The Tipping Point


The Tipping PointTop Tips for Giving Gratuities

By Lori Hutzler Eckert

Tipping is one of those time-honored customs that can feel like a snare, set to tax our manners and test our social standing. All too often, consumers are left feeling confused and even embarrassed because they are basically left to their own devices to determine the proper timing and amount of a gratuity.

Some people tip to ensure that they will receive top-notch service upon the next visit, while others tip as a monetary thank-you for the service received. Either way, a tip is directly related to an individual’s level of satisfaction and expectations.

And to be sure, tipping is an economic cornerstone, particularly in a resort community such as the Emerald Coast. Many of the area’s frontline employees in our booming hospitality industry are dependent on supplementing their incomes through gratuities.

The most common place for tipping is at a restaurant, where the unwritten rule of leaving from 15 percent to 20 percent of the total bill as a gratuity is standard practice. However, some situations call for additional tipping.

Ann Robinson, an etiquette consultant located in DeFuniak Springs, said that the services of a wine steward in a fine-dining restaurant should be considered separate.
“The wine steward is tipped according to the price of the wine,” she said.

Robinson, who holds a certification from the Protocol School in Washington, added that generally the remaining staff, including a table captain, will share the standard tip. However, if you have had an exceptional experience, you can choose to give a larger sum. It is acceptable to tip a maitre d’ (which is French for “master of the hall,” by the way) for preferential seating, but the exchange should be inconspicuous.

Robinson does stress that if service is below par in a restaurant, tip 10 percent.

“If your service is particularly bad, do not ever, ever leave something like a nickel or a quarter,” she said. “If it is so bad that you don’t want to leave 10 percent, then you find the manager and explain what you did, but don’t be insulting.”

Outside of the dining room, there are many other services for which tipping is expected, but the guidelines are a bit gray.

For courtesies such as a doorman opening the door, a tip is not necessary. However, if the doorman carries any items for you, a dollar per bag or package should be sufficient.

If the doorman hails a cab, a tip definitely is in order. Robinson suggests a dollar for basic curbside service, but the amount should increase according to the doorman’s efforts.

One to two dollars also covers services received from a restroom attendant, coat attendant or car valet.

For deliveries such as flowers or furniture, tips are not necessary. However, food is the exception to this rule, and the delivery person should be given a gratuity at the time the food is received.

Other tipping rules dictate that giving a gratuity is not expected for services such as paper delivery, lawn care, home maintenance or any instance in which you incur a service by the owner of a salon. Robinson said that for these efforts, you may consider an annual gift, such as a holiday bonus or birthday gift.

“I think you will find, generally, that your service will be better if you show your appreciation in some way,” she said. “Showing appreciation I don’t think ever hurts.”