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6 Places You Should Never Tip, According to Etiquette Experts

While it's always a good idea to recognize great service, it's not expected everywhere.

Whether it's dropping an extra buck or two when paying for your morning coffee or tacking on 20 percent at the end of a meal at a restaurant, tipping is a normal part of doing business in the U.S. But as payments have shifted more toward credit cards and technology has changed, the instances in which gratuity is appropriate have arguably become more muddled. And while it's always nice to show appreciation for a job well done, there are a few cases where you might be off the hook from leaving a little extra cash. Read on for the places where etiquette experts say you should never tip.

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Service technicians

plumber working on a sink
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

No matter how handy you are, springing a leak or running into electrical issues at your home is usually a sign you'll need to bring in some outside help. But while these technicians are servicing your home or equipment, there's no need to pay an extra percentage for their hard work—especially considering how much most typically charge.

"I don't think my plumber or electrician expect a tip," etiquette expert Lisa Mirza Grotts tells Best Life. "I'm sure they absorb it in their billing practice."

Flight attendants

flight attendant serving food
Svitlana Hulko / Shutterstock

When it comes to high-stress jobs, it's hard to think of a position that involves more patience and understanding than working as a flight attendant. After all, the same crew members who serve mid-flight beverages and meals are also charged with keeping passengers safe in case of an emergency—while also catching the brunt of any travelers who suddenly become unruly. But while getting handed a beverage might automatically trigger your instinct to tip, it might not be the right thing to do on a plane.

"Generally, it's better to think of them as first responders instead of service providers," says Kristi Spencer, business etiquette expert and founder of The Polite Company. "Being a cooperative passenger and a simple and genuine 'thank you' at the end of the flight are the best ways to show your gratitude."

While it may seem harsh, some airlines have unfortunately adopted policies prohibiting flight attendants from accepting cash tips under threat of punishment, Southern Living reported. But if you're adamant about showing some appreciation, you might want to wait until landed.

"Some passengers pass the tip to flight attendants as they are leaving so as not to bring attention to the exchange," Steffanie, a major airline flight attendant with nine years of experience, previously told Best Life. "If I'm asked if it's okay to tip me, I let them know it's not necessary, but it's their choice."

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While traveling in some countries

A woman standing in front of the Sagrada Familia cathedral
iStock / AzmanJaka

Arguably, the greatest part about traveling abroad is being able to experience a culture that's different from your own. But while tipping may be customary in the U.S., it might not be the norm where you land.

Keep this in mind while making arrangements to eat out or booking tours or reservations in other countries. "You will need to do your homework and read up on the customs before travel," suggests Grotts, adding that the expectation of a tip can also show up in some surprising places that aren't customary at home.

Gratuity-included restaurants

Woman Dining at High End Restaurant

Restaurants have long stood as the go-to example of a business in the U.S. where a 20 percent tip is customary for good service. However, not all dining establishments run the same way—including some that have built-in gratuity to the menu or bill.

"When you go to a restaurant that is prix fixe and everything is included or you pay ahead of time, you don't need to tip," says Grotts. In many cases, this can be the policy at higher-end restaurants or with fine dining.

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Professional or health services

A couple sitting with an accountant and going over their taxes

Filing your taxes and staying on top of your health are important jobs that often require outside help. However, that doesn't mean you need to be adding on to your bill for their services.

"Tipping professionals like doctors, accountants, and lawyers, isn't advised because it crosses professional boundaries," says Spencer. "Instead, say thank you with a thoughtful card, a positive review, or a referral."

Curbside deliveries

A woman in her car paying for curbside pick up groceries with a credit card
iStock / fotostorm

Even though some stores have long offered it, services like curbside pickup for groceries or food orders have become even more common since the COVID-19 pandemic. But while it may be customary to tip for drop-offs, it may not be acceptable to do the same for grabbing items at the store.

"When you use curbside pickup for groceries, make sure to check the store's tipping policy," advises Spencer. "Some places don't allow tipping for pickup services, even though they may allow tipping for deliveries."

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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