Tips for Tipping in the USA

Something so foreign to me as an Aussie, but something you can’t escape in the USA is service gratuity or tips. Single handedly keeping George Washington alive is the expected tip to those that provide a service. So keep those dollar bills handy – you will burn right through them.

Many employees in the service industries are paid below minimum wage and rely on tips to make or break the bank.

Oh and if you fail leave a tip, don’t worry you will know.


So how do you avoid sitting there working out the tip, trying to act cool while in fact you look like you are peeing in a public pool.


Out of sheer anxiety and lack of math skills, the second I sit down in a nail salon I spend the whole time working out what is 20% of $14.

Well there are a few tricks

To give you a quick 20%

-Double the tax (8.875%) of total bill


-Double the first number of the total.

E.g. If you total is $123, the tip would be about $24.

And if all else fails download an app. ‘Tip Calculator Free’, which believe it or not is free

This also serves as a lifesaver when you are with a bunch of people

This user-friendly app allows you to split the check up to 50 ways and select the amount of tip depending on service.


Some standard rules

Taxis: 10% to 15% of fare

NOTE:  A common misconception: Many tourists believe you need to tip taxis at least 20%. If you can, pay by cash. If you choose to pay by card, the on screen tip options will be 20%, 25% or 30%. They know how to work it. You can simply add in the tip manually.

Doorman: $ 1 per bag

Housekeeping: Forgot to leave a tip on your pillow?

Guilty as charged.

I completely didn’t even think about tipping housekeeping every day and many people don’t – especially with the astronomical prices they charge for rooms as it is in New York. While it seems outrageous, I’d tip $3-$4 per night. You never know what might be waiting for you in your bed after an angry housekeeper is done with your room.

Bartender: $1-$2 per drink or 10%-15% of the tab.

Restaurant: Firstly if you call it a bill they will have no idea what you are talking about. The check, as it is referred to here, will have tax added. Make sure they haven’t already added the gratuity as well. Otherwise not only will you pay through the nose you will also look like a numbskull for paying it twice.  Tip is usually around 15%-20% before taxes. If the service is poor, tip at least 10% but no less.

Some restaurants will even be kind enough to include a suggested guide of how much 15%, 18% and 20% is – how thoughtful of them.


Restroom Attendant: Many clubs and bars have services in the restrooms. The first time I went to the bathroom in a club I thought I had stepped into a day spa. They had all the beauty products I could name. Whether you use products or they hand you a towel make sure to tip about $1 

The main thing is, while you may never see that person again; remember they are just trying to make a living. It’s always better to over tip than under tip




  1. Gwen
    January 31, 2014 / 8:19 pm

    A couple things… as an American waitress, we call ourselves servers, probably because it’s gender neutral; we expect 20%. 15% is considered a lame tip. So if our service is good tip 20% or more (~4% we give to our “help”). A Bartender would hate you if you tipped him 10%. They are restaurant industry people too and they expect the same as servers if not more.

    Everything else in the article is great. No need to be flustered when figuring out a tip, we deal with it everyday so we’re used to it. I’ve even had people ask me how much to tip. At first it was weird and then I got use to it cause they’re just trying to be empathetic without knowing how. So whatever… Just try!

    • stephabroad
      January 31, 2014 / 9:34 pm

      Thanks Gwen, I really appreciate the feedback. I always try to get a couple of sources to find an average

      • Shaun
        February 1, 2014 / 6:00 am

        I tip 15% for “good” service, and 20% for fantastic service. $1/drink is pretty standard for bartenders. 10% might be OK if they are ignoring you at the bar. But if able, bartenders remember the good tippers and serve you first.

        If your service was absolutely horrible, you don’t have to feel obligated to pay 10%. If the service ruined your night out, they don’t deserve gratitude on top of it. Only 1/100 times have I ever experienced that, but don’t feel you have to subsidize your server’s low wage or anything like that. Gratuity is optional but expected. Never mandatory.

        This is how I was raised, and what I expected when I worked in the service industry, but I do notice a bit of “tip inflation” over the past decade. 20% is the new 15%. 25% is what 20% was.

        I’m starting to feel bad that servers now really think they’re doing a bad job on a 14-16% tip for us raised on an old standard. So now I just eat out less, and they get a 0% tip, and the restaurant gets 0% in sales. :/

        I do miss my time in… nearly every other country in the world where servers are paid well and adequate service is just expected. In Japan, it’s even rude to tip!

