problem solving

The New Rules of Tipping

Illustration: Andrew Rae

This tipping advice is part of our larger guide to behaving in polite society right now.

It is now almost impossible to make any sort of purchase without being confronted with a Square screen asking for 15, 20, or 25 percent. And not just for a coffee: Buying a water bottle at the deli or crackers at a specialty grocery store now sometimes also prompts the option. This might irritate or confuse you, but the reality is there are new social expectations around all kinds of etiquette but also about what deserves a tip. Here is what they are.

How much should I tip at a restaurant now?

At restaurants, the previous range of socially acceptable and ethically expected tips was 15 to 20 percent; now, it’s 20 to 25. This goes for whether you’re at an Olive Garden or I Sodi and whether you liked the service or not. (Tips are often pooled; don’t punish the entire staff because your fish didn’t come out in a timely fashion.) The higher your disposable income, the more you should tip, but anything under 20 percent is rude. Blame this on inflation, COVID, the heightened awareness of the fact that more than half your servers’ salary probably comes from tips. It’s just the rules; don’t complain.

How much should I tip for coffee?

At coffee shops, coffee carts, cafés, and bodegas, tip at least 20 percent. Even though their pay isn’t as tip dependent as waiters’, the average salary for a barista in New York is just above minimum wage. And like waiters, baristas are often preparing complicated orders in a tense environment. If your order is only coffee, you may tip $1. If you’re buying an item that involves no preparation (a bottle of water, a muffin), it is acceptable, though miserly, to not tip.

How much should I tip for food delivery?

For food delivery, tip a minimum of $5, or 20 percent, whichever is greater, and even more in bad weather. Because delivery workers are categorized as independent contractors, their employers don’t have to pay them minimum wage. And per a recent survey from the Worker’s Justice Project and the Worker Institute at Cornell, the median hourly wage for app delivery workers in New York is only $7.94 an hour, or $12.21 with tips. Also, given the history of tips not always making it into the delivery person’s hands, tip in cash whenever possible.

How much should I tip for takeout?

When picking up takeout at a restaurant, it’s easy to understand why you might not tip anything — but you must tip at least 10 percent. A takeout order interrupts the flow of the other work required of servers and hosts who are dependent on tips.

How much should I tip at the bar?

At a bar, the conventional wisdom stands: Tip at least $1 per drink if you’re just getting a beer and 20 percent for a cocktail.

Do I have to tip at a deli counter?

If you’re at a food counter — a cheese shop, a deli counter, or a fast-casual lunch spot where employees are telling you about the items, slicing, or mixing you a grain bowl — you must tip something if prompted. Ideally 10 percent. At BKLYN Larder, for instance, the tip pool is divided among the employees who are paid hourly, which means that instead of making minimum wage ($16 an hour), they now take home around $21 an hour.

Should I tip Uber drivers and cabs?

Tip Uber drivers the same way you’d tip a cabdriver — at least 20 percent. The Uber app can make adding a tip feel like an afterthought, but it shouldn’t be. According to new data from the Taxi & Limousine Commission, Uber drivers earn substantially less in fares and tips than taxi drivers (plus Uber takes more than a 25 percent cut of fares).

How much do I tip my hairstylist, nail tech, waxer, house cleaner, and everyone else?

For almost all kinds of services — hairstylists, waxers, movers — tip 20 percent minimum. There’s a useful distinction to be made between people who work for a service and people who work for themselves. Generally, the rule is: tip people who are working for a service. And for people who provide you regular weekly service, like folks who clean houses, the general practice is to tip annually. For instance, its customary to give paid vacation and additional pay at the end or beginning of the year to the people who clean their house year-round.

The New Rules of Tipping