Tipping 101: Leave the Perfect Tip

Tipping, and doing it right, is one of those mysteries of life. There are many questions surrounding the concept of tipping. Sure, everyone knows that you tip the restaurant server 20 percent for great service. Or do you? What about the hairdresser, the barista at Starbucks, the guy who delivered your flowers for Valentine’s Day?

What is the modern day rule of thumb for tipping? Or are there any rules?

To find out, LadyLUX talked to etiquette experts to see what is recommended for tipping. Follow these guidelines and you’ll never be embarrassed when you’re at a business lunch or on a date.

Carole Holmes Delouvier of Right or Rude, shared her thoughts on tipping. “I am a born tipper. With that said, I will tip very minimally with bad service and say something if it is appropriate,” Delouvier said.

If she encounters a rude cab driver, she said, “I don't tip and I wait till I am out of car and tell him/her they were offensive and should go home and chill out.”

If she’s in a restaurant and has exceptional service, she said, “I pay by credit card usually but then I will leave at least 20 percent tip in cash because it’s better for the server. When I was traveling and stopped at Starbucks in the airport, I left a couple dollars for a barista that was super friendly.”

When you’re traveling and the valet at the airport carries your bag, tip a dollar for each bag they carry. And with hairdressers, tip 15-20 percent. During the holidays, give your hairdresser a $25 gift certificate, or up it to $50 if you can afford it.

Maralee McKee, social skills expert, author, and founder of, said she tends to tip her hairdresser or colorist a full 20 percent. “If you’re having your hair color treated and your bill is $200, a 20 percent tip can seem over the top, but keep in mind that your hairdresser isn’t getting the full $200. Most salons offer a 60/40 split with the hairdresser getting 40 percent of the price. In addition, the cost of the chemicals for your hair (which are quite expensive) are deducted by the salon from the money given to the stylist. In other salons, your hairdresser is given 100 percent of your money; however he or she pays weekly rent for the chair they use. The better the salon, the more expensive the bill, the higher the rent the stylist pays. At the salon I go to, my stylist pays over $500 weekly to rent her chair, plus the cost of all dyes, hair products and such, including if the client accepts a glass of wine or bottle of water that’s offered by the receptionist.”

If you get a massage, tip 20 percent, McKee said. “The therapist has just worked their hands to death rubbing your body for anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes. They deserve that 20 percent. Money saving tip: Book your next message at a chiropractor’s office. As members of the health care profession, no tips are allowed. Often the cost for the massage is less than at a pricey salon, yet just as relaxing and restorative.”

For manicures, pedicures and waxing, she said, also tip 20 percent, especially on pedicures. “The person has been sitting on a stool removing calluses off your feet and cleaning your toenail cuticles, the 20 percent is well deserved.” For that intimate Brazilian wax, go ahead and tip 25 percent since they had to deal with far more than a regular eyebrow wax.

If your sweetheart sends you flowers for Valentine’s Day, no tip is required. “If you order flowers from someone, make sure to ask if the delivery person is going to be tipped from the service charge (he or she almost never is) . If the person won’t be tipped, then ask that a tip of ten percent of the cost of the flowers be added to the bill and given to the delivery person. And add more money if the flowers are being delivered in bad weather,” McKee said.

In a restaurant, tip the server an extra 20 percent on the price of the bottle of wine. McKee said, “Remember, the IRS deducts taxes that the restaurant reports to them on the total of the server’s bill. Plus, a portion of each of his or her tips are given to other members of the restaurant staff (sommelier, bus boys, line cooks, and such) by not tipping 20 percent on that expensive bottle of wine, a server providing you with a lovely dining experience could actually end up making no money or owing taxes for your night on the town. If the sommelier has been extremely helpful, it’s gracious to hand him or her a folded up tip as you shake hands. The amount of the tip will depend on the level on service, the number of bottles of wine purchased, and their cost.”

Jodi R. R. Smith, a national etiquette expert and founder of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, said it’s good to tip your hotel cleaning person $1 per person per day, and to leave it on the pillow of the unmade bed each day. If you wait until the end of your hotel stay, the person who cleaned your room for previous days might not be working that day and won’t receive the tip.

As Delouvier said, “It is right not to tip for awful service, but it is rude to be cheap.”

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