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Don’t short-change your pizza delivery guy again.

By Kristine Gill
Updated April 08, 2020
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Unlike leaving a tip for your server or figuring how much to tip your hairstylist, sometimes knowing how much to tip food delivery drivers or pizza delivery guys is a tricky one. Tipping etiquette varies depending on the situation, but it's always true that a few dollars go a long way, especially during this coronavirus pandemic, when delivery drivers are putting their health at risk to deliver food to social distancing individuals. Here's how to make the transaction smooth and professional the next time you order food delivery, pizza or otherwise.

Should you tip for food delivery?

You should absolutely tip food delivery drivers (or couriers or bikers, in certain cities), whether they're delivering pizza or hot food through a third-party delivery app. While pizza delivery drivers do receive minimum wage, employees whose job it is to drive their personal vehicles to your home—people working for Uber Eats, GrubHub, Seamless, or another food delivery service—with a hot meal are also depending on that little extra money.

Lifestyle and etiquette expert Elaine Swann suggests paying a $3 to $5 tip when the delivery driver arrives.

"Three to five dollars is a sufficient tip," Swann says. "It doesn't necessarily need to be a percentage of the food you ordered."

In other words, unlike calculating a tip for your restaurant server, how much to tip for food delivery or pizza delivery is more of a standard fee, though there are some cases where you might want to tip a bit more, Swann says.

"Maybe you live in a metropolitan area and you have a three-story walk-up. Or say it's raining outside, or it's a bad day for traffic, or it's that time of year with the Super Bowl or something," Swann says. "In those cases, you can give a little more if someone has gone above and beyond."

If you plan to become a repeat customer, that little extra can also go a long way toward assuring top-notch service. And if you have a large order—for a class party, say, or for a large group—plan to tip extra.

How to tip if you paid by phone

These days you can opt to pay by phone when you order your pizza, pay on an app when you order food, or pay the driver for the food when he or she arrives. If you pay by phone, Swann suggests planning to have the $3 to $5 tip available in dollar bills.

"One thing I would try to avoid doing is dealing with coins and loose change," Swann says. "Unless you had to rummage through your house and it's all you found, try to avoid actual coins because that can be cumbersome."

If you plan to pay the driver when he or she arrives, be sure to set aside the cash for a tip separately. Don't simply hand the driver $40 and say "keep the change," Swann says.

In either case, Swann says cash is a preferred method of tipping for most service workers because it ensures that they get the money immediately. (Knowing when to tip in cash can make you a better tipper overall.)

"We don't know what happens if you tip by phone or with your credit card," Swann says. "We don't know if a portion is taken out or it's shared with the rest of the team. So it is always good to have some cash on hand, period, just for tipping."

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A kind gesture

When tipping food delivery (or any service worker), Swann says there are a few things to keep in mind to avoid an awkward encounter.

The first is to fold the bills nicely, and to avoid dropping a fistful of change into the delivery person's hand. On the other end of the spectrum, don't worry about making the exchange covert by shaking hands with a bill pressed in your palm.

"Don't keep bills crumpled or balled in your hand," Swann says. "Just fold it in half and hand it to the person—it doesn't have to be a secret."

A kind word and a smile will also make it clear that the money you're handing over is intended as a tip for the food delivery driver to keep.

"Make sure you say something, like 'Here you go, thank you for your time,' or 'This is for you, thank you,'" Swann says. "Make sure you communicate with them verbally as you hand them that money."

Another tip: be patient, especially when tipping for pizza delivery.

"Let that person take the pizza out of the bag and hand it to you before you tip," Swann says.