TIPS ON TIPPING
ET: Are there certain countries where an average tipping amount differs greatly from other countries? Can you point out the countries where tipping procedures are quite a bit different than other countries?
Tipping customs can be very different in other countries, so it's important to do your homework and get to know the culture you're visiting before you take off. In some countries, tipping is not expected for most services. In Italy, you'd tip the same as you would tip for a taxi in the States—about 15% to 20% of the fare. But in restaurants over there and in most of Europe, you'd leave a lot less for the waiter than you would here in the U.S. It's customary to leave just the change from your bill or up to 5% of your pretax bill.
ET: In which country or countries do you believe that waiters, cab drivers, etc. expect the largest tip?
I'm not familiar with enough countries' customs to say definitively, but the U.S. is pretty generous when it comes to tipping.
ET: Some countries include the tip in the bill. Can you point out which countries do this?
In the U.S., in certain instance, tips are included in the bill. Many hotels, for example, include a tip in the room service bill. And many cruise lines, including Carnival and Celebrity, automatically add daily tips onto your onboard account. You can opt to change the tips at the guest services desk onboard.
ET: Do you have any personal tipping instances or funny stories about tipping from other people that you would like share?
When I went on my honeymoon a few years ago, my husband and I really hadn't prepared properly for all the little indulgences we were giving ourselves to celebrate. We ordered room service, poolside service, took surf lessons, did a horseback-riding tour, used valet parking when we rented a car one day, ordered show tickets through the concierge, etc.—and wound up overtipping almost everyone we encountered. We even tipped the maintenance guy who came to our room a few times to fix a clogged drain. I wish we had been more familiar with standard tipping policies then and had budgeted for all of it beforehand.
ET: Is there a difference in the amount that you would tip a cab driver versus a waiter?
In the U.S., it's standard to tip a cab driver 15% to 20% of the fare and a waiter 15% to 20% of the pre-tax bill. You might also tip the driver extra for assistance with any luggage—$1 or $2 each bag.
ET: If you don't like the service, should you tip at all?
Tipping is always at your discretion. These suggested amounts are just that—suggestions… that are in line with what people typically leave. But before you opt out of tipping, you should keep in mind that the people you are tipping count on those gratuities to make a livable wage. Also remember that a lot of people may be involved with providing your services. So, for example, if your food takes a long time to get to you in a restaurant, there may be a backup in the kitchen for some reason, which is totally out of the control of your waiter. So by not leaving a tip, you may be punishing someone who was not at fault.
ET: Many tip advice columns suggest tipping housekeeping but only 30% of guests do. This is one of the few instances where a guest tips before a service is given, rather than on the quality of a service. Housekeepers are also not front of the house nor a tip-based profession. Could you elaborate a bit on that advice?
Housekeepers are often overlooked because you don't always see them performing their service like you do with a bellhop or concierge. But they do provide an important service, and many rely on tips to supplement their lower hourly wages. Of course, tipping is always at your discretion. Stories and advice such as mine are just meant as suggested amounts outlining standard protocol.
I'm not really sure how to respond to your point about tips being given prior to services being rendered. But it's recommended that you leave a daily tip because housekeepers may change shifts, so you want to ensure that you're tipping each person who tidies up your room. If you'd rather minimize your housekeeping tip, you should avoid receiving the services by putting out the Do Not Disturb sign and then just tip the morning you check out.
ET: What are some of the biggest tipping mistakes and how does tipping differ between cultures?
The biggest tipping mistake people make, I think, is just not thinking about it beforehand. You should be prepared to tip by budgeting it into your travel costs and getting to know the customs of the place you are visiting. Tipping standards vary greatly between different cultures. In Italy and much of Europe, the 15% to 20% tip you'd leave your waiter at a U.S. restaurant would be considered extravagant; it's more common to leave just the change from your bill, up to 5%. So you could save some money just by getting to know the culture you are visiting better.
ET: What can travelers do to minimize feeling like a slot machine constantly spitting out dollars when traveling?
If you'd rather skip the tip, you can avoid services for which they are expected, such as the housekeeping example I gave above. Or you can pack lightly and plan to carry your own bags, avoiding assistance from bellhops, skycaps and drivers. Or you can opt to vacation to places where tips are included, such as at some all-inclusive resorts or aboard certain cruise lines.
ET: Is there additional information you'd like to share with our readers about tipping in general?
I'd just like to emphasize how important it is to budget for tipping. It's part of the cost of services, whether it's included automatically or not. So you should be prepared for it and make sure you can afford it without busting your budget.
Stacy Rapacon, Kiplinger Channel Editor