Tipping culture has changed a lot over the last few years, and many Americans are confused about what to do.
Seventy-two percent of people say that tipping is expected in more places today than it was five years ago, according to Pew. But only about a third say it was extremely or very easy to know whether or how much to tip for different types of services.
A changing tipping landscape — with the option to tip now suggested on touch screens at coffee shops, fast-casual restaurant chains and other new businesses — has made it even harder for Americans to decide how much to tip.
Tipping service workers was essentially built into US law by the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, which created the federal minimum wage that excluded restaurant and hospitality workers. This allowed the tipping system to proliferate in these industries.
In 1966, Congress created a “subminimum” wage for tipped workers. This subminimum for tipped employees has stood at $2.13 per hour — lower than the $7.25 federal minimum for non-tipped workers — since 1991, although many states require higher base wages for tipped employees. If a server’s tips don’t add up to the federal minimum, the law says that the employer must make up the difference. But this doesn’t always happen. Wage theft and other wage violations are common in the service industry.
Other workers who make the minimum wage or slightly above rely on tips to supplement their employer pay.
There are no hard and fast rules for tipping around the holidays, when many Americans choose to thank people who provide them with year-round services.
You should consider the quality and frequency of service you receive and your relationship with the person, etiquette experts say. And if you already tip the person regularly, don’t feel guilty leaving a more modest amount at the end of the year.
You also shouldn’t feel obligated to go beyond your personal budget, according to the Emily Post Institute. And if your budget doesn’t allow for tips, consider homemade gifts.
Here are a few suggestions for holiday tipping, according to the Emily Post Institute.
Live-in nanny: Up to a week’s pay.
Babysitter: Up to an evening’s pay.
Barber: Up to the cost of one haircut.
Dog walker: Up to one week’s pay.
Personal trainer: Up to the cost of one session.
Garage attendants: Up to $30.
Package delivery worker: Small gift in the $20 range. Many delivery companies discourage or prohibit cash gifts.
Doorman: Up to $80.
Garden worker: Up to $50.