Your guide to tipping in Cola
We’ve all been in that situation: we go to sign off on a bill, or hand over our payment at a counter, and when we get to the tip line: panic. Do we need to tip? If so, how much?
In some industries, workers’ livelihoods depend almost entirely on tips. That’s thanks to a 1966 law that allows employers to pay servers as little as $2.13 an hour.
Tipping etiquette can vary greatly from service to service, and whatever the norm was a few years ago may not be the norm today. To fix that, we reached out to people who work in the service industry last year + again this year and asked them to tell us what kind of tip they generally expect.
We compiled their answers + made a guide that can be used as a reference point for tipping around town. Because how can you follow the rules if the rules are unwritten?
For your consideration
Tipping may vary based on industry, but there are a few golden rules that transcend any service:
- If you receive a discount, tip on the original price of the service – not the discounted price.
- If you’re unsure about whether someone works on salary or commission, don’t forgo the tip – if nothing else, just ask. Even those who are self-employed may rely on tips.
- If being taxed, (e.g. at a restaurant), you can calculate your tip based on the pre-tax total – rather than the total after tax.
- If it’s a holiday, or the business is particularly slammed, a little generosity never hurts.
Food + Bev
💸 Sit-down restaurants: 15-20%
- Remember, at most restaurants in South Carolina, servers make only $2.13 an hour – that’s less than a third of the minimum wage. (Otherwise, your bill at the end of the night would be a lot higher). So, even if your service isn’t great, you should be tipping something (at a minimum, 10%). And keep this in mind: at many restaurants, servers are required to hand over a portion of their tips to other front-of-house workers – like hosts, food runners, bartenders, bar backs, + bussers.
💸 Bars: Always tip $1- $2 per drink, or 20% of the bar tab
💸 Coffee shops: Depends
- If your order is simple + you’re only stopping in to get coffee, no tip is necessary. But complicated orders call for tipping your barista 1-2 bucks. And – if you’re hanging out in the coffeeshop for an extended period of time – make sure to leave a few bucks for the staff.
💸 Buffets: 10%
💸 Takeout: Not required, but ~10% is suggested.
- “I worked as a hostess at a restaurant for a while and handled takeout orders as part of my duties. I never cared if someone didn’t leave a tip for a small order. On the other hand, large takeout orders and those with added extra requests I felt were deserving of a tip. We’d have companies buying lunch for their employees with well over $100 tabs that wouldn’t tip. There’s a lot of work that goes into making a takeout order of that size.”
- “At the last restaurant I worked at in the Vista I was a bartender and for whatever reason to go orders were the bartenders responsibility. So we made a little more than 2.13 an hour ($4 an hour I think), had a section of tables, had to take care of the bar guests, make drinks for the whole restaurant, answer the phone when a to go came through, and put it all together with very little help. If it was wrong, we were the ones who got in trouble. At the very least to go orders are time consuming. I had to spend time on your to go order making sure it’s correct and taking time away from other guests in the restaurant which could potentially take away from the tip I could’ve received, had I been able to spend more time on those guests dining in. So I think a dollar or two on a to go order is pretty fair no matter what it is. I’m just thinking of my fellow bartenders who have 5 million things to do and also have to take care of to go orders but see little to no compensation for their work…. it really all depends on the restaurant and their take out policies. “
💸 Sommelier: 15% of the cost of the bottle
💸 Hair salons: 20%+
- Pro tip: “A lot of people don’t realize that most stylists only get paid a portion of the service they provide, and on top of that we have to pay taxes on it due to being an independent contractor.”
💸 Massages: Always tip at least 20%
- Pro tip: “Massage is a physically demanding and exhausting industry. Therapists are not robots and even the most experienced have off days just like everyone else, so please bear that in mind if you are unsatisfied with your service.”
💸 Mani/pedis: 15%+
💸 Estheticians: 18-25%
- Pro tip: “Always consider what type of service + how much product we are using.”
💸 Barbershop: 20%+
💸 Valet: $5+
- “The majority of restaurants offer ‘complimentary valet’ but this can be deceiving. A lot of people may not realize that at the end of the night the valet(s) have to split their tips to cover the parking lot fee. Anything left over is what you walk away with.”
💸 Uber: Always tip
- When Uber started gaining popularity, people thought of it as a way to get a ride without worrying about a tip. But since then, the rideshare service has lowered its fares – meaning drivers now make less money. And now, there’s an option in the app to tip your driver right after a ride is complete – so not having cash on you is no longer an excuse. Pro tip: “$2 or $3 on most trips. On a longer trip it’d be great to get $5- $6. As a side note– I always appreciate tips. They are never expected.”
💸 Furniture Delivery: $5- $10 per worker
💸 Pizza delivery: Always tip
- Pro tip: “If I averaged $3 tip an order over the course of the night, I was doing well. Then again, I worked in super high volume, which probably figures into things as well. Small spots probably rely on higher tips since they won’t take 30-40 deliveries in a night.”
💸 Food delivery service (Uber Eats, Bitesquad, Grubhub): Tip
- “I drive for Bite Squad and the tips have been great. I don’t expect them TBH, I’ve worked in F&B and feel like tipping should be for above and beyond not just doing my job. That being said, if you order food and you’re 20-30 min away I wouldn’t mind a lil tip for the gas (we get $1 per delivery, getting stuck on two notch at rush hour sucks)”
💸Catering delivery: Always tip
- “I work for a restaurant & do a lot of catering deliveries. When I deliver a large amount of food (like over $250), I hope/sort of expect a tip between $10- $20. For orders $500- $1,500, I hope to get at least $25- $50. I don’t just drive your food to you. I pack your salad dressings, utensils, plates, cups, etc., and set it up for you so it is displayed beautifully.”
💸 Shuttle drivers, doormen + bellhops: $1- $2 per bag if helping with luggage
💸 Tattoos: 10-20%
💸 Tours: Tip optional
- Pro tip: “While I don’t expect a tip, it is appreciated. $5 per person seems to be the average.”
💸 Bathroom attendants: $1
💸 Maid service: $1- $5 per day
💸 Car detailing, painting + tinting: Sometimes tip
- Pro tip: “Typically, if it’s just a standard detail ($200- $400), I don’t expect a tip– as the majority of these tickets are moms/dads who don’t have the time to clean their cars thoroughly, are cars from body shops (which don’t tip), or the occasional vomit comet from Uber/Lyft. If I’m doing a heavy paint correction and ceramic coating ($900- $2,000), then in most cases I expect a tip– even if small– based on the fact that I’ve gotten tips for those jobs since I’ve worked there. Hell, even if it’s just $50 on a $1,500 ticket, that still pays for my lunch and gas during the time I was working on the vehicle.”
💸 Car wash: $3- $5
My golden rule when it comes to tipping: never say never. If an employee goes above + beyond for you, or if you needed a complicated service rendered + they pulled it off, their work should be rewarded – even if tipping them isn’t necessarily required.
Think of it this way: extra work = extra reward.