How to Tip

“What’s the usual tip
Dollars and cents: What’s the correct amount to tip your servers? The answers add up below.
What’s the usual tip?” a man growled at his waiter.

“Well,” the waiter replied, “this is my first time waiting tables, but the other waiters said that if I got a quarter out of you, I’d be doing great.”

“Is that so?” grunted the man. “In that case, here’s five dollars.”

“Thanks,” the waiter said, “I’ll put it in my college fund.”

“What are you studying?” asked the man.

The waiter replied, “Reverse Psychology.”

The résumé that lists “Waiter” could well elaborate that this particular job isn’t merely about taking food to people. A waitperson needs to be an actor, multitasker, diplomat, and, often times, a psychoanalyst. Much like the vaudeville act of long ago in which the performer has to keep all of the plates spinning on their poles so fast that none will slow down and fall, a waiter has to surmise what his or her customers might want before they want it. The variables are so many that waiters can’t be sure that they’ll be “rewarded” for all of their efforts.

For 15 years now, I have been a server at three different restaurants, and I’ve become accustomed to the job’s inherent financial insecurity. I mention this to some of my friends who have salaried positions and they cringe at the unreliable nature of my income. I work for tips. I work for how well the customer likes my service. I work for morsels of kindness.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that customers are often oblivious to the crucial role gratuities play in servers’ incomes. The waitstaff wage in Texas is close to a third that of minimum wage (just over $2), making reliance on it less than financially practical. I’ve known people (family included) that see tipping as a bother, a random extra amount obligingly added as a mandatory nugget of reward. The tip is not the icing on the cake; it’s a whole piece of cake! It is a staggeringly simplistic concept: whatever people leave for me is what I earn. But earnings in a restaurant depend on so much more than the number of customers served. Waiting tables is also about relationships.

A crucial factor is whether clients are versed in proper tipping etiquette. There is a contingent of people that consistently leave threadbare gratuities. Often, these are folks who do not know anything about waiting tables. Never known a waiter, never been a waiter, just never ever been exposed to what it really means to leave a tip. Next time you’re in a restaurant, remember to treat your server the way you’d expect to be treated if your finances depended on someone else acknowledging your efforts. And that’s not reverse psychology.

Here’s a list of items that are not generally the responsibility/fault of your waitperson:

Stale food
Flavorless food
Turned wine
Temperature of the restaurant
Wait to be seated (Hostess or not)
Crying baby at table next to you
Tipsy/loud people at table next to you
Cold food (not always the server’s fault)
Late food (not always the server’s fault)
Food-item unavailability (they ran out or it went bad)
Food items simply NOT available (“You don’t carry ____?”)

A Basic Tipping Table:

Waiters: 15-20 percent is a standard tip for good service, though higher tips are common for exceptional service. With large parties, an automatic 15 to 20-percent tip is sometimes added to the check.

Busser: Tip generally not expected

To go/takeout/curbside service: 10 percent

Cocktail Waitresses: $1-2 per drink.

Hotel bellman/bellhop/porters: $1-2 per bag

Hotel maids: $2 per day

Hotel room service: 15-20 percent

Hotel concierge: $5-10

Hotel doorman: $1 per bag for help with luggage; $1 for hailing a cab

Sommeliers: 15 percent of the cost of the bottle

Bartenders: $1-2 per drink or 15 percent of bar bill

Restroom attendant: $0.50-$1

Taxicab drivers: 15 percent

Limo drivers: 15-25 percent

Skycap: $1 per bag if you check in curbside; $2 per bag if skycap takes bags to check-in counter.

Valet-parking attendants: $1-5 upon arrival and departure; make sure to tip person actually parking and/or delivering vehicle

Hairdressers/barbers: 10 percent in small towns, 15-20 percent in cities; tip is expected whether the stylist is the proprietor or not

Manicurist: 15 percent

Spa service: 15-20 percent

Pizza- (and other food-) delivery persons: 10 percent of total, at least $3. In most cases, the delivery driver pays for his or her fuel. Many companies use contractors who receive no hourly wage

Grocery loaders: Check store policy to determine whether tips are accepted. If so, $1 for bringing bags to car; $1.50-3 if you have more than 3 bags

Coat checker: $1 per coat

Piercers and tattoo artists: piercers 10 percent; tattoo artists 20 percent

Movers: $20-30 per mover plus extra for stairs

Large or heavy deliveries: $5-10 per person

Karaoke disc jockey: $1 per song

Mechanical bull operator: $1 per ride

Golf caddies: $10-20 per bag carried, but sometimes more

Golf-club cleaners: $3 per bag

Full-service gas-station attendants: $.50-$5 (median is $1, mean is around $1.33)

At a buffet: $1 per person; if staff bring free beverages to the table, 25¢ for each drink

*Compiled from and

Scroll to read more Flavor articles
Join the San Antonio Current Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.


Join SA Current Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.