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Tipping befitting the jar and the job

You're in the drive-through line at Starbucks and there it is at the window: the tip jar. Maybe you've noticed it at the takeout counter, too. With so many more hands out these days and fewer dollars to go around, it's hard to know when you're supposed to tip.

How about the airport economy shuttle driver who helps load your bag? The buffet waiter? The carpet cleaner? The valet on top of the $5 parking fee?

"I'm sure people who are the recipients of this think you should tip and it's in their interest to think that and to get you to think that," said Mike Lynn, a former waiter and professor of consumer behavior at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration in Ithaca, N.Y. "But I have never yet tipped for to-go food and I don't see myself doing so. But I'm sure people think I'm being a stingy person and inappropriate."

Yep, that's exactly what Courtnie Matuch thinks.

A full-time-college student, the 20-year-old works carside carryout at Carrabba's Italian Grill in Tampa.

"I realize the economy is bad, but please don't order food to go because you think you don't have to tip us," she wrote in a recent post on Craigslist. "This is my living and you heartless people driving up in your 7 series BMWs, sometimes in the rain (telling me not to get your car wet) seem to love to stiff me."

Matuch believes most people don't realize they should tip her at least 10 percent. She said she often brings out orders of $100 or more and doesn't receive a dime. Yet she makes the same as the waiters and waitresses inside the restaurant: $3.71 an hour.

And that's the difference, experts say. It is customary to tip those who make less than minimum wage, which is what servers earn because employers are allowed to count their tips as part of their wage. But tipping minimum wage workers — which is what people at ice cream counters, takeout counters and coffee shops typically earn — is considered entirely optional.

"I'm not one of those advocates for the tip jar," said Jacqueline Whitmore, an etiquette expert and president of the Protocol School of Palm Beach, an etiquette consulting firm.

But she acknowledged that every establishment pays its employees differently, and if someone goes above and beyond, you might want to put in a $1 or so.

Tipping facts

•One theory on the origins of tipping holds that it came about in England during the sixteenth century, when coffeehouses and local pubs put out brass urns with the inscription "To Insure Promptitude."

•In the early 1900s, tipping was so unpopular that some states, including Washington, Mississippi, Arkansas, Iowa, South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia, passed laws banning it and even made it a misdemeanor to tip. These laws were repealed between 1913 and 1926.

•There are more than 30 professions that get tips.

•Americans tip more than $23-billion in restaurants alone every year.

Source: "The History of Tipping — from Sixteenth-century England to United States in the 1910s" by Ofer H. Azar

Holiday tipping guide from the Emily Post Institute

Au pair or live-in nanny, one week's pay and a gift from your child.

Regular babysitter, one evening's pay and a small gift from your child.

Day care provider, a gift from you or $25-$70 for each staff member and a small gift from your child(ren).

Live-in help (nanny, cook, butler, housekeeper), one week to one month of pay as a cash tip, plus a gift from you.

Private nurse, a thoughtful gift from you.

Housekeeper/cleaner, up to the amount of one week's pay and/or a small gift.

Nursing home employees, a gift that could be shared by the staff (flowers or food items).

Barber, cost of one haircut or a gift.

Beauty salon staff, give individual cards or a small gift each for those who work on you.

Personal trainer, up to the cost of one session or a gift.

Massage therapist, up to the cost of one session or a gift.

Pet groomer, up to the cost of one session or a gift.

Dog walker, up to one week's pay or a gift.

Personal caregiver, between one week's to one month's salary or a gift.

Pool cleaner, the cost of one cleaning to be split among the crew.

Garage attendants, $10-$30 or a small gift

Newspaper delivery person, $10-30 or a small gift

Mail carrier, small gift only

Superintendent, $20-80 or a gift

Doorman, $15-$80. $15 or more each for multiple doormen, or a gift.

Elevator operator, $15-$40 each

Handyman, $15 to $40

Yard/Garden worker, $20-$50 each or a gift

Teachers, a gift (not cash)

A tipping guide from the Emily Post Institute

Wait service (sit down) 15-20% pretax

Wait service (buffet) 10%

Host, no obligation, $10-$20 on occasion, if you are a regular patron

Takeout, no obligation, 0-10% if the person went above normal service

Bartender, $1 per drink or 15-20% of tab

Tipping jars, no obligation but tip occasionally if you are a regular or if the person went above normal service

Restroom attendant, 50 cents-$3, depending on service

Valet, $2-$5

Skycap, $2 first bag, $1 per additional bag

Housekeeper, $2-$5 per day, left daily

Concierge, $5 for tickets or reservations, $10 if hard to get; no need to tip for answering questions

Taxi driver, 15% plus an extra $1-$2 if helped with bags

Hairdresser, 15-20%, ask to be split among those who served you

Manicurist, 15-20%

Facial, waxing, massage, 15-20%

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Times reporter Leonora LaPeter Anton can be reached at or (727) 893-8640.

Tipping befitting the jar and the job 11/30/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 3, 2008 2:32pm]
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