Is Tipping Out of Control?

Is tipping out of control?Who do you tip, for which services? How much should you tip? Do you have to tip?

Questions like these are not uncommon.

After all, there are tip jars at coffee shops & fast food joints, and tipping guides galore — especially around the holidays, but at other times too. (Vacationing? Real Simple just came out with their hotel tipping guide.)

So is tipping gotten out of control? It depends on who you ask.

Do you depend on tips?

If you depend on tips for your living, you’re unlikely to think that tipping is out of control. Instead, you probably mainly notice the very bad tippers and the very good ones.

Who depends on tips for their living? People like restaurant and bar workers (not just servers), taxi drivers, valets, some delivery drivers, cruise ship workers, and strippers.

For those who aren’t aware, the U.S. Department of Labor has this to say about the minimum wage for workers who receive tips:

“An employer may pay a tipped employee not less than $2.13 an hour in direct wages if that amount plus the tips received equal at least the federal minimum wage, the employee retains all tips and the employee customarily and regularly receives more than $30 a month in tips. If an employee’s tips combined with the employer’s direct wages of at least $2.13 an hour do not equal the federal minimum hourly wage, the employer must make up the difference.”

But in practice, there can be problems with the idea that tips + a very low hourly wage will equate to at least minimum wage. (Both compliance problems and problems with people just not knowing how much an appropriate tip is. Hint: 15% is a good minimum amount. If you have problems with your service, talk to a manager about it. Leaving a sucky tip with no explanation just causes people to think you are a bad tipper.)

While we may not like the idea of tips being expected, that’s currently the way it is in the U.S. for these types of jobs. Rather than protest by not tipping adequately, why not work for a change it the laws?

Are tips an added benefit?

However, there are many possible situations where folks might or might not tip. For example, most people tip their hairdresser even though they’re making more than minimum wage. It’s generally considered customary to tip hairdressers and folks who carry your bags at hotels.

But what about places where it’s either up to the individual to spontaneously tip or where a tip jar has been put out?

If you have a vague sense of uneasiness as to whether or not you actually need to leave a tip, that probably means one of two things: either you’ve never been in that situation before (in which case you should consult one of the many tipping guides out there) or you’re in a situation where tipping isn’t expected, but would certainly be appreciated.

Where tipping is simply an added benefit, tip what you feel like tipping (if anything) and don’t feel stressed out about meeting some imaginary requirement.

The proliferation of tip jars themselves may be out of control, but the actual types of situations where folks normally tip haven’t changed all that much.


  • It seems like everyplace I go they are asking for a tip. While I have no problem leaving a 20% tip when I go out to eat I think its ridiculous to expect a tip on takeout. They do absolutely nothing besides get the food from the kitchen.

  • I tip and generally it starts at 20% unless you mess up and then its starts a downward slope. Carrying bags and my food I tip. However like Sean stated people are asking for tips for everything. If you job is based on tips I give a tip like a waitress.

  • I usually give a tip for a good service. But I don’t think it is right to be always asking a tip because they are already paid for the service they render.

  • My tips are always 100% dependent on quality of service. If its bad I leave abysmal tips, good and I leave sometimes up to 25%. I do agree that it’s getting to be tips being practically “required” in far too many areas