Basic rules of tipping should always be observed

Posted: Thursday, August 02, 2001

Q. Before taking my summer vacation, I'd appreciate a primer on tipping -- the cab driver, doorman, porter and waiter. What are the proper amounts? Also, I might include a massage, manicure or haircut in my rest and relaxation. What are the proper tips for those services?

A. Manners experts say travelers' uncertainty over tipping is understandable.

''It can be awkward if you don't do it all the time and just don't know,'' said Peggy Post, whose husband is the great-grandson of etiquette doyenne Emily Post and who is revising the Emily Post series of books.

''Tipping can be very confusing. It is often subjective ... but it is part of our culture.''

Ignorance on the subject is no excuse for tipping too little or not at all, the experts say.

''If you deny these people their tips, you are really robbing them of their salary,'' said Letitia Baldrige, author of several etiquette books.

When considering a tip, Baldrige said it helps to first think about where you are. When eating in an upscale restaurant or getting a massage or your nails done in a pricey salon, tip at least 20 percent. At moderately-priced establishments, give 15 percent.

In beauty salons, you need to tip not only the person who styles or cuts your hair. Remember to give the shampooer -- if there is one -- a few dollars.

What if the salon owner is the person doing your hair, facial or nails? The rule has long been that the owner is not tipped, but that's changing.

''That is a hot potato,'' Post said. ''More and more the owner is tipped today.''

If you don't know, ''ask the receptionist, 'Does the owner accept a gratuity?''' Post said.

In restaurants, consider the quality of service, and tip accordingly. Tip more for superior service, even if there's no waiter and the restaurant isn't a fancy one.

''When you go into a deli and you order a lot of sandwiches for your children and yourself, and there's one guy behind the counter to make them, you should definitely tip him,'' Baldrige said.

And, never -- or at least rarely -- refuse to tip.

''It has to be pretty drastic to totally not tip somebody. It is better to cut back on the tip,'' Post said.

Baldrige agreed, saying, ''If the service is horrible and the waiter is insolent, I always leave something, but I say, 'You know I would have given you more if you had only treated us decently.'''

Keep in mind however, the waiter often can't be blamed for cold food or slow service.

''Don't be unreasonable about the service and rant and rave and leave nothing when the place is too crowded, and the poor waiters and waitresses can't help it,'' Baldrige said.

''You can always write a letter to the management.''

As for lodging and travel services, if a member of the hotel staff brings your luggage to your room, tip $1 to $2 a bag. And, don't forget the housekeeping staff, who should get $2 a night per person.

A tip of 5 percent to 10 percent is appropriate for cab drivers, no matter the city.

A bigger tip is appropriate if the driver loads and unloads your luggage.

Again, tips depend on the quality of service that is provided.

''If a (hotel) concierge does something incredible like get you tickets to a show that no one can get, you give him $20, or more,'' Baldrige said.

Lastly, remember to be gracious when giving a tip.

''A lot of times people forget to say, 'Thank you.' They just hand it over,'' Post said. ''It is a way of saying, 'Thank you,' for a certain service. Trying to do it with an appreciative tone is a good thing to do.''

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