Tips for Tipping: What's Your Gratuity IQ?

How to determine a proper tip may be considered one of life's mysteries. Is it 10%, 18%, or 20% of the bill? Do you give an additional tip when the tip is already included in the bill, and how do you determine who should get a tip, anyway? Sometimes it's easier to guess the weather than how much or who to tip.

Here is a point to consider: Many employees depend on tips for much of their income. In fact, the minimum wage an employer must pay drops below $2.50/hour in 12 states for workers earning tips. The restaurant customer is more the employer of a waiter than the person who hired him.

Coffee Houses and Casinos

In cafes, the average hourly wage for a barista is $8.10. Tips typically boost their pay rate per hour to $10.35. Their bosses, cafe managers, earn an average hourly wage of nearly $11.00. Surprisingly, tips matter for the managers too, bringing in another $1.25/hour.

In Casino and Gaming, we have two job types that stick out: gaming dealers and change booth cashiers. The change booth cashiers typically make a higher hourly wage at $12.31/hour than gaming dealers at $7.50/hour, but their tips potential is much less; it's the gaming dealers who are "rewarded" with tips for dealing "lucky hands."

In fact, unless you're a regular high-roller, you might not even know that you're supposed tip the change booth cashiers.

The tips of change booth cashiers can usually boost their hourly wage by $2.42 to $14.73, whereas the average gaming dealer can pump up his or her hourly wage by an additional $18.36/hour to earn more than $25/hour. Gaming dealers' tips represent a whopping 71% of their income.

Nanny Salary Rate vs. Babysitter

The Child Care category yielded two jobs that most people are familiar with: babysitter and nanny/au pair. Even though these workers are responsible for the safety of their client's children, both jobs receive very little in the way of tips! babysitters can expect approximately a wage rate of $7.77 per hour, whereas a nanny/au pair can expect $11.09 per hour.

Tips represented 5% of a nanny's hourly pay rate and 16% of the babysitter's. Clearly, it pays more to deal blackjack in Las Vegas than to care for a child; maybe we need to bone up on tipping day care employees.

Slipping the Minister a C Note

Surprisingly, in some cases pastors or rabbis should get tips. There are occasions when one tips a pastor, or pays an "honorarium." Weddings and funerals are prime examples.

Rabbis saw 40% of their income from tips in the database. Pastors have a similar uplift from honorariums, but to a lesser degree. Their average honorariums represent 23% of the average salary for a pastor. I recommend tipping the mohel before hand, and tipping generously.

These are two jobs, which receive a significant portion of their income from tips.

Gratuity for Hair Stylist

In the salon, employees live and die by the tips. Manicurist makes only $11/hour in wages, but tips are $21/hour, increasing pay by a whopping 67%! Some manicurists have an opportunity to earn commissions on products and services as well. Tips turn a job at the poverty line to a respectable wage in any city.

Similarly, hair stylists earn wages of nearly $14/hour, but tips increase income by 40% to about $20/hour. Commissions for selling products can also be an important source of income for hairstylists.

Hourly Rates and Tips in Hospitality

In the hospitality industry, there is a job where it pays more not to be in management. Bellhops and their supervisors are making a base hourly wage of $9.00 and $8.50 respectively. Bellhops score even bigger with tips, which push their total pay to $16.75.

Room service clerks make about $5.50/hour, but tips increase total income to more than $11.50/hour, when tips are added to the equation. Chauffeurs, with base pay at $11.50/hour, can earn a nice tip to bring their total compensation to 16.75/hour; this especially works if they know the bouncer at trendy late-night bars.

While you may not be violating federal laws on restaurant tipping by leaving small tips, it definitely hurts the wait staff. Waiters, waitresses and bartenders make more than 50% of their income through tips and gratuities. For example, a typical bartender pulls down about $7/hour in wages, but tips push total pay to $18.25/hour.

Stiffing a waiter is not like a boss skipping the 5% holiday bonus; it is cutting the waiter's pay in half.

If calculating a proper tip is tough to do on the spot, wallet-sized tip cards do all of the work for you.

Copyright 2007 PayScale, Inc.

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