How To Tip (the Right Amount) For Every Service

It’s pretty well known that the industry standard for tipping a server at a restaurant is 20 percent (unless you live in a cave). As a nine-year veteran in the restaurant industry, I knew that. But otherwise I was dazed and confused. When it came to tipping for other services such as a taxi, my hair cut, or Pizza Hut delivery, I panicked and threw them a few dollars. This habit—which stems from naivety—needs to be broken.

In an effort to take responsibility for my ignorance, I want to share what I’ve found with you. How poorly are you tipping? We’re about to find out.


Dining Out

The standard for dining out is—and always has been—20 percent. If your order was wrong or your food was forgotten, you have every right to tip less that 20 percent. However, if the cooks forgot to put your salad dressing on the side or grill your steak to well done rather than the medium rare you asked for, don’t punish your server. The cook will make an $11+ per hour wage no matter how bad he butchers your meal. Your server, on the other hand, relies on your tips as his or her wage.

The Breakdown: Tip no less than 15 percent if your service was poor. Tip (the full) 20 percent if your server was smiling, kind, and attentive.

The Scenario: If you intend to be a hero by grabbing the tab for the whole table, you better be able to afford the tip… or at least delegate it. Your server busted her butt for multiple refills, ramekins of ranch, and extra napkins when you spilled your beer. Twenty percent on that $200 tab is not $20, it’s $40.

Delivery Food

There are many common misunderstandings about food delivery. For one, the delivery charge is not the tip; the charge goes straight to the company for expenses incurred for travel. Your delivery driver does not see a dime of that. Compensate them for their hassle. With that being said, a verbal tip or leftover change is also not acceptable. They are also making a low wage because their employer thinks your $2 tip will be enough to cover their rent this month.

The Breakdown: The minimum tip is $2. Fifteen percent is acceptable for normal service, and 20 percent is recommended for excellent service.

The Scenario: When you decide to hunker down on a Saturday night for pizza and a movie because it’s blizzarding outside, remember that the delivery person is driving in severe conditions just so you don’t have to leave the house. A 20 percent tip is absolutely necessary.


Hair, Nails, and Massage

I’ve made an awful habit of tipping my hair stylist $5, regardless of the cost of service, since I was 14 years old. As I matured, I began to wonder exactly how much I should be tipping. Sure a $5 tip might be sufficient on a $25 hair cut, but a cut and color that took three hours and totaled $110… not okay. For personal services like highlights, manicures, and massages, the recommended tip is 15 percent for good service. If your nail tech adds glitter for free, or your hairdresser throws in a few highlights for no charge, or your massage therapist spends ten extra minutes on those knots in your shoulders, you owe them a full 20 percent tip for going above and beyond.

The Breakdown: Good service requires a 15 percent tip, while freebies and excellent service calls for a 20 percent tip. Never forego the tip.

The Scenario: If your stylist misunderstood the hair color you were going for and offered a complimentary re-do, you should always consider a 15 to 20 percent tip of what the service would have cost you. Sure, he or she may have “screwed up” but did you describe the color correctly? You said red. You meant copper. Maybe it’s color blindness?

Thanks to this guide from PopSugar, you’ll know exactly what to tip your nail tech, massage therapist, and hair stylist.

Thanks to this guide from PopSugar, you’ll know exactly what to tip your nail tech, massage therapist, and hair stylist.


When you save for the cost of a $700 half sleeve, did you figure in the correct tip? The recommended tip for tattoo artists is ten to 20 percent. A 10 percent tip could mean the color was off or your tattoo artist just wasn’t a great artist. Fifteen percent looks to be a good average, and 20 percent means you appreciate your artist and they are more talented that you could ever express in words.

The Breakdown: A 15 percent tip is average. Ten percent is acceptable if you are dissatisfied with the results and 20 percent is suggested for excellent artwork.

The Scenario: If your tattoo artist moves you up on the calendar, spends additional time doing intricate artwork, and adds complementary color to your black and white silhouettes, you own him or her 20 percent.

Pet Grooming

Tipping 15 to 20 percent for grooming is recommended, and it could also get you an extra service free of charge, here and there. Twenty percent is necessary if your pet creates “special circumstances” for their groomer… i.e. biting, shitting, shedding, or the inability to stand on their own four feet.

