The Point of Tipping

Our road warriors offer some guidelines for tipping.

A few months ago, the accounts payable department for one of Suzanne's clients questioned a portion of an expense report. "Eighteen percent for a waiter's tip?" they wrote. "We'll only authorize up to 15%."

This begged the question: Is there a standard rate for tipping? If so, what are the guidelines?

There are hundreds of resources that can tell you how much to tip, from books, to Web sites, to your friend the waiter, who'll chime in at "at least 20%."

The folks at the American Society of Travel Agents list the following tipping guidelines:

  • Taxi/Limo Drivers: Fifteen percent or a $2 to $3 tip; more if he helps you with your bags and/or takes special steps to get you to your destination on time.
  • Porters: A standard tip for airport and train porters is $1 per bag; more if your luggage is very heavy.
  • Hotel Bellman: One dollar per bag is standard. Tip more if he provides any additional service. Note: A $5 tip upon arrival can usually guarantee you special attention should you require it.
  • Doorman: Typically, a $1 tip for hailing a taxi is appropriate. However, you may want to tip more for special service, such as carrying your bags.
  • Concierge: Tip for special services such as making restaurant or theater reservations, etc. The amount of the tip is generally dependent on the type and complexity of service(s) provided—$2 to $10 is a standard range. You may elect to tip for each service, or in one sum upon departure. If you want to ensure special treatment from the concierge, you might consider a $10-$20 tip upon arrival.
  • Hotel Maid: Maids are often forgotten about when it comes to tipping because they typically do their work when you are not around. For stays of more than one night, $1 per night is standard. The staff is instructed not to touch any money in the room unless it is left in the hotel room in a marked envelope.
  • Parking Attendants: Tip $1 to $2 when your car is delivered.
  • Waiters: Fifteen to twenty percent of your pre-tax check is considered standard. The same applies for room service waiters. Some restaurants will automatically add a 15% gratuity to your bill, especially for large parties—look for it before tipping. If the 15% is added, you need only tip up to another 5% for superlative service.
  • Cloakroom Attendants: If there is a charge for the service, a tip is not necessary. However, if there is no charge, or extra care is taken with your coat and/or bags, a $1 to $2 tip is appropriate.

Seems a bit complicated, doesn't it? Throw in the business traveler's need to match his company's guidelines, and you've got a whole ordeal centered around who to tip what and when.

Many business travelers are like Michael, claiming that they don't want to subsidize a company's desire to pay their employees less than minimum wage, as is the case with many waiters and waitresses. These folks think the whole tipping thing has turned into a bit of a shakedown of consumers.

Most business travelers, though, are like Suzanne — they and are more generous and believe that good service deserves to be rewarded.

How much to tip is up to each consumer, but for business travelers, that decision is open for scrutiny. The sticking point for business travelers is balancing their desire for rewarding good service with the company's need to control costs.


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