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Tips on tipping; It's not easy to know who you should tip and how much. Because you don't want to be a cheapskate, here are some tips for doing it right

You've just had your hair done, and you're very pleased with the results. You thank your stylist, and you get up to pay your bill and leave for your next errand.

But your stylist is looking at you expectantly. Then you remember: What about a tip? How much should you leave? (Hint: 15 percent to 20 percent)

That's a perennial debate felt every day by many people as they go about their routine activities, obtaining and receiving service from a host of businesses and their employees.

From your server in a restaurant or a hotel housekeeper to a pizza delivery person or taxi driver, these people are providing for your needs or desires, and expecting to be rewarded or at least recognized for it.

"It really makes someone's day," said Daniel Post Senning, spokesman for the Burlington, Vt.-based Emily Post Institute, great-great-grandson of Post, and co-author of "The 18th Edition of Emily Post's Etiquette," which was released last week.

"It's a special thing to have a little extra cash in their wallet at the end of the day, especially where the service is personal."
Many of the individual tips don't amount to much -- a dollar or two here and there -- except perhaps for the tip on a large restaurant bill, which could reach $20 on a $100 dinner tab. But even the small ones, in volume, add up to real money for those receiving them.

Indeed, tips are now more important as more services are provided in a fast-paced world, and as more people in low-wage jobs are forced to rely on them to supplement their income. That's also why acceptable amounts have risen.

"The value of a dollar has changed, so some of those traditional amounts have drifted up a bit," Senning said.

In theory, a tip is intended as an incentive and a reward for good service, and should be optional, if deserved. In reality, experts say, a tip is almost required if you don't want to look cheap or socially inept.

"It's part of the social contract that you participate in tipping," Senning said. "It's broadly understood, particularly here."

Where you have flexibility and discretion is in how much to tip, especially where a range is acceptable. But in cases where you expect to return -- a restaurant you frequent or a hotel you're staying at for several days -- not leaving enough of a tip will be remembered.

"It's not OK to withhold the tip or short the tip. If you're tempted into that territory, that's the time to talk to a manager, because there's a bigger issue," Senning said. "That starts to be in a territory where you're not particularly fulfilling your social obligation."

The most commonly known tips are for a server in a restaurant. Generally, Senning said, you tip 20 percent of the pretax bill for very good service and 15 percent for adequate service. But even if the service is poor, don't give less than 10 percent.

"It's not always the server who's responsible for service," Senning said. "You don't know if someone else didn't show up, if the kitchen is particularly busy. There are a number of reasons that could lead to slow or inadequate service."

Many Americans aren't aware of all the other situations in which tips are expected and appropriate. And even those cognizant of custom may be unsure of how much in each case.

"Often times, it's because folks are outside their usual area of operation, and it wouldn't occur to them," Senning said.

Senning admits he used to forget to tip housekeeping staff at hotels, until he started traveling for the Institute and an in-house accountant brought it to his attention while reviewing his travel expenses.

"Now I do. I have to remind myself to keep a couple of dollars in my wallet at a time when credit is so standard," he said. "It's good to carry some cash for just that reason."

So here's a primer to help you get through your day, culled from a variety of etiquette sources. Always tip on the pretax amount.

*Bartender: 15 percent to 20 percent of the tab, but at least 50 cents per soft drink and $1 per alcoholic drink.

*Sommelier or wine steward: 15 percent of the cost of the bottle.

*Coatroom attendant: $1 per coat.

*Parking valet or garage attendant: $2 to bring your car.

*Car washer: $2 to $5.

*Movers: $10 to $50 each.

*Washroom attendant: 50 cents to $1.

*Taxi driver: 15 percent, plus an extra $1 to $2 for helping with bags.

*Airport shuttle bus drivers: $2 to $3.

*Limo drivers: 10 percent to 20 percent of the bill.

*Food delivery person: 10 percent of the pretax bill but at least $1 for most deliveries and at least $2 for pizza delivery if it's bad weather or a more dangerous neighborhood.

*Grocery loader: If the store permits tips, $1 for bringing bags but up to $3 if there's more than three bags.

*Hairstylist or barber: 15 percent to 20 percent.

*Shampoo person: $2.

*Manicurist: 15 percent.

*Spa service or massage: 15 percent to 20 percent.

*Pet groomer: 15 percent to 20 percent.

*Airport skycap: $1 per bag for curbside check-in, $2 per bag for bringing the bag to the check-in counter inside.

*Hotel doorman: $1 per bag for helping with luggage, $1 per person for hailing a cab.

*Hotel bellhop: $2 to $3 per bag for bringing luggage to your room.

*Hotel housekeeper: $2 to $5 per night.

*Hotel concierge: $5 for getting tickets or reservations for you, $10 to $15 if they're hard to get.

*Cruise: Ask the cruise line.

*Handyman: No tip.

*Gas attendant: No tip.

*Roadside services for a rental car: No tip required, unless extreme circumstances.

*Mail carrier: No tip. Government workers can't accept them.

*Newspaper carrier: $10 to $30 for a one-time annual tip.

*Snowplowing, lawn maintenance or home housekeeping: 15 percent to 20 percent of a bill if it's a one-time service, or the full amount of a one-time regular service if giving an annual holiday tip for a continual contract.

*Voluntary tip jars on counters: Optional but not required.

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Go to the Strictly Business blog at buffalonews.com for more information about tipping.

email: jepstein@buffnews.com

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