As my mother's de facto tipping expert, I initially wanted to discuss tipping after listening to an EconTalk podcast with Anthony Gill on the topic last November but was unsure of what I had to contribute on the subject matter. However, after a lively group text about whether I tipped enough for a surprisingly cheap haircut at the VA barbershop, it was clear that we had divergent tipping practices and I felt compelled to share my thoughts.
When used optimally, tipping should be a reward for providing better than expected service. It can also be used by the customer to signal that she is willing to pay more for premium service. A couple of dollars in the tip jar while ordering at a food truck can go a long way towards making sure you get a stacked sandwich or larger than normal sack of fries. I am not sure when it became a social norm to use tipping to subsidize restaurants that underpay their staff. My preference would be to pay higher food prices and not be expected to tip for average service. Because people do not openly discuss their tipping practices, there appears to be significant variation in how individuals tip.
I have included some of my tipping practices below. Please comment to share your tipping habits or resources that have influenced your behavior.
- Takeout/fast casual: 10% or $1/entree
- Dine-In: 15% for bad service or 20% for everything else (% of total bill tax included)
- Haircut: $5 (haircut for me under 20 bucks)
- Alcohol: $1/beer or unmixed drink, 15-20% cocktail
- Coffee: $1 (I drink black coffee)
- Crowded Bar: tip upfront for anticipated number of drinks
- Bell Boy: $1-2/bag when I drop off my bags off
- Street Musicians: $1-2 if I stop to listen
- Extraordinary service- my discretion