Many visitors to the U.S. feel pressured to tip even when they do not feel it is fair or reasonable to do so.  Customers cannot be forced to tip as a matter of law, but they are legally required to pay any charges that are clearly marked prior to service, and these may include mandatory gratuities (tips).

  • Mandatory gratuities are used by some restaurants with large numbers of foreign customers who may not be familiar with American tipping customs, often in tourist centers such as New York City.  Mandatory gratuities also are charged by many restaurants when large groups are being served.
  • Fast food restaurants do not have tipping, nor do they have table service.
  • Some coffee shops, bakeries and other establishments have tip jars on their check-out counters.

Below we are giving you some recommendations on tipping:

  • Restaurants with table service: Tip 15% of the bill, based on the quality of service. If you receive exceptional service, 15-25% is customary.  In major cities of the U.S. however, 20% is considered to be a “good tip”. In rural areas, tipping percentages tend to be lower. Usually now all the phones have a tip calculator that you can use, if you are not sure how much you need/want to leave.
  • Buffet restaurants: tipping servers who clear multiple dishes and provide drink refills are recommended. Buffet servers may not take orders or bring out food, but they do work hard keeping your table clean of the empty plates after multiple trips to the buffet line. In addition to this, they often help to keep the buffet line stocked and clean, and they make coffee, brew tea, etc.  Minimum tip for any server should be $1 per person. If a tip has been added to your bill beforehand because your party was 6 or more, but the server was inadequate or rude, inform the manager immediately before you pay your bill that you want the tip adjusted.
  • Bad or unacceptable service it is customary to tip as low as 10%.  If service is bad enough to deserve only 10%, it is a good idea to let the manager know.
  • Counter service/fast food restaurants often have tip jars out, but you are not required to tip.  If the service is exemplary or unusual requests are made, then tips are appropriate.
  • Hotel housekeeping/maid service: $2-3 per night up to $5, more in high-end hotels.  Also more if there are more than 3 people in a room or suite. Leave the tip on your pillow or in a similar obvious place with a note that says thank you.  Leave the tip each day when you leave the room, rather than at the end of your stay, because your room might get cleaned by different people each day, depending on staff schedules.
  • Taxi Driver: 10-15% of fare, based on service.
  • Hairdresser/manicurist: 10% – 20%.
  • Tour Guides: 15% – 20% + depending on quality (knowledge, friendliness, etc)

Tipping in the USA is something you get the hang of after you do it a while. After a couple of days, you’ll be able to understand when you receive a good service or a bad service. If you are mistreated anywhere, you should inform a manager.  Don’t tip poor service – let someone know you were unhappy, even if you just leave a note to the server as to why there is no tip added to the bill.