  2. Mr.Faktippin
    February 2, 2014 / 12:04 pm

    I hate tipping. Why? Because people expect it for doing what they’re already being paid for. Now before some angry server starts yapping with their usual bs let me point something out. Out of the 50 states in the union, 7 of them mandate that servers get at least minimum wage while the remaining 43 have their waiters be paid significantly less in the $2-3 range. You have to take this into account.

    Living in California and knowing this, I either don’t tip or tip very little in California and tip more in other states because those poor bastards are only making a few dollars.

    Why do I not tip in California? Because those people are getting paid a regular salary by their employer for doing their work. It’s not the burden of the patron to help pay someone’s electricity bill because they chose to go out and get some pasta at a restaurant one evening.

    Waiters will tell you that they provide a “service” so they should be tipped for it. I call that “service” part of their job description that they’re already being compensated for. Waiters will then say, well if you want “good service” then you should tip for it. This is ludicrous to the fullest extent. Patrons and customers going to any store or restaurant should expect good service. Guess what happens if the service is poor?-customers will not come back, and if a certain employee gets complained on for having poor service, they’ll be fired. There’s always someone ready to take their job.

    The first comment in here is from a waiter who thinks a 15% tip is “lame,” and that’s sad. Not only is it sad, it’s a false sense of entitlement. Waiters think they’re entitled to getting a certain percentage for a tip based on only doing what their job description requires of them, no more and no less than anyone else doing any other job. That’s not and never was the definition nor point of tipping someone. Tipping was never a requirement. A tip is given when a patron believes that the waiter/bartender/whoever the hell the patron feels like, deserves something extra for what they provided. That’s what a tip is meant for.

    If you go into a restaurant and get nothing more than what you expect, why should you pay more? Do you tip 20% to the Subway or Chipotle or any other similar restaurant when they are literally assembling your food for you to your specifications? I sure as hell don’t know anyone who does that, and though they have a tip jar, it’s usually fairly empty. Why are those people any different than a waiter at a restaurant? They’re giving you service. I guess they didn’t come up to ask if you wanted any more water lol. OK wow, you asked me if I wanted my cup refilled, I guess I have to tip you 15-20% for doing something that’s in your job description.

    Waiters will say that their job is hard. That’s subjective for one thing, and for another, that’s not my problem. A waiter that works an 8 hour shift for example, are they going to be busy for all of those 8 hours? I hardly doubt it. They’ll be busy for 3-4 and it be half full at best during their other hours. We’ve all been to restaurants that are half dead, and you being one of the only tables taken up. Those waiters aren’t working hard, they’re hardly working during those shifts.

    Ever go to buy shoes at a shoe store? Ever have the guy there bring you multiple pairs of shoes and spend half an hour with you before you make your decision? He doesn’t get a tip. Ever go to a department or grocery store and have one of their employees spend some time on helping you find all your items? Those people don’t expect a tip, they’re just doing their job

    Here’s some info on the waiters who work in states where they’re not paid minimum wage:
    “If an employee’s tips combined with the employer’s direct wages of at least $2.13 an hour do not equal the federal minimum hourly wage, the employer must make up the difference. Some states have minimum wage laws specific to tipped employees.”

    If you’ll be visiting California, Alaska, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, all the employees, waiters or not, get at least minimum wage. So in essense, every waiter across the country by law, is guaranteed to make at least minimum wage or more.

    I prefer systems such as Australia where people don’t expect to be tipped, they just do a good job because it’s part of their job requirement, the restaurants are operating just fine without losing money for having to pay more than a few bucks, and everyone seems pretty damn satisfied. That’s what I’d like to see in America. Now there’s talk of having all minimum wage raised, and I believe one day waiters from all states will not make $2-3 (before they get comped by the restaurant) and get paid a regular wage.

    If you choose to tip, you have that right, please do, but if you don’t want to tip, that’s your right as well, and I don’t really care if some waiter or bartender objects. Not my problem, and not my obligation. Do the job your boss is paying you to do and don’t look at patrons as a 20% bonus.

  3. Amanda
    February 3, 2014 / 8:43 pm

    I always move the decimal to the left one place, then double that number to get my 20% (I round that number up to the nearest dollar, because change is annoying). I don’t like doubling the tax because different places have different tax percentages.

  4. rere
    February 8, 2014 / 5:01 am

    In Indonesia, half way around the world, when you’re receiving the bill/check, it will contain 10% tax and 5%-10% service tip. So its already included, you don’t have to worry about how much you need to tip the servers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *