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Jun 11 2017

Tipping in the USA

Here is a lesson on tipping in the USA from Worldwide English, a company that offers English lessons in the Houston area.


If you are living in the USA, you will need to understand the practice of tipping.  Sometimes it can be confusing.  Tipping in the USA is voluntary; that is, you do not have to leave a tip if you don’t want to.  Leaving a tip is a way of saying “thank you”.  The word tip is both a noun and a verb.

Here are examples of how to use the word “tip”.

As a noun:  It’s a good idea to give your waiter a tip.

I left a big tip for my waiter because he did a very good job.

As a verb:  In a restaurant, Americans usually leave a tip for the waiter.

At Starbucks, I sometimes leave a tip in the glass jar.

There is another meaning for the word tip.  Tip can also mean “extra information” or “advice” that is helpful.  But in this lesson, the word tip is a small amount of money that you leave as a “thank you” for service.

How much should you tip?

In a restaurant where you receive full service:

In most areas of the USA, 20% is considered acceptable for good service.  If you feel that you did not receive good service, for example, if your waiter was slow or rude, you can choose to leave less.

Here’s a tip on tipping in a restaurant:  Be careful not to tip on the “total”.  Look at the “subtotal”, which is the total before the tax is added.  That is the total that you should figure the tip on.

For example, If your total bill is $20.00, look at the total before the tax is added.  The actual amount of your food and drink might actually be $18.50, so you would pay 20% of 18.50, not 20% of $20.00.

Also, if the number of people in your party is more than five or six, the tip might already be added to your bill, so be sure to check and if so, you do not need to leave more.

At a restaurant where there is a buffet:

A restaurant that has a buffet, does not offer full service.  But the waiter will usually bring you a drink and remove your dishes when you are finished.  So the typical tip for service at a restaurant with a buffet would be about 10 %.

At a bar:

When you are service by a bartender or waiter, the usual tip is $1.00 for each drink that you order.



For a taxi driver:

The usual tip for a taxi driver is 15-20%.    





For a hotel (for the person that cleans your room):

The usual tip is $3.00 per person per night.  On the day you leave the hotel, you can leave the tip in your room and the maid will pick it up when he or she comes to clean the room.

For a valet that parks your car:

Most valet service is free, but the tip is usually $3.00-$5.00.

At the airport, for someone who helps you with your bags:

The usual tip is $1.00 for each bag.

For places that have a tip jar:

Many places, like Starbucks or small sandwich shops, have a tip jar near the cash register.  In this case, you are free to leave any amount, but most people leave $1.00 or less.

Other places that you can tip:

Your barber or hairdresser, restaurant delivery, tour guides.  A good rule for tipping is 10-15% of your bill.

There are several “tip calculator” apps that you can download to your mobile phone. This will make it easy for you to figure the amount you should tip.




If you’re interested in SKYPE or private classes, give us a call at Worldwide English (713) 953-6511 or visit us online at http://www.englishlessons-houston.com.    We are based in Houston, Texas teaching English worldwide.




Nov 04 2013

How Much Should You Tip in the USA?


How much should you tip in the USA?Tipping in the USA

Many of my ESL students who are coming to Houston and the USA for the first time ask me this question:  “I’m not sure how much I should tip the waiter when I’m in a restaurant?”  What percent is accurate?  Here are several easy rules to follow for tipping in the southwestern part of the United States.  (I believe tipping may be a little higher on the east and west coasts.)

In a regular restaurant where the waiter takes your order and brings you your food. 

You may have noticed that the tax is added to our food bill.  This is a separate amount on your check.  Many people make the mistake of paying a tip for both the food and the tax.  You only need to pay a tip on the amount that you spend on the food, not the tax.  So look at the first amount, the total for the food.  In Houston, I always do this little trick.  Houston sales tax is 8.25%.  I look at the amount of tax and double it.  That’s the amount I usually leave for a tip, which is about 16.5 %.

For example, if I spend $10 on food at a restaurant and the tax is $0.83 (total is $10.83) I usually leave about $1.70.

The rule is 20% at a restaurant, but I’ve noticed that most of my students prefer to leave about 15%.  I think 15% is fine.  I think 10% is not enough.  Remember that the waiters do not get very much pay per hour.  They depend on your tips!

In a restaurant where there is a buffet.

Should you leave a tip when you are in a restaurant that has a buffet?  My answer is yes, but just a little.  When I visit a restaurant that has a buffet, the waiter brings me a drink, takes away my dishes when I’m finished and brings me the check.  So I always leave about $2.00 on the table for this service.  Even $1.00 is all right.  They appreciate it!

tips in the USAIn a Starbucks, or a place where there is a tip jar by the cashier.    

Sometimes you walk up to the counter, order your food, and pick it up yourself.  But you see a tip jar at the counter where you pay.  How much should you leave?  This is really your decision!  Many people leave the change that they receive from their order – which would be less than $1.00.  Some people put in one dollar, some people put in a quarter, and some people don’t put anything in.

This is your decision!  If the cashier is very friendly, you might want to put some money in the tip jar.  But it’s up to you!


If you get a drink at a bar, the normal tip to leave in the jar is $1.00 for each drink.

Valet Parking, Hotels, Airports, Supermarkets

  • The rule for people who carry your luggage is $1.00 per bag.
  • Maid service in a hotel is usually $3.00 per night and you should leave it in the room when you check out.  (Many Americans are not aware of this tipping service.)
  • People who park your car usually appreciate $3-$5 when they return your car to you.  That’s for free valet parking.  If the parking is not free, $1.00 is appropriate.
  • If someone carries your groceries to the car in a supermarket, tip $1.00.
  • How Much Should you Tip in the USA?

Don’t offer a tip to:

  • People who come to your home to offer a service like plumbing, painting, etc.  They are already paid well and don’t depend on tips.
  • The people who take care of your lawn.



Do you have any other questions about tipping in the USA?  Just send me an e-mail at julie@englishlessons-houston.com   If you are in Houston and need English lessons, give us a call or e-mail.  (713) 993-6511

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