Tipping in New York City

Carrying a few dollars in cash is a must in New York City. Service providers depend on gratuities to make a living. Everyone from the server at a restaurant to the tour guide explaining the history of a destination expects and requires a tip. While tipping isn’t a legal requirement, it is a necessity. Many service staff earn less than minimum wage, and it is their tips that make up the bulk of their earnings. To avoid acquiring a reputation as a cheapskate and getting less-than-stellar service, here is a quick guide to tipping in NYC.

Who Should You Tip?

Not everyone you interact with needs a tip. Some jobs pay a living wage, and while gratuities are always appreciated, they aren’t expected. In general, tip everyone who handles your luggage, housekeeping staff, door attendants, concierge personnel, taxi drivers, servers in cafes and top NYC restaurants, baristas, bartenders, coat check staff, hairdressers and other spa employees, delivery drivers, and tour guides. Also, tip for exceptional service in any industry. For the person who goes above and beyond, show your appreciation in the gift that is sure to generate a smile — cash.

How Much to Tip for Each Service

The service you receive determines how much you should tip. Every industry is a little bit different. For taxis and other ride services, along with waitstaff, hairdressers, and manicurists, 15-20% is the norm. Food delivery falls under this category, though you might tip as high as 30% in bad weather. Recent trends put tipping much closer to 20%, so only downgrade to 15% if the service was not excellent.
When tipping on a percentage of the bill, here are a few things to keep in mind.
  1. Tip on the pre-tax total. Sure, you might have a discount coupon or visit during a special event, but always leave your bonus on the total bill before the discount. You still get a deal, but don’t penalize your server for it.
  2. Always round to the nearest dollar. If 20% of the service is less than a dollar, round up. You should never tip less than a dollar for service.
  3. Carry cash for tips. While many places now offer the option to tip on your bill with a credit card, recipients prefer cash.

Tipping a Flat Rate

For services like a bellhop carrying your bag or a concierge making a dinner reservation, you don’t have a bill amount to use. In those cases, you generally tip a flat amount. For luggage handlers, $1-2 per bag is customary, and this includes coat check staff. At a high-end hotel, $2 is reasonable. Housekeeping staff should get $2-5 per day of your stay. Expect to tip $5-10 per service to a concierge. In a salon, you tip the primary consultant at 15-20%, but you also tip anyone else who provided service a small flat rate. For example, at the hairdressers, if someone shampoos your hair, slip them a couple of bucks — $2-5 is the norm. For tour guides, $5 per head is reasonable, unless you book a small group tour. Small groups generally tip on a percent of the bill, and 20% is relatively standard.
You can never tip too much for exceptional service. These are just guidelines for tipping. There’s no rule that you can’t tip more, though you probably shouldn’t tip any less.

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