Rae Bates

Happy Tipping Season!

It’s here—the holiday season. And the holiday season brings with it lots of tipping.

It may be that you’re eating out or traveling more than usual. In that case, you may encounter more tipping opportunities. Don’t feel obligated to tip at every counter where you see a tip jar or a payment pad that asks about a tip. If all the person behind the counter has done is hand you a cup of coffee, a tip is unnecessary. If, however, that same person, doing that same job, has gone out of his or her way to help you, a tip is absolutely in order. That’s true whether they’ve helped you navigate the large and unfamiliar menu or helped you figure out a way to carry seven drinks back to your car.

Remember that if you’re dining out, and someone is bringing food to you at your table, the standard tip is at least 15% (20% in larger cities). If you are dining at a buffet, where the server is simply refilling your drinks and removing dirty dishes, the standard tip is 10% (again, increase that by adding another 5% in larger cities). That tip is figured on the before-tax total, though no one is going to be upset if you tip on the after-tax total. If you are using a coupon or discount, you should tip on the amount you would have paid without the discount. After all, the server worked just as hard as he or she would have if you’d paid full price. Also remember that tipping a little extra in always welcome and appropriate, especially if the person serving you has done an outstanding job.

Tipping extra to service people (hairdresser, nail tech, massage therapist, etc.) during the holidays is common. If you’d been tipping well all year, doubling your usual tip amount is fine. If you don’t usually tip 10-20%, your holiday “bonus” should be the amount of your usual service. In other words, if your hairdresser charges $20 for your routine haircut, her holiday bonus should be $20. If your massage therapist usually charges $75 for the service he provides for you, his bonus should be $75.

It is illegal for your mail carrier to accept a gift of cash, a gift card, or a check, no matter the amount. As a matter of fact, it is illegal for them to accept a gift of any kind that’s worth more than $20. UPS would prefer that any holiday gift you might give their driver not be cash, but they leave that up to you. FedEx will allow cash or gifts worth up to $75. Don’t feel obligated to tip the UPS or FedEx driver if you only get one or two deliveries a year. If, however, you’re like me and get oodles, it’s a nice gesture.

Figure these tips into your holiday budget.

Retail employees are usually not allowed to accept tips. Years ago I got to thinking about how difficult their jobs are during the holidays, so I started carrying little, individually-wrapped candy canes or other sealed peppermints. (With the dangers out there today, I always make sure the candies are truly sealed, not just twisted closed.) I hand them, with my thanks, to cashiers and anyone who helps me in any way while I’m shopping. I used to start doing this on Black Friday, but I’ve done it earlier and earlier for the past few years. It’s a stressful time for those in retail.

May your week ahead be filled with sunshine.


Rea Bates is an Independent Consultant with the Pampered Chef. You can see her Facebook Page by clicking HERE. Her column appears each Sunday in Peru Indiana Today.