It can be tricky any year to know how wide to open your wallet for end-of-year tipping.
Add in the fact that COVID-19 is still lingering and inflation is rising — two factors causing economic challenges to remain significant for many — and figuring out how to put a monetary price on appreciation can be especially challenging.
Even so, service industry pros who often work late and schedule appointments when we’re in a bind deserve “just a little bit more good cheer” than usual, says etiquette expert Elaine Swann, 55, founder of The Swann School of Protocol in Carlsbad, California.
“This is the time of year to share your gratitude in a tangible way [and] be more thoughtful about tipping a little more if you are able,” Swann adds. “It’s still an important gesture.”
So who should be tipped, and how generous should those gifts be?
“Tipping should be based on several factors — good service, personal reasons, length of business relationships, and economic downfalls — and not on obligation,” according to Maryanne Parker, founder of Manor of Manners, a company in San Diego, California, that specializes in international business, social and youth etiquette.
Rules of thumb for tipping
When it comes to restaurants, Parker notes that a 20-percent gratuity is the norm, although she advises tipping as much as possible, based on the cost of the bill, “without feeling highly obligated.”
Delivery drivers should get a tip equivalent to 15 percent to 20 percent of your total order. Ordering directly from restaurants supports local businesses much more than ordering through third-party delivery services, which may take a commission of between 10 percent and 30 percent for every order.
What constitutes a standard end-of-year tip? Many experts recommend an amount equivalent to the cost of one service. For example, a $50 haircut would merit a $50 tip.
The Emily Post Institute, the nation’s most well-known name in etiquette, also recommends keeping in mind location (tipping averages tend to be higher in larger cities).
Aside from any nonmonetary gifts, the institute, based in Waterbury, Vermont, suggests tipping up to one week’s pay for a live-in childcare provider, dog walker or housekeeper, and the cost of one session for a personal trainer, pet groomer or massage therapist.