For a simple calculation that can be performed on a four-function calculator with buttons to spare, determining the right tip seems mystify a large portion of the traveling public. Searching Apple’s App Store for “tip calculator” returns almost 600 apps for the iPhone. The Hospitality Management Schools’ web site just published a comprehensive tipping guide, providing a nice range of standard tip amounts that should help folks avoid some awkward moments.
There is a surprising amount of emotion wrapped up in determining a tip. You want to appropriately acknowledge the service someone has just given you, but that then gets combined with the image you want to portray. The waiter was really rude to me, but I don’t want to seem mean, but I can’t feel like I’ve let him get away with being rude, but I don’t want a confrontation…. It’s an internal dialogue that gets replayed again and again as the pen hovers over the blank “Tip” line on the credit card receipt.
I think I’m a decent tipper — I roughly calculate 15% of the post-tax check amount in my head and then round it up a dollar or two. I tip more generously to people who spend more time with me. I eat a lot of meals alone at restaurant bars and so appreciate a bit of conversation. If a bartender takes time to chat with me while cleaning his glasses, gives me a reason not to shovel down my food or stare vacantly at the always-present ESPN SportCenter behind the bar, the tip calculation starts at 20%.
I do a lousy job of tipping hotel maids — lousy meaning I usually don’t. I think it’s because I never see them. I’m usually in and out of my room in single night — used one towel, shed some briefcase papers in the garbage can, and have checked out before the maid cart hits the floor. I’m thinking more about finding the nearest Starbucks than about leaving a couple of bucks behind on the dresser. The times I do tip maids is when I’ve been working all day in my room — and have to move out of the way so they can do their job. Seeing them make the bed, straighten my toiletries, empty my garbage reminds me that they’re doing just as much as the considerate bartender to make me feel at home. It’s the personal interaction that drives the desire to tip — and the embarrassment of not tipping.