Tipping dates back to 18th century England, when an urn would be placed in pubs with a simple sign that read, “To Insure Promptitude.” This was later shortened to the acronym T.I.P. or “tip,” as it is currently called. While originally a way of ensuring good service, tipping is now expected at most businesses where a personal service is performed.

Some establishments include a tip or gratuity on your bill no matter how small the size of your party, but this is rare. Rather, tipping is an expected and essential part of any experience. In most cases, employees working in industries where tipping is expected make less than minimum wage, and rely heavily on tips. At present, average pay for waiters and waitresses is $2.12 per hour, most or all of which is used to pay taxes on their reported tips.

How do you know when and whom to tip? How much is the appropriate amount? Tipping expectations vary according to the service performed. Some businesses, such as food and beverage service, personal grooming, bellhops and taxi drivers expect a tip every time a transaction is conducted. Other businesses are more flexible with their tipping standards.

For example let’s say a New York resident’s toilet overflows at 2 in the morning and he needs to call a plumber. After researching NYC contractors on the Internet, he finds one that is willing to come out despite the late hour. Out of gratitude, the resident may tip above the expected $20 to $30 because of the inconvenience and well as his satisfaction with the contractor’s service.

Bus and limo drivers, on the other hand, may be prohibited by company policy to accept tips. For this reason, if you are using a service and are unsure whether tipping is expected or discouraged, call the company beforehand or do research on the Internet. Typically, this information is readily available and may help you avoid embarrassing situations.

Finally, as to the recommended amount, this also varies according to the service performed. Restaurants and bars, which are the most likely places you will be tipping on a regular basis, once accepted 10 to 15 percent. However, this has increased to 15 to 20%, depending on the quality of the establishment and service provided. This tip should be calculated based upon the entire amount of the bill. Most businesses that expect tips also follow this 15 to 20 percent guideline, or a flat tipping amount.

The next time you are in a situation where tipping is expected, don’t be caught unaware. Familiarize yourself with the accepted practices of the business you will be utilizing, and you will find that your service provider will go out of his or her way to ensure that your experience is as pleasant and enjoyable as possible.


Image: Richard Stribling