A Brief Guide to Fair Tipping from the Etiquette Expert

A Brief Guide to Fair Tipping from the Etiquette Expert
A Brief Guide to Fair Tipping from the Etiquette Expert

Where do you fall on the tipping spectrum? Do you hand the pizza delivery guy a $20 for your $14 pizza and declare with a grin, "Keep the change," or are you the type who slips the bartender a folded-up $1 bill and hopes he won't notice until after you've downed your $16 martini and skedaddled?

In honor of Larry Fox, the New York City deli delivery guy who outs bad tippers on his website, 15percent.tumblr.com, (and got fired for it), DailyFinance offers a guide to avoid winding up among Larry's gaggle of gratuity grinches. We turned to Jacqueline Whitmore, the founder of etiquetteexpert.com, for advice on how much to tip.

Food server: "I know it's hard to believe, but 18% is the new norm -- 15% is the absolute lowest," she said. "These people work very hard. They're even bussing tables now. This is their livelihood."

To diners' credit, many are following the new standard, she notes. Though you might think people would tip less because of the recession, they're actually more generous these days, said Whitmore. "People going out to eat are eating less and tipping better."

Barber or beautician:
"There is a standard -- 15% to 20%," said Whitmore.

Coat check: $1 to $2 an item.

Manicurist-pedicurist: 15% of the bill.

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Taxi driver: 10% of the fare.

Bartender: 10% to 15%.

Bellhop or airport skycap:
$1 a bag, $2 if the bag is heavy.

Usher at theater or ballpark: "I've never paid an usher," said Whitmore.

Caterer: 15% to 20%. "Sometimes they'll include the tip, because they don't want anybody stiffing them," she says.

Cable guy: "You don't tip those people."

Concierge after he procures tough-to-get theater tickets:
$10 to $20. "if you can afford to pay $300 a ticket for seats, $20 is nothing," Whitmore said.

Exterminator: Whitmore recommended calling the company ahead of time to see if a gratuity is customary and how much.

Fox, the aggrieved delivery guy, gained notoriety when he publicly criticized the staff of the CBS show The Good Wife for giving him a $3 tip for an $89 lunch order. "Three dollars sounds a little small for me," Whitmore said. But, the manners maven added, food delivery tips should not be based on a percentage of the bill like waiters' tips, because delivery people don't take care of customers like servers do. Her solution: Anywhere between $3 and $10 -- aiming more toward the upper end of the range if the order was expensive, or if the deliverer had to brave a storm or climb many stairs to bring you the order.

Whitmore's rule of thumb: If you're ever in doubt in any tipping situation, go with 15%. "You can hardly go wrong with that," she said.