There are so many ways in which tipping plays a key role in your NYC experience, whether you’re ordering drinks at a bar or taking a taxi. The right time and amount to tip are hard to figure out in a town that is known for its service. As you prepare to travel to New York City (or any other city in the United States), be sure to review our cheat sheet on tipping manners.
Staff in restaurants and bars, bartenders, baristas at cafes, bellhops, valets, guide services, barbers, beauticians, and delivery staff are among those who require tips. It’s also important to note that when we say ‘require,’ we mean that leaving a tip is the norm in most cases.
Employees (such as wait staff who make less than minimum wage) heavily rely on their tips to make ends meet. If you don’t tip, it will cause bad karma. Besides, in a worst-case scenario, you can get publicly shamed for being a cheapskate. Whatever your stance on tipping is, it really doesn’t matter. If you’re staying in town, you’d better be prepared to tip.
Give the bellhop $1 per bag if he helps you carry your luggage (or $2 if you are staying at a higher-end hotel). Make sure you tip the doorman who helps you hail a taxi between $1 and $2. It is recommended that you pay your housekeeping staff between $2 and $5 per day, depending on the type of service they provide.
Don’t forget to clearly label the tip (hotel rooms usually have an envelope where you can leave it). For each service provided by concierges, you should pay them $5 to $10 (like making dinner reservations, getting theater tickets), and more for more complicated services (repairing your mobile phone, organizing a customized tour).
Taxis & Car Service
The golden rule of 15% to 20% applies here to drivers. You should tip one dollar and round up for short taxi rides (such as those that cost $6 or $7). In New York, some people don’t tip their car service drivers, believing they’re usually included in the fee. It’s rarely the case (although you can confirm this by calling to order a car service), so be prepared to tip (the tip is 15% for satisfactory service, 20% for excellent service, like helping you with your bags).
Traditionally, a server’s tip at any restaurant used to be between 15% and 20% of the bill before taxes. In recent years, 20% has become the norm. If you give less than 15%, it indicates that you were not happy with the service.
Giving a complete stiff to someone serving you is never a good idea. It is still important to leave something, even if you are unsatisfied with the service, as many factors are out of a server’s hands. It is expected to tip ten percent at the very least. However, the service must be incredibly bad to warrant such an outrageous tip.
If you are using a discount coupon, make sure to tip the retail price of the meal, not the discounted amount. In other words, if you have a $50 meal discounted from $100, consider leaving a $20 tip instead of a $10 tip.
In most cases, the service charge is not included in the bill. There are fixed-price menus as well as prices associated with special events like restaurant week. Just tip the normal amount (about 20%). However, there is one exception: if five or more of you are traveling, your bill may automatically include the service charge.
Unless you’re dining out at a place with a cover charge (live music, for example), tipping is only necessary for food and drinks. The US does not practice tipping the maitre d’ or other staff members. When it comes to getting a table at a difficult-to-reserve restaurant, it might be possible to bribe the host or hostess, but this only works occasionally.
Bars & Clubs
In the case of ordering at the bar, you should at least leave $1 per drink. In the case of cocktails (which typically retail for $12 to $18 these days), a tip of $2 or $3 is usually given to the mixologist.
Leaving 15% to 20% at the end of the evening is a good idea if you’ve been running up a tab. Bouncers and door staff are rarely tipped at nightclubs. You may be refused entry, or the official may simply pocket the cash and keep you out for a while! Coat checks are typical $1 or $2 per item.
Hairdressers, Salons & Spas
It is recommended that you leave 15% to 20% to the person who cuts your hair. If you’re having your hair washed by someone else, give them $2 to $5. It is common for salons to provide separate envelopes for staff members, handy if you’re likely to be assisted by more than one person.
It’s also a good idea to carry some small notes. Credit cards are accepted in most places, but cash tips are most common. Leaving a 15% to 20% tip for manicurists, masseuses, and other professionals in the industry is appropriate.
A tip of 15% to 20% is usually appropriate for tour guides who lead small groups. You should expect to pay $5 per person if you’re taking a bus tour.
In the case of an order that costs less than $10, tipping should be between $2 and $3. If the bill is higher than that, tip 15% to 20% of the total. Make sure you adjust your tip according to the weather (for instance, rain, snow, or hurricane winds roaring overhead).
Especially if your delivery person made the delivery during a heavy snowstorm, you’d expect to give them a 30% tip. If you are ordering online or paying with a credit card, you can add the tip in advance and make the payment, or you can pay cash when the order is delivered.
Cafes, Sandwich Shops & Food Trucks
Generally, when you order at the counter, it is recommended to leave 10 to 15% on every order, preferably no less than $1. It’s a common practice for people to place their spare change in the tips jar.
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