Tipping etiquette and customer service
by Barbara Hickey
July 14, 2014 12:00 AM | 1668 views | 0 0 comments | 53 53 recommendations | email to a friend | print

It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.

-Albert Einstein

Recently, I was asked by Gabe Gutierrez, an NBC News correspondent based in Atlanta, if I was familiar with ‘digital tipping’ and what I thought of Starbucks’ latest app and the ability to tip online. I replied I did not know about this means of tipping, but would be interested in knowing what the motivation was behind what Starbucks would call part of ‘Customer Service.’ Gabe reported that because of the long lines of customers waiting for their favorite baristas to make their drink of choice, Starbucks invested in technology with iPhone and Android apps that would move these lines along.

Many of us who support Starbucks or other coffee shops know there is usually a tip cup at the counter or drive-thru window, and even before we have tasted our drink, we leave a tip. Even though we know preparing the drink is their job, or taking the order and making change is their job, we know that they are probably making a little over minimum wage with tips. Though some of us have even formed relationships and want to support their efforts, we should not excuse bad service.

We have become a society that makes excuses for bad behavior and often supports mediocre performance. We need to share our disappointment immediately when poor service is given and hope that when we handle this in a polite way, we will receive a response (not of surprise) but a genuine gesture of apology. We may be helping them to save their jobs.

Gabe’s inquiry caused me to think about TIPPING, this often confusing behavior that should accompany our treating those who help us with KINDNESS and RESPECT, not just money. In return, we should expect good CUSTOMER SERVICE that inspires a tip that goes above the recommended guidelines for the various services that follow:


Sit down/wait service: 15-20 percent pre-tax or entire bill (either one is acceptable);

Buffet/wait service (for drink refills): 10 percent pre-tax or entire bill;

Take out: No obligation unless it is a large order or curb service;

Home Delivery: 10-15 percent of the bill;

Host or Maitre d’: $10-$20 for extra effort to find a table on a busy night;

Coat Check Attendant: $1.00 per coat;

Bartender: 15-20 percent or $1.00 per drink;

Musician in Lounge: $1-$5.00;

Wine Steward or Sommelier: 15 percent of wine bill;

Restroom Attendant: $1-$3.00; and

Valet Parking: $2-$5.00 when car is delivered to you.


Skycap (Amtrak Porter): $2 per bag or more if heavy and $5-$20 if they assist in getting you to your gate on time;

Motorized Cart Driver: $2-$3.00 per person;

Valet or Parking Attendant: $2-$3.00 only required when returning the car;

Hotel Doorman: $1-$2 for services such as helps you with bags ($1 per), takes bags to the room ($2 per bag), helps with directions or restaurant recommendations;

Bellman: $1-$2 per bag when he delivers them to the room or when checking-out and he takes them to the lobby;

Front Desk: No tip necessary unless they have assisted early check-in or late check-out;

Concierge: $5-$10 for hard to get dinner reservations, theatre tickets, sporting event tickets;

Room Service: If the gratuity is on the bill, give the delivery personnel $2.00; If it is not on the bill add 15 percent to the total; and

Maid Service: $3-$5 per day or more if you have made a mess. Leave the tip daily

as there can be a different maid each day.

Next month, I will cover other areas of service where tipping is discretionary, but where warranted it is important to reward good customer service and send a message that poor service is not tolerated.

Until then, let me leave you with this thought:

If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful. — Jeff Bezos

Barbara Hickey of Mableton is a community volunteer and owner of The Etiquette School of Atlanta. 

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