WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. — Used to be, you’d throw a few coins someone’s way to say thanks for a job well done.
Then tipping became a lot more complicated.
Now, as the minimum wage heads upward and the sharing economy throws a wrench in the well-oiled tipping machine, it’s not getting any simpler.
For a taxi, you tip. For an Uber, you don't. But how do you know?
“I teach a lot of well-rounded people that want more polishing in certain aspects,” says Melissa Leonard, an etiquette expert from Mamaroneck. “Especially with millennials. More millennial clients will say to me, 'I'm successful but feel like I’m not presenting myself well enough.'”
Bottom line: If you don't know how to tip, ask. And if you like your service, tip 10 to 20 percent, depending on the service.
But even with restaurants, that's changing.
Eric Korn, of Wolfert's Roost in Irvington, owns the first fine dining restaurant in Westchester County to eliminate tipping, following in the steps of Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group in Manhattan. Both are doing so to even out the disparity in wages between waitstaff and kitchen workers. As the minimum wage grows, so would their difference in pay.
When Korn first took tipping away in January, he made headlines. Now things have settled down.
"It seems like there was a lot of buzz in the beginning," he said. "But now, especially in the restaurant, it's very quiet and status quo. No one questions it, no one mentions it, no one thinks about it. Everybody is very comfortable."
He had to raise some prices, but he says he hasn't lost any customers because of it.
But to know not to tip, you have to do your homework first. “I think it’s smart to find out what’s included in the price,” says Leonard. “You only have to do it once. Research to find out if your service includes a gratuity.”
For programs like Uber, where tips are not required because of the company’s policy of hassle-free riding, she still suggests giving one. “Naturally you don’t have to tip, but I find it nice and proper for their hard work,” says Leonard. “If they get you there quick and (keep) you out of traffic that’s exceptional service.”
Some Uber drivers are adding signs in their car encouraging passengers to leave tips and she says that’s fine. “If they help you with your luggage or the door you can give them more. If they go above and beyond it’s OK to give more.”
In the case of Airbnb, where customers rent space in someone’s home, Leonard says there’s no requirement to leave a tip for the owner, but leaving money for the person cleaning your space is required. “You’ll be very surprised at what you get for this; people appreciate it and it comes back to you,” says Leonard.
Not being as savvy with tipping etiquette, some millennials may have a misstep now and then, says Leonard. But the ultimate sign of disrespect is forgetting or omitting a tip altogether even if you get bad service.
“It’s just not nice,” says Leonard. “Unless someone did something to you; I would still rather give a small tip to avoid a confrontation or words.”
To tip, or not to tip
Many workers who rely on tips make minimum wage — or less. Here's a guide on what's fair when tipping in these service industries.
Hair stylist/nail technician
Going rate: 20 to 25 percent. Don’t forget to give a gratuity to the assistant who washes your hair – the range for that tip is anywhere between $5 and $25.
Erica de Waal Diaz, who runs the Lief Beauty Boutique in Nyack, said for “boutique services,” such as hair, skin and nails, beauticians always aim to give “additional time and attention” to clients. “Ultimately, customers should always tip at a level they feel comfortable based on the attention they received,” de Waal Diaz said. She added, “We are grateful that our clients are very generous – in all businesses where tipping is customary, employees generally don’t make a standard hourly wage, so tipping plays a huge part in an employee’s income.”
Going rate: $1-$2 per drink or 15 to 20 percent of the check.
A good bartender can be both friend and confidant. And Bethany Suppa, bartender at the Craftsman Ale House in Harrison, knows that the better she is at listening, the more she makes in tips. "The more you get to know the customers, the better," she says. "The tips get bigger when you have conversations with them." And if you're a regular? Be generous. "Regulars tip more than people just stopping in," she says.
Food counter service
Going rate: $1-$5
While at restaurants waitresses can nearly always expect a tip at their tables, the people who work behind the counter of cafes like the Katonah Reading Room don’t really have that guarantee. “If someone doesn’t tip, we don’t look at that negatively,” said Grace O’Malley, a counter clerk at the Katonah Reading Room. “It’s kind of an extra, whereas waiting tables it’s expected and that’s your whole check basically; for us, it’s in addition.” The trick to getting tips from behind the counter, she said, is to engage with the customer, get to know regulars, and be knowledgeable about the products. “It’s definitely an incentive to have a positive, brief interaction,” O’Malley said.
Going rate: $1 or change from a leftover dollar
People like (and often need) their caffeine quickly in the morning. So for Christina Williams, a staff manager at Hastings Tea in White Plains, speed is everything when it comes to getting tipped. Here are the factors she said affect their tips: “If people felt we were efficient and fast, we get your order correct without having to ask too many questions, and we got you in and out of the door within a reasonable amount of time.” Williams said the tip should be “whatever you feel is appropriate,” but that most people give about $1 with a coffee or tea order.
Valet parking attendant
Going rate: $2
It costs $10 plus tax for valet parking at Westchester’s Ridge Hill in Yonkers near the WESTMED doctors’ offices.
Felix Almanzar works at the valet parking and he said tipping is not obligatory and he estimated that about a third of clients don’t tip, especially the handicapped. “It’s something that comes from the heart,” said Almanzar.
Going rate: $2 or $3
That tip jar at the exit of the car wash? Filling it is optional, yes, but always appreciated. Manuel Salazar at Yonkers Hand Car Wash said the attendants who vacuum before the wash and towel dry afterwards don’t demand tips, although there is a secured white plastic bucket near the exit. “It’s really up to the customer and it depends on how good a job they think we did,” said Salazar. One thing Salazar noticed is that drivers with modest cars tend to tip more than luxury car owners. “The guys who come in expensive cars only have enough to pay for their cars,” Salazar said.