6 Times You're Probably Tipping Too Much, Etiquette Experts Say
We'd never discourage overtipping, but you may not realize all the standard protocols.
First, let us say that tipping is never a bad thing. "Many people are very well-intentioned with their tipping, giving at least 10-15 percent even for poor service because they know that workers' wages in many industries, especially bars and restaurants, depend on generous tips," says Ann Martin, director of operations at CreditDonkey. However, this predisposition to tip can lead to leaving too much gratuity in certain scenarios.
Again, this doesn't mean you should ever skip the tip, but it's helpful to know when 20 percent may be more than what's customary. Keep reading to hear from experts about the times you're probably overtipping.
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At some high-end spas
If you get a regular massage or facial, you're going to want to tip the standard 20 percent. However, it's important to note that there isn't necessarily an absolute expectation for this for every spa service, says Kristi Spencer, etiquette expert and founder at The Polite Company.
She points to the "difference between medical and cosmetic services," explaining that high-end or medical-grade services like injections and body treatments might not require that high of a tip.
Colin Palfrey, chief marketing officer at Crediful, adds that some massage therapists are "paid through insurance as a medical or paramedical professional, so they aren't relying on patients to make up for a wage via tips."
"When in doubt, ask the spa staff about their tipping policies," advises Spencer.
For to-go orders and buffets
These days, it feels like 20 percent is considered the minimum tip amount at restaurants. But if you're just ordering a coffee or sandwich to-go, this isn't quite the case.
"For takeout orders and tips for buffet service, a tip of around 10 percent is typically appropriate," says Spencer. "When it comes to delivery services, a tip of 10 to 15 percent is customary."
Jodi RR Smith, etiquette consultant and owner of Mannersmith, also says to consider how complicated your order is when deciding how much to tip for counter-service. For example, you may not leave as much for a simple drip coffee as you would a flavored latte.
"But, if this is a venue you love and want to succeed, tip generously," Smith adds. "The difference of a few dollars may be negligible for you and would mean the world to your server.
As with any tipping decision, etiquette expert Lisa Mirza Grotts, suggests being thoughtful about the service provider's wage. "I always overtip for, say, pizza delivery when I know their base salary is so low."
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When gratuity is included
The practice of including gratuity in a restaurant bill is relatively new, so some folks may not even realize it's been added.
"When the gratuity is already included in your bill, whether it's labeled as a service charge or automatic gratuity, there is no obligation to provide an additional tip on top of that amount," says Spencer. "Of course, if you want to show extra appreciation, you can offer an additional tip. Ultimately, the decision is up to you."
Gratuity is often added when you pay for a meal ahead of time (say, it's a special wine-pairing dinner that you have to reserve), it's a pre-fixe menu, or when you are with a party of six or more
When you're tipping on the post-tax amount
"It's helpful to remember that you are only obligated to tip on the pre-tax total for food and services," notes Spencer.
And if your state has a high tax rate—for example, Louisiana is the highest in the U.S. at 9.55 percent—this can make a big difference on an expensive meal or hair salon trip.
When you're in Europe
The U.S. has very unique tipping practices, so many people may not realize that other countries, especially to Europe, do not tip the way we do.
"Europe mainly includes tips on menus and even cabs," says Grotts. "It's very American to tip, but we pay lower wages for waitstaff—another reason to be generous. The minimum wage is not a living wage, so gratuities help make up for the shortfall."
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If you're feeling generous
Sometimes you may be overtipping by choice, and that's always a nice thing to do.
"Bottom line, if a service worker earns minimum wage or is in an underpaid profession, overtipping is only a matter of perspective," says Palfrey. "If you feel empathy from your own service worker days, or simply feel generous, that large tip will mean a lot more to someone earning minimum wage."
And even if you're in a situation where tips aren't required, "show your genuine gratitude by offering a heartfelt thank you and making eye contact," advises Spencer. "A friendly smile can go a long way in expressing your thanks."