Tipping in USA

I'm visiting USA soon (really really soon) and need advise on tipping.

Hate tipping in general.

My understanding is 15% for any service (sit down meals, tour guides etc).

If I do a $600 helicopter ride am I expected tip another 15%?

What other tricky tipping situations should I expect to arise?

What tricks can I use to avoid tipping :D


  • +23

    You wouldn't normally tip the helicopter pilot much like your flight attendants on the plane.

    • -18

      Wait you gotta tip flight attendants on the plane?????? BS right?

      • +17

        Read what I said again ;) You wouldn't.

        • +2

          oh soz, I read it as, unlike your flight attendants. Phew thanks.

    • +1

      Bus drivers expect tips on tours

      why wouldnt a helicopter tour be different

      • +1

        You generally tip the tour guides. If the pilot themselves are the tour guide then feel free to.

        • +7

          For tour guides I'd say $5-10. Not 15% of the tour price

          • @AndrewCh: You'd be stupid to do 15%.

            • -1

              @Clear: I think the way it works there is tipping is expected to be [10%, 15%, whatever it is] and an average is worked out of how many tours you'd get through on a typical day. The guide is then has to pay that tax on the 15% whether or not you give it to them.

              So no, you wouldn't be stupid to tip 15%. You'd be fair. Same in fancy restaurants - let's say you paid $5,000 for a function, you should also tip $500+ as otherwise you are literally stealing that money from the server.

          • +1

            @AndrewCh: Bear in mind that's per day ie if you're doing one of those bus tours that goes for a few days, you'd be looking at $10 per day, so if it's a 5 day tour then you'd tip about $50 at the end of it.

      • Might as well tip your airline pilot on internal flights by that logic.

    • +1

      I dont agree.
      You tip the person providing the service!
      In this case the pilot who is providing the service.
      (I assume no other staff on board)
      Not the cashier!

      And 15% is only a guide….

      10% for not so good service
      15% for good service
      20% for excellent service

      I have been on plenty of coach tours where the driver was tipped.
      The driver then shares the tip with his associates.

      But OP will quickly find out when other people start tipping

      • +20

        If the service is not so good, they’re getting 0%, not 10%.

        • +2

          100% unless the service is good do not tip! otherwise you can get away with 12% everywhere bar NYC

        • -4

          10% is for not good service. It is almost never ok not to tip, that would be like refusing to pay the GST on your meal in Australia because it was below standard. it is an expected base part of the cost. 10% is basically telling them their service sucked.

          • @gromit: So is 0% what are they gonna do?

            • +6

              @R-Man: at 0% you are basically taking money out of their pocket as they will be taxed as if they received a tip. Personally I am just not that obnoxious or rude to steal from someone so lowly paid unless they have done something extra special to deserve it, which I can say has never happened in any of my trips to the US.

              As to what are they gonna do, hopefully nothing! doesn't make it less wrong.

              • +1

                @gromit: Alright thanks for explaining. I probably won't leave 0% then.

                Still, why is it my (or our) responsibility to compensate for the ridiculous system they choose to work in?

                (I guess the answer is "don't eat at restaurants then" which is fair)

                • +10

                  @R-Man: I agree it is a stupid system, but they hardly "choose" to work in it, they generally have no choice as it is what is forced on workers over there. basically if you go into a restaurant over their you should be looking at the prices as X+20% to cover taxes and tips. The US doesn't have rules like a Australia where the sticker price includes all fees etc, Even shops you will get hit for sales tax ontop of the sticker prices. I hate the system too, but while there you really should try to follow it otherwise you are just screwing the victims.

                  • +1

                    @gromit: They do 'choose' the level of service they provide though. So if it's terrible, don't feel bad about not tipping.

                  • -1

                    @gromit: They absolutely choose to work in that system.
                    Waiters make significantly more than minimum wage, and whenever a serious challenge to tipping laws comes up, the people who actually work in the industry are suspiciously silent.

                    Compare how much a waiter can make in an hour vs. an employee at a retail store

          • +9

            @gromit: Not sure why you got negged - you’re absolutely correct. I’ve had friends who were followed out and sworn at by staff after leaving a restaurant tipping 10%.

            I don’t think anyone on Ozbargain particularly condones it but is an unfortunate part of visiting the US

            • @hayne: This. My husband and I got followed out and insulted by staff after we left a small tip because their service was quite bad.

