To Tip or Not to Tip?

Puzzled by when to hand over a gratuity? An etiquette expert breaks down the rules.

  • Lindsay Funston

Dilemma: If I get bad service at a restaurant, should I still tip?
Verdict: Based on a standard tip of 15 to 20 percent for average to excellent service, tip perhaps 12 percent, advises Jodi R.R. Smith, author of From Clueless to Class Act: Manners for the Modern Woman (Sterling, $10, amazon.com). If you don’t tip and thereby deprive your server of a culturally agreed-on supplement to skimpy wages, “you’re breaking a societal norm and acting in an uncivil manner,” says Smith, who adds, “Two rudes don’t make a right.” Express your dissatisfaction by speaking to the manager. But keep in mind that the waitress can’t cook your meal for you, so don’t punish her if the poor service was the kitchen’s fault.

Dilemma: There are tip jars everywhere now. Do you have to tip everyone?
Verdict:
“Tip-jar gratuities are for those who go above and beyond,” says Smith. If the scooper at the ice cream parlor throws extra jimmies on your Little League team’s cones, tip him. Skip the tip for the girl who simply hands you a doughnut; it’s in her job description.

Dilemma: Do I need to tip for takeout or something that came with free delivery?
Verdict: A delivery person typically gets all the tip, while a delivery charge goes to the restaurant. If you’re picking up takeout, tipping isn’t necessary. Tip a deliveryman about 10 percent of the bill, Smith says. Also factor in the weather, the time he took to deliver the food and whether it’s still hot, and how often you order from the establishment.