Is tipping customary in the United States?

Tipping is very much a part of the culture in the USA. Though voluntary, tips are expected at restaurants, cafes and diners, and also by service staff such as taxi drivers, valet attendants, porters and hotel maids. If you leave an establishment without giving a tip, it’s very likely you’ll offend the person who served you.

Why is tipping a thing in America?

But why is tipping so important in the United States? Well, people who work in the hospitality and service industries in the States generally receive the minimum wage, which at just a few dollars per hour, is quite low compared to other Western countries like Australia where you can earn a decent salary on the minimum wage. Service staff in America therefore rely on tips as a major source of their income, so you’ll often find that waiters, bar staff and servers are super friendly and will go the extra mile to ensure you have a great time.

How much should you tip in America?

In general, the recommended amount to tip is 15% to 20% of the bill at cafes, diners and restaurants, but you’re welcome to leave more if you experienced top-notch service. For bartenders and hotel staff who provide a personal service like carrying your bags or cleaning your room, it’s standard to tip $1 – so make sure you always have a few spare coins in your pocket or purse.

Should you tip if a gratuity has been added to the bill?

Some establishments will add a gratuity to the bill – usually in touristy places, if it’s a public holiday or if you’re part of a large group – so make sure you check your bill as it’s not expected to leave a tip on top of this. There’s also no harm in disputing the gratuity with the staff if the service wasn’t up to standard and you think the amount is too high.

Using a group kitty to tip

If you're travelling in a group or on an organised tour, your local leader may discuss the idea of running a group tipping kitty on the first day of your trip. In a group tipping kitty, everybody contributes an equal amount of cash at the start of the tour that your leader uses to tip waiters, drivers and hotel staff on your behalf as you go. The leader will keep a running record of all monies spent, which can be checked at any time. Any cash remaining at the end of the tour is returned to group members.

A kitty is often the easiest way to avoid the hassle of needing small change and knowing when and what is an appropriate amount to tip. Participation in this kitty is optional, and you’re welcome to manage your own tipping separately if you prefer. Please note the tipping kitty excludes tips for your tour leader.

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