America is a nation of tippers. We tip at restaurants, airports, and parking lots. Many of us tip babysitters, gardeners, and delivery people. Greenbacks slide out of our palms into waiting hands with frequency, especially when we travel or entertain.
But, as often as we tip, just as often it makes us anxious.
When should you tip, and when is it unnecessary? There are always going to be grey areas where you will have to rely on your own best judgment and common sense.
While tipping should not be mandatory, it is expected in many instances of daily life. If you get exceptional service, tip generously. On the other hand, if service is surly, sloppy, and slow, feel no obligation to tip beyond the bare minimum, or even to tip at all.
Who Gets Tipped?
Just about everyone knows to tip their waiter, taxi driver, or skycap at the airport. But what about your child's camp counselor or tennis coach?
While it's unnecessary to tip the camp counselor, if he or she has spent the summer nurturing your child, an envelope with cash and short note is always appreciated. On the other hand, if you are paying the tennis coach or swimming instructor directly and not through a club or other third party, you do not need to tip them.
People who should be tipped include:
- Airport skycaps
- Airport personnel who provide services such as pushing wheelchairs
- Taxi and limousine drivers
- Hotel doormen
- Hotel bellhops
- Concierges (when they help you directly)
- Hotel housekeeping staff
- Bartenders (if you sit at the bar)
- Parking attendants
- Pool attendants at resorts
- Recreational guides (raft trips, fishing trips, tour guides - all depending on the company's policies)
- Golf caddies (depending on the golf course’s policies)
Who Doesn’t Get Tipped?
For the most part babysitters and nannies don't need or expect tips. If your babysitter stays very late on some nights or if you call her at the last minute, a tip is appropriate. And it will surely keep her coming back.
Nannies who take care of your children day after day don't expect tips but you might offer her extra money for a special service, give her a small gift from time to time, or write a thank you check when her tenure with your family is over.
Teachers don't get tips. You can give them end-of-year gifts, but keep these small. Most teachers are happy with a heartfelt note of appreciation.
You do not need to tip lifeguards or golf pros at a club or resort. If they perform an extra duty for you, a tip is appropriate. By the same token, there is no need to tip the front desk staff at a hotel unless someone at the desk acts as a concierge.
If offered in the right spirit, very few people turn down money, which means you won’t go too wrong if you offer tips. There is no need to go overboard, especially if you already are paying these people for performing a service, but there’s also no reason to be stingy!
Note: We consulted the Itty Bitty Tipping Guide and the Emily Post Institute, among other souces, when we compiled this article.