The Breakdown: Tip 15 to 20 percent. The benefits may outweigh the pocket change.

The Scenario: Your dog decides he’s going to have a fit for his monthly haircut and then proceeds to bite your groomer. All the while, your groomer is cursing at you in her mind as she finishes the haircut without flaw. She deserves a tip… a good one. Toss at least 20 percent her way if you ever want to get back on the calendar.



For taxis, I almost always plan to have cash, but what I often forget to plan for is the tip. When I do tip, I’m constantly wondering, Did I give too much? Not enough? Taxi tipping varies considerably from city to city, but 15 percent is the norm. You should also consider tipping a little extra if the driver is helping you load or unload bags that you might have on the way to or from the airport.

The Breakdown: Tip 15 percent with at least a $1 minimum. If your driver is helping with your bags, tip $1 to $2 extra.

The Scenario: Just because your ride is only $8 doesn’t mean you can get away with no tip. That driver still picked your ass up and dropped your ass off (probably because you were filthily intoxicated). I think you can spare a $1 tip.


I’m a high roller (wink), but I usually opt out of valet service. Something about saving money by parking my own car has always appealed to me. But, if you decide to roll like Lil Wayne for the night, make sure you have a few dollars to spare on the way out—I repeat, on the way out. We don’t need you looking like an amature.

The Breakdown: A $2 to $5 tip is suggested when you pick up your car.

The Scenario: When you’re trying to roll like a rich kid, you gotta pay up like a rich kid. The only time you shouldn’t tip is if they lose or pawn your car. Now that’s grounds for a serious brawl.


First off, I’d probably carry my own bags (must be the power woman in me). But if you, as a perfectly capable human, opt to have your bags transported to your room, the recommendation is that you cough up $1 per bag, $2 minimum.  

The Breakdown: Most places suggest $1 per bag ($2 minimum), but higher end hotels may recommend $2 per bag with a $5 minimum.

The Scenario: Even if the bellman doesn’t smile at you, you still need to tip him. There really isn’t a scenario here.

Hotel Cleaners

I’ve never tipped hotel cleaners. In fact, I didn’t know that was a thing. However, it totally makes sense. Wet towels on the floor, bottles and cans on the tables, and trash overflowing from the garbage can is a mess that only the offender should have to deal with. A small tip ($2 to $5 per night) is the least you could do.

The Breakdown: A $2 to $5 tip per night is recommended.

The Scenario: If you keep your room extra tidy—like no one ever stayed there—you could get away with a $2 tip for a one-night stay. But… if you raged all weekend for a bachelor party, clogged the toilet, and spilled beer all over the carpet, get out your wallet. Five dollars should be the minimum you’re coughing up.

Wait, Do I Tip?

Tipping is pretty subjective. Everyone has their own idea of what is fair, and typically they don’t have a real good idea until they’ve done the job themselves. Here are a couple situations that people often wonder, “Should I tip?”


According to Trip Advisor, U.S. tipping and etiquette says that while most Americans don’t tip at a buffet, it is courteous to tip $1 to the servers that clear the table of dirty plates, or 5 to 10 percent of the bill total. I get it, you’re getting your own food, but did you think about who is collecting your plates and wiping the half-eaten food off of them?

Take Out Food

No tip is required for take out. The tip at a restaurant covers your service. By picking up your own food, you are foregoing what it would have cost you to get served. However, if the restaurant threw in some freebies, feel free to toss them a couple dollars for good karma.


3 Responses

  1. Wendy

    In speaking with a number of tattoo artists, and from websites such as a $50 MINIMUM tip should be standard regardless of the size or intricacy of the piece. If $50 doesn’t cover the 20% standard, then go up from there. And if you’re getting a large piece that takes several sittings, tip at every sitting.

    1. Alexandra Floersch

      Wendy, thank you for the update! I hadn’t heard or read that upon researching. I appreciate the input. That’s a substantial tip — great to note.

  2. I didn’t even think about tipping pet groomers, but it actually makes a lot of sense. This is a great guide for tipping in a lot of different situations. I’ll have to refer back to this! Thanks for sharing!

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