You drive up to a hotel and the doorman opens the car door and grabs your bag; you have to give him a tip. The parking valet takes your car; his hand is out. The bellhop takes the luggage to the front desk, then up to your room; he waits for a tip. What about the guy who fixes the air conditioning, the woman who brings a bucket of ice or the maid who fluffs your pillows? Do you tip all of them too? How much? And how do you know?
"Tipping is rooted in our psyche and our souls," says Robert Freedman, president and chief executive of ORC Worldwide, a human resources and consulting and data services company in New York. "We're afraid that if we don't leave a tip, it will not only raise eyebrows, it may raise voices or even fisticuffs."
Thea Lobell tips out of a sense of trying to help those who work hard and depend on tips. "I want to do the right thing," says Lobell, a frequent traveler from Baton Rouge, La. "But I'm always a bit unsure about how much to tip. It's like playing a game without knowing the rules."
To help you and other tentative tippers, here are some guidelines for U.S. travel:
Travel / hotels
Cab driver: Tip 15% to 20% of the fare.
Parking valet/attendant: Tip $1 to $3. You can tip when you drop off the car if you like, but definitely at pickup.
Housekeeping: $2 to $3 per night is customary; $5 if you have more than three people in a room or suite. Be sure to leave the money in an envelope with "Thank you" written on it so the housekeepers know the money is for them.
Concierge: If a concierge goes out of his or her way or lands a great reservation, a $10 tip is appropriate.
Cabana attendant: A tip of 15% to 20% of your total bill is expected.
Tanning butler: $5 to $10 per lotion application.
Everyone knows the wait staff expects a tip. But what about the hostess, busboy, bartender or bathroom attendant?
Servers: Tip 15% to 20% of your total bill after tax. Most servers make less than minimum wage, so tips are considered part of their salary.
Bartenders: $1 per drink if you order a drink from the bar before being seated.
Hostess/busboy: No gratuity expected. These folks sometimes receive a part of all the waiters' tips each night.
Coat check: $1 per coat, payable upon retrieval.
Bathroom attendant: If your attendant gives you a safety pin for that broken strap or a piece of gum for your garlic breath, a small tip ($1 or $2) is appropriate.