don't have to worry about tipping as much." Also, he adds, "always leave a note marked 'house keeping' so they know it's for them."
Airport workers: For porters, if you pack heavily, give them a little more than usual ($2 per bag).
"If you know you're traveling abroad in advance, get a few tipping books or apps (HPT suggests GlobeTipping, an app which has info on tipping guidelines in more than 200 countries, or TippingBird for Android) since every country does vary," says Gache.
Some general rules of thumb to follow: Round up. If you take a taxi and want to leave a tip, at the very least round up to the nearest denomination; it's best to tip 10 percent of the total fare (for hotel cars tip between 10 and 15 percent). At restaurants, check your bill to make sure service is included and if not, tip 10 to 15 percent for dining. At hotels, tip bellmen and porters $1 to $3 per bag; tip the concierge $2 to $5 for basic requests and $20 or more for complicated requests.
Check out a global tipping guide, courtesy of visual.ly, below.
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