Tips on Tipping

A guide to gratuities, from valets and stylists to your friendly neighborhood barista.

By Lisa Petty
|  Thursday, Mar 25, 2010  |  Updated 1:38 PM CDT
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Tips on Tipping

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To tip or not to tip?  And, if so, how much?

We all know the 15-20% rule for restaurants, but servers aren’t the only hard-working helpers who rely on our generosity for a portion of their income.  Who and how much we should tip, however, is a much-debated topic.

Before you shell out (or skip the gratuity altogether), we’ve done some homework for you in several common categories.  And these tips might just surprise you.

COFFEE CONNECTION:
A neighborhood barista is often the first smiling face we see each day.  A tip jar set-up is the rule at most coffee shops, and it’s customary to place some coin in the kitty for these morning mixologists.  According to our sources, a tip of about $1 per drink is average, but in some cases regular customers will leave more.

CUT AND COLOR:
A 20% tip is customary for those who do your ‘do.  A question arises, however, when it comes to independent stylists and salon owners.  Most in the business agree that not tipping an owner or independent is an old-fashioned rule, but on the flipside, some clients aren’t tipping anymore at all.  In the words of one long-time stylist, “Some of my clients stopped tipping due to the economy, which is fine.  I'd rather they still come in than not.”

DINNER DELIVERY:
Before you give your pizza guy the cold shoulder, heed these words from one long-time delivery man for a popular national chain: “If you were a regular and only tipped a buck every time, then I would definitely remember and your pizza would always be delivered last.  …[A tip of] four or five bucks more than once would put you on the list of addresses that got extras from me.”  He went on to note that $2 was an acceptable average.

GOING TO MARKET:
Many shoppers are confused over whether or not to tip employees who help us load up our cars at the grocery store.  In days gone by, a dollar or two was traditional, but today, many stores do not allow gratuities.  Before you tip in this case, it might be wise to ask about your favorite store’s policy.

PAMPERED PETS:
When it comes to those who care for your canine’s coat, our sources recommend tipping as you would with your own hair stylist.  Most indicated that tips of about 15% were customary for groomers, but we'd go even higher if our four-legged friend was particularly grumpy or scruffy.

PARKING PARTNERS:
Finally, who hasn’t wondered how much to tip a valet at a restaurant, club or social event?  We encountered a lot of variation in this category, with the amount tipped depending on everything from the weather to the venue.  In general, a gratuity of $3-$5 was the norm for a complimentary parking service, with the tip dropping to $2 for valets that aren’t free.  In rainy or cold weather, many would increase the amount, regardless of up-front charges.

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