The holiday season is upon us (does it get earlier every year?), and especially for parents, it comes with a host of new errands and tasks to accompany the usual household upkeep. Between planning holiday meals and get-togethers (or just attending them!), navigating crowded grocery stores and streets, and calming excited children who know that Nana brings presents and Grampy arrives with treats, a parent can use a little extra help. Around this time, I sometimes relent and hire experts in food preparation, dust bunny removal, and even grocery delivery to help keep things running smoothly. The issue that continues to confound me, however, is whether or not – and how much – to tip for their services.
I have tipping at eating and drinking establishments covered. I tend to tip well because not only did I work as a waitress for many years, but my husband and I also usually have one or both of our children with us in restaurants. Even well-behaved children need extra attention from a server (extra crackers, please!), so I’m pretty good with in-house tips. That said, if I feel like a server is being lazy or obnoxious, I’ll tip the minimum, which for me is 15% of the actual bill – not including tax. That’ll show ’em!
It’s the other areas of tipping that get me flustered.
Holiday tipping has been covered deftly and completely. But what about delivery of food, “make me look human again” appointments for hair and nails, “big kid bed” delivery, painters, lawn maintenance, chimney and tree repair, dog walkers, and when babysitters or house cleaners have to go the extra mile? Now, I don’t use all of these services, but once I win lotto, I just might. And I want to be prepared.
My basic tipping philosophy is this: I am asking someone else to provide a service that I could very well do myself. I can cook (though some might debate this), I can clean my home, I can paint my own toenails, I could even cut my own hair (Flowbee!), and as for lawn maintenance and clean-up – I could do that too. Therefore, my payment and tip should reflect being grateful for 1) their services for something I would rather not do and 2) being able to afford to pay someone to do something I’d rather not do.
The amount of tip is what gets me. And who gets the tip?
The most common example is food delivery, and I waver on this one. The young man in a beat-up car who delivers pizza has done just as much work as the man in a car-nicer-than-mine who brings us sushi. But if I go by the 10-15% rule, one person gets a much bigger tip than the other. Don’t tell my husband, but I tend to really overtip for delivery. Probably because of the two-pronged guilt: Not cooking and not picking up the food myself. So the guy who brought a pizza and broccoli rabe? He sometimes gets $6 even though $3.75 would be 15%. And the guy who brings sushi for four? He gets about %20, especially if it’s nice and quick (like Sushi Koshi was last night!). But confusing matters are places like T.S. Ma and Nauna’s that have built-in delivery fees ($1 to the driver and $1.50 not to the driver, respectively). Do I knock that fee off of the tip? Perhaps it’s best to go back to the bottom line: Delivery is a luxury. If we can afford to luxuriate, we can afford to throw a couple of extra dollars into the tipping pot.
Now, I know I’m not alone in tipping anxiety. There is plenty of advice to console and contribute to tipping nerves. “Do You Tip Enough?” points out that Zagat diners tip around 19% on average. And then there’s the site that publishes deplorable tipping (and gives some credit to good tipping).
So what do others do around here? Do you follow the “rule” about not tipping the salon owner? I still tip, but I hope it’s shared amongst the staff. Do you tip at take-out? (I go to Starbucks only when my husband drags me there, but yes, I tip – at Beans and picking up from Brick Lane, too.) And what about furniture delivery and set-up? Will the supervisor share equally, even though I’m sure he is paid more than the others despite not doing the heavy-lifting?
Help me out with some advice. How do you handle tipping for services?