              • +1

                @Laurana: Sounds like you tipped too much!

                • +2

                  @Scrooge McDuck: We ate at a place at the Grand Canyon and the service was dreadful. When they gave us the bill it had a service fee on it. I asked “is that was the tip”and they said “yes”. I said “take if off you aren’t worth it”.

          • @gromit: Difference being GST is a legal tax. Tipping isn’t a legal requirement.

            One must earn their tip and not expect it.

            Sorry for the late reply, have been holidaying.

  • +21

    It’s often written on the bill.
    It is expected, not leaving a tip may lead to you getting yelled at.
    Not leaving a tip or a sufficient tip will effect service if you order again.
    Also be aware that sales tax varies state to state and on the item.
    In USA you don’t have to state the price with tax like you do here.
    So menu prices don’t include tax or tip.
    Grocery sticker price won’t include tax.
    I good idea when you buy something is to ask for small change $1 bills etc
    Keep the $1 bills rather than spending them and this is then used as tipping money, so you don’t have to break a big bill to tip someone correctly or overtip

    • +4

      There's some pro tips!

    • +2

      It’s often written on the bill.

      Yes, it is, but don’t trust it. They often had the standard percentages (12, 15, 20 in nyc) but were incorrect calculations to make lazy people tip higher.

    • +4

      You should pay your tip based on the pre-tax amount, not after tax.

      • This is important to know as some people don't realise.

    • +165

      What a shithole country

      • -29

        You win the prize for over generalization of the day….

      • +2

        I was reading the post and my anger was building so much that I felt like reading to the end and writing “what a shithole country”. Now I won’t have to read to the end of the comments, you said it for me.

      • +1

        The service in the US is generally amazing though, I miss it all the time here in Australia.

        • I didn't really notice that the couple of times I've been there.

          People in tip-worthy jobs tended to be about the same as people in similar (but without the tipping) jobs in Australia, which are generally OK in my experience. People unlucky enough to be in non-tip-worthy jobs (hello, surly guy at McDonald's counter) were just woeful.

          • @AngusD: Did you go to any restaurants?? It was outstanding service every time for me.

            • +1

              @trapper: Yeah, we went to a few. The service was certainly good, but nor was it any better than I'd expect in an equivalent sort of restaurant here.

              One thing I did find interesting was that although the justification for the tipping system is that it's supposed to create an incentive to provide good service: minimum wage is sh*t so provide good service -> get tip -> don't starve. But most proper restaurants (ie not food outlets) we went to added the tip onto the bill anyway as a ~15% "service charge". While I didn't mind that, since it at least takes the confusion out of the tipping for people like us from a non-tipping country, it also seems to undermine the supposed purpose of the system since the tip is right there on the bill so you can't avoid paying it, and they get it anyway regardless of how good or bad the service is.

              • @AngusD: If a tip is expected, and people get angry if you do t tip. Why would anyone work extra hard for it?

      • +2

        It really, mass narcissism. To think that they are the greatest country in the world and their workers have to rely on tips.

    • Ive seen a lot of receipts now on Reddit, where they provide recommended tips on the receipt now… ie 30%, 40% 50%

      • 50% wow is it fine dining? Even 40% if you eat like 100$ you have to tip like 40$-50$ already.

    • +32

      This makes the US too complicated for my likings. Been once. There are much more interesting places in the world to see than having to deal with this.

      • +8

        Also more places that are safer, cleaner, less airline security hassles and friendlier locals.

        I've been planning a one month trip to travel around the USA for years with friends. We've changed that to a Europe trip.

    • +3

      Also, in cases of bigger group (6+ people IIRC), many restaurants will automatically add tip to the final bill.

  • +19

    If you want to avoid tipping but still want quality food then get takeaway from Wholefoods and find a nice spot to eat. Works especially well when in NYC.

  • tipping is generally for customer service related jobs. like servers at a restaurant, bar staff etc, tour guides who do a speaking job say on a tour bus.
    Standard is often around 15% and is usually written on a bill. However just tip what you feel the service you got is.

    If you feel the need to tip for your helicopter ride. im sure $10/$20 would be fine if they do a good job. Its not like you would be going back and getting the same pilot in the future. and if you do; he probably did a good job for you. So again; tip what you feel is right IF you want to.

  • +1

    Tipping on restaurant bills is easy, most establishments will give a suggested guide on the bottom of the bill, be careful that the tip isn't already included on the bill as a service charge, a lot of places do this and also have a line for gratuity, especially in tourist areas. If you pay your bill by credit card try and pay your tip in cash as some places take part of the tip on cc for handling (as if they aren't already getting a deal deal by not paying their staff well to begin with). Apart from what is already mentioned, another area that you need to pay a tip is porters or anyone who handles your luggage, generally $1 or so per bag. You get used to the tipping thing quite quickly, it was the biggest issue for me prior to getting to the US.

  • +7

    As others have said, the suggested tips are usually notated on the bill.

    My understanding is that certain workers (e.g. hospitality) are taxed on their wages + an estimation of the tips they would / should have received based on their employer's turnover and a designated % rate for the tip.
    That is why a lot of workers get angry if they don't get a tip, as they will probably get taxed on income they didn't get.

    Some states or employers were trying to change that, but it is unfair to not tip at all.

    • +6

      As others have said, the suggested tips are usually notated on the bill.

      This is only for restaurants. Go to the hairdresser/barber, it won't be listed (as you don't normally see a bill), but you pay 10-15% tip.

      That free bus ride from the airport to the car rental or hotel, you tip the driver. Usually $1 or $2 or at least $1 per bag if they lift it into the bus for you.

      The whole systems is a mess and even American's are confused/caught out by it.

      • +1

        It is confusing, but other places around the world have confusing 'customs' etc. Always good to play the 'ignorant tourist' card; not to avoid tipping, but to demonstrate that if I get it wrong I'm not insulting the person, just confused.

        My opinion is that the US has this as a way of retaining their class system, which they all claim is a classless society but couldn't be further from the truth.

    • +2

      What a fcked up hospitality industry there.. Think I'll just eat at fast food..

  • +1

    The screens give you option of 15%, 18%, 20% or custom. Sometimes on the paper bills they will have tax suggested amounts on the bottom. A local suggested that tip is around double the tax you pay, so its easier to calculate that way.

    Avoid tipping by avoiding people. Don't have to tip when you're doing things like fast food etc, but you'll be expected if theres any table service etc. That said most people do try to earn their tips by being super nice to you when serving… there are exceptions to this though.

    • +1

      It sounds like everyone is adopting the lap dancer's mentality.

      • +1

        so you have to tip the lap dancer?

        • +4

          only if you want extra services

          • +2


            only if you want extra services

            but you don't get extra services by tipping the restaurant waitress.

    • +1

      I noticed this when there last year, the whole 3 percentages. I then got to researching tipping psychology. There’s some stupid percentage of people that pick the middle when you put 3 options, so you find a lot of restaurants inflate their tip suggestions, including the middle one, but because it’s the middle one you feel that’s the right one.

      I made a blanket rule, tipped 15% for everything, unless it was bad and I tipped 10% (or nothing if I could get out cleanly). In a service industry over there, you’re remunerated for providing a service - and if your service was sub par, why would you be remunerated for it?

    • +39

      More like needtotravelmore

  • in my experience, after the helicopter ride, we were given the chance to tip by putting $ in an envelope. Totally up to you, but easier to run and save yourself the embarrassment of a small tip like we did

    • Good question, what is the price of embarrassment?

  • +5

    I worked over there for a few years and never really got used to tipping. I did adapt as you just forget for the first while if its not on the bill or asked for so eventually I instinctively remembered but never really adjusted mentally (simmering resentment for the system and service businesses attitude toward employees) as I never enjoyed it unless really outstanding service. So generally us Aussies are known for being crappy tippers, I find that more from us just forgetting or not realising than being intentional ass holes. So generally people notice the accent and naivety and will give you a mostly polite reminder.
    I still hated it when you get crappy food from a rude waitress that demands tips though.
    There is a lot to be said for mandatory minimum wages.
    As stated by others avoid anything where you are personally served if you wish to avoid tips

  • +2

    Hard to avoid tipping in America. We carry our own luggage up. Avoid the kerbside drop off at the airport. Even at take away places they often have tip jars. If you really want to avoid tipping go Air BnB and make your own meals. You don’t tip on public transport so use it or walk most places. You need to tip the taxi driver or shuttle driver. You need to tip tour guides, so researching and doing your own touring is good. A lot of cities have pamphlets on free walking tours, you can pick them up from tourist information places. Most services require tipping. You don’t tip shop assistants, etc.

    • True you have to look at it objectively and determine are they;

      A, on minimum wage
      B, being paid commission on sales
      C, if they actually deserve it

    • -1

      Is $2 really that much to get your luggage taken up for you? I thought it was great to have someone else drag my bags around for me lol

      • +1

        I carry backpacks and am quite capable of using a luggage trolley on my own, if they have one. It is a pointless service to me. However, if it is your thing then it is your money.

  • +17

    It's probably the number one reason I avoid the US. So annoying!

    Anyone see the Adam Ruins Everything episode where even he disagrees with tipping.

    • +8

      They do like to put their hand in your pocket and, given our dollar, they aren’t that cheap anymore. Personally, I prefer to go to Europe now. Much more interesting places, the food and wine tend to be better and they don’t expect tips.

  • +11

    I compiled the below after much research before our 5-week trip a few years ago. I followed these guidelines and everyone we dealt with were happy. I saved this as s note in my phone for easy reference.

    Generally, everyone that provides a service expects tips:
    Meals 20% unless it was horrible
    Bar $1/drink
    Taxi drivers 10-15% (excluding Uber, some expect it, some don't, but always do it through the app)
    Sky caps/Porters $1-2 per bag
    Room service 15%
    Barbers and hair dressers – expected, but not sure how much
    Doormen $1-2 if you ask for more than directions
    Maids $3-4 per day, can get away with $0 if just one night, but expect to pay if staying multiple nights (leave note "for housekeeping" so they know it is for them).

    There are also tipping phone apps so you can quickly work out percentages.

    • Room service 15%??????

      • -8

        How much would you want to clean hotel toilets for 10 hours a day?

        • +5

          I hope the guy/girl bringing me my burger at 2am didn’t just clean the joker in the room next to mine’s toilet!

        • You call room service to clean your toilet?

          • @Eeples: No. But I think everyone read my post wrong. I was trying to say they should be getting more than 15% because they work hard..

            Negs make me sad

            • +2

              @Herbse: 'Room service' and 'servicing the room', I think, is where the confusion occurs.

      • -2

        I.e. room service as in food delivered to your room. Cheaper than the 20% suggested for meals generally.
        See "maids" comment for what I would call "housekeeping" - don't forget this if at a hotel multiple nights with daily service, you don't want the person with access to your room annoyed with you!

        I was the same, I hated the idea of tipping, but at the end of the day, I took advice from a seasoned USA holidaymaker who said that holidays to the US are rare for most Aussies and expensive regardless, so even if you overtip, the amount you give away over what you needed to tip won't add up to be a big part of your holiday budget anyway, so if unsure, tip and it's just part of the experience. (E.g. if you overtipped by 5% on $100 spend per day for a month, its still only $5/Day x 30 days = $150 extra, overtip by 10% and its $300 extra …. i'm guessing
        in the whole scheme of the trip, that's not huge dollars (get a good flight sale on Ozbargain and you would have saved that on airfare).

        • +3

          Name doesn't check out.

          Frugal VS "Just over tip… It's just money!"

    • Never even thought to leave a tip for housekeeping, we have stayed multiple nights in different properties all over US and never had poor room service. I had my nails done a couple of times and the first time I left 10% and she didn't punch me in the face but she wasn't overly enthused either, the second time the bill was $50 an I gave $60 and he seemed more pleased.

      • I never thought about housekeeping either explains the shitty service in an NYC hotel. stayed 10 nights (prebooked $250 per night) and got fresh towels maybe twice, not the worst thing but its part of the service so expected. Also had issues with our sheets and after a few time of being told well make it right ended up getting two nights refund which helped as if we booked this recommend hotel just before arriving would have been $150 per night.

    • +22

      ohhh man that's why I love Australia… Only pay for the merchandise/ service without worrying too much about those stuff

      • -1

        Surely the prices are higher to compensate for our minimum wage…

        • +7

          perfect thats what society is

        • +13

          All ends up the same at least our way is less effort and dicking around.

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