How-To: Tip Like A Sane Human Being in New York


Confession time: We forgot to tip the coat-check guy last night. He was really cute, too, and had this great accent that we couldn’t quite identify (Australian, maybe?) and we got flustered and dropped our scarf and then walked away without giving him a single buck. Ugh.

But it got us thinking about tipping etiquette. New York City is fueled by service industries — stats from 2011 and 2012 say we’ve got access to 13,270 licensed taxis, 16,251 full-service restaurants, and 2,657 bars. Add that to the countless delivery people, doormen, bathroom attendants, tattoo artists, hair stylists, bellhops, and, of course, coat check guys (sigh), and you’ve got thousands of workers who you’re supposed to tip on a regular basis.

How to keep track? And, more importantly, what’s the proper amount to tip for various services?

In a highly scientific study poll of friends, co-workers, and Google search results, we tried to determine who to tip and how much to give them.

Cab Drivers:
The general consensus seems to be 20% of the fare, but some folks opted for 15% instead, some said $5, and some even went as low as a dollar per ride. A dollar! We’d be scared to look the driver in the eye. 20% seems more reasonable to us.

20% is the accepted minimum, but some who wait tables themselves said they regularly give somewhere in the 25 – 30% range.

We always believed tips ought to reflect service, but one respondent to our informal poll wrote, “Never ‘punish’ someone in the service industry with a bad tip! Everyone has off days, but our salaries don’t get dinged for it.”

We felt kind of indignant about that at first — why not passive-aggressively let someone know what a dick you think they are by leaving a pile of change on the table? — but it makes sense. No one docks our paycheck if we show up to work hungover, so why do it to the girl who ferries our dinner from the kitchen to the table? Plus, most waiters tip out their busboys, expos, and hostesses at the end of the night, so you’re not just shorting the person who gruffly took your order, you’re retaliating against the whole staff.

This is where the rules start to get weird. You think it’s okay to give $1 per drink? Wrong! You get an F minus. says you should consider $2 per drink if poured at the bar and 15-20% of the tab otherwise. But what if you open a tab at the bar and don’t receive table service? Is it 20% of your tab, or just two bucks per drink, or whichever is less if the bartender is mean (or whichever is more if he or she is attractive*)? Should you tip extra if you drunkenly abandon your credit card at the bar and have to sheepishly retrieve it in the cold light of day? (The answer to this one is yes, definitely, duh.)

CBS New York suggests you only tip your doorman at Christmas, and then anywhere between $25-150 each, based on the following determinations:

The amount depends on how long you’ve known your doorman. Newer doormen tend to receive less than their senior counterparts. If you have a ‘favorite’ doorman, a box of candy or chocolates in addition is acceptable, as well.

They also suggest, “Always give a handwritten note with your tips.”

Seriously, a box of chocolates and a handwritten note? Doesn’t anybody at CBS New York worry that their doorman will think they’re hitting on him?

Bathroom Attendants:
Having someone hover around, making sure you wash your hands and smirking at the weird faces you make while trying to fix your makeup, then handing you a towel at the end of the ordeal, is undeniably awkward. Yes, it makes an establishment seem “fancy” or “classic,” but also “uncomfortable” and “stuffy.”

We’d rather not have a bathroom attendant at all, but, if we do, the consensus is to give them a dollar — or at least whatever spare change is jingling around in the bottom of our purse.

And despite the awkwardness, these are the workers most deserving of your tips — some bathroom attendants don’t earn a wage at all and rely solely on tips for their income.

Tattoo Artists, Hair Stylists, and Other People Who Make You Pretty:

Again, CBS New York with their crazy suggestions:

Some etiquette experts suggest a $15 tip. Do you see the same hair stylist regularly? If they provide you with a quality cut/style each time, tip them the cost of one typical haircut.

Um, no. A haircut is so expensive! $15 isn’t even close to 20%, making it a totally insufficient tip. But paying double the already-high price just because your stylist didn’t butcher your hair is insanity. During our first-ever professional haircut, we asked the stylist what she thought the proper percent was, and she said 20, so we’re sticking with that.

Recommendations for tattoo tips fell between 25 and 50%, which may seem steep at first, especially considering that just the tattoo itself will probably cost a couple hundred bucks. But, unlike a nasty haircut, a bad tattoo isn’t going to grow out over time. If you don’t have the money for a pricey tattoo and a good tip, save yourself the expense of laser removal and just don’t get tattooed.

Bellhops & Coat Check Guys:
Give a dollar or two for each coat or bag they take care of for you. This one’s so simple; we can’t believe we screwed it up. We’ll get it right next time, we swear.

Which jobs did we miss? And how much do you tip? Is tipping actually a really bizarre form of flirting? Tell us.

*Attractiveness clause: you should always give your hot service-people a buck or two extra. They’ll appreciate it much more than your phone number.