Now, you should be tