Tipping is part of the American culture. Somewhere along the lines of human development we decided it not enough to simply pay for goods and services, but also add an additional dollar amount as a gesture of thanks. But it can quickly get confusing. Do you tip the mailman but not the paperboy? Should you tip a massage therapist more than a tattoo artist?! Without doing the research, there's no easy way to magically infer what you should be doing to not look like a stingy jerk.
Some people, however, don't feel the need to add gratuity to anything. They think that the price of admission is enough to satisfy whomever they are paying. Or they might not tip well; so if a minimum wage waitress forgets to bring the side of toast, they might not tip her at all. This is generally not cool at all. Nearly all professions that accept tips are jobs that directly give you a major convenience in life. Did the taxi driver get you to the airport in time by speeding on the freeway? Tip him! Did the barber cut your hair just right and make some pleasant conversation? Tip him! Did the bartender pour you a drink while you comfortably sit in the heated bar on a cushy barstool? Tip them!
Transportation and Travel
Limo driver - 20%
Taxi - 15% unless they're a dick
Uber driver - tip included in the price
Valet - $2
Hotel bellboy - $1 per bag
Housekeeping - $2 to $5 per night
Hotel concierge - $5 to $10 for getting tickets or reservations somewhere
Gas attendant - None
Food and Drink
Waiter - 10% for poor service, 15% for average service, 20% for excellent service (but it's nice to be in the habit of tipping 20%)
Bartender - $1 per drink (or $2 if you want to get on their good side) or 15% to 20% of the bill
Food delivery - same as a waiter, 15% to 20% is best
Grocery loader - $1 to $3 depending on the amount of bags and if the store allows it
Coffee shop - $1 optional
Takeout - No tip expected
Mailman - USPS forbids cash tips, but you can tip anything under $20 in value, especially around Christmas
Paperboy - $10 to $30 around Christmas
Garbageman - $10 to $30 around Christmas, but totally optional
Movers - $10 to $20 per person depending on the length of work (4 hours vs 8 hours)
Handyman - None
Barber - 15% to 20%
Massage - 15% to 20%
Coat check - $1 per coat
Tattoo artist - 15% to 20% (you do want them to be happy)
Dog Groomer - 15% to 20%
Bathroom attendant - $1
Manicurist - 15%
The above amounts are for tipping in the United States (and Canada!). If you travel to a different country, you should research the tipping etiquette there. In some countries, tipping is not only absent, but offensive. In other countries, tipping is used as a gesture to show great thanks because it is not generally expected. It's surprising how each country is so different. Even neighboring countries in Europe have wildly different tipping expectations. For a comprehensive guide on international tipping, check out this guide by Conde Nast: Traveler.
What Do You Tip?
I'm curious what you guys tip and to who. All of my friends who have worked in the foodservice industry tend to tip higher and more consistently than those who haven't. Other friends who come from wealthier families coincidentally are more critical of their service and express it in reduced tips. Where do you fit in this tipping scale?