Tipping is my nightmare. I don’t know who expects to be given a bit of extra cash on top of the bill, how much says “you’re lovely” and how little means “this is ridiculous”, or when to offer the money.

It’s a headache that I, as an Australian, was not prepared for or looking forward to when I moved to the US. Tipping introduces too many variables for my tiny mind to handle. I always have to remind myself that it’s necessary and have cash in my wallet to cover those awkward moments when you realise that you’re penniless.

My most embarrassing tipping moment was the first and only time I got a manicure here. I had two nail technicians – one did all the ugly prep work and gave me a 15 minute hand massage, and the other painted my nails.

They both disappeared before I’d paid. Was I supposed to leave a tip for both? One? Neither? There wasn’t even anyone in the salon that I could stealthily watch for tipping protocol. In the end I gave the guy on the register a few extra bills “for the technicians” then scampered out.

I don’t want you to have to live through the same situation so I’ve put together a little list to give you an idea of who to tip and how much to give them.

You’re welcome.
  • Hairdresser: My hair did not cope with the move very well. It’s long, on the frizzy side of wavy and basically a cross between a bird’s and rat’s nest on a good day. I had to sort out a hairdresser pretty quickly. It’s usually a big expense for me – a colour, cut and style does not come cheaply. Add tips to that and..well I baulked a little.
    She chopped and tamed my unruly hair. 10 points! And 25% tip!

    You need to tip the shampooist between $3 and $5 for their services, depending on how much s/he does (apply colour or toner etc.) and you should also tip your stylist even if they are the salon owner. Make it at least 20% extra if you love what they’ve done for your do’.

  • Uber: I’m guilty of not tipping an Uber driver. I’m sorry. In my defense, I wasn’t used to tipping so it didn’t even cross my mind. But etiquette expert Sharon Schweitzer thinks that you should bring cash along and give up an extra 20% of the fare to your driver, even though the official Uber line is that you don’t need to tip.
  • Take Away Delivery: Yeah, I used the Aussie term for this. I miss saying “take away”. Are you crazy? This person has sat in the traffic that you didn’t want to battle, in the rain and cold, to bring you your dinner. Stop being such a tightarse and either give them 20% straight up while you’re ordering online (most restaurants have this option) or have some cash ready for when they arrive. Also, smile at them and say thank you.
  • Bartender: I don’t make the rules, but if I did, I doubt that I’d be tipping the guy who pulled a beer for me. In any case, it seems that’s a thing here so get out your loose change or a $1 bill. If it’s one of those fancy pants cocktails, you may want to part with a little more.
  • Server: Mr M and I went out to breakfast on a holiday of some sort… I think it was just before Thanksgiving last year, and the server said “Happy Holidays” to us about five times with the biggest grin on his face ever. Anyway, these guys get paid a pittance so unless something absolutely horrendous happened during your meal, tipping 20% is customary.
  • Bathroom attendant: Have you ever seen a bathroom attendant in real life? Me neither. But if you happen across one and take a towel or a mint, you should give them at least $1. I mean, they have to hang out in a public restroom for the job.
  • Car Wash: Usually I do it myself but when I’m feeling lazy, I’ll swing past the car wash and give them between $2 and $5 for their trouble. I’m guessing that if you get the deluxe treatment, you should probably part with a little more money.
  • Mani/Pedi/Waxing etc.: Pay attention! If there’s something you don’t like about what they’re doing then tell them while you’re getting your beauty treatment so that they can fix it. Don’t punish them with a bad tip just because they’re not mind readers. Between 15% and 20% is plenty.
  • Movers: This one hurts. If the promise of a slab doesn’t entice your mates to help you out, you’re going to have to tip every single person on the moving crew. Between $25 and $50 each should do it, depending on how many things are broken.

Annual Tipping

We’re coming up to the holiday season, when it’s customary to tip the important people in your life. The people who are there when you need you get locked out of your apartment, or the toilet gets blocked.
  • Super/Building Manager: Last year I baked my building manager a banana cake. I now realise that fiduciary rewards are more commonly expected. This man and/or woman gets you out of some tough binds more often than not. And if they haven’t yet, they probably will in the future. So sling between $50-$100 their way if you can afford it. If not, I’m sure a bit less along with some baked goods wouldn’t go astray.
  • Postal Worker: They can’t accept gifts or cash over $20, but I’m sure they wouldn’t mind a bottle of wine, a cake or some biscuits if you like baking. This is an especially good idea if you’re constantly getting packages and making them haul themselves up the steps to your front door to leave them.
  • Gardener/Housekeeper/Door person: Are you so fancy that you have a gardener, housekeeper or a door person of your very own? Congratulations! You’ve made it in life. Now give them a holiday bonus. They deserve it.

Those are my tips on tipping. Now give me your opinions or tell me if I’ve missed someone. 

Tipping in the US | Tipping | Leaving a tip | Expats and tipping | Aussies and tipping | Aussie | Expat | Aussie Expat in US | expat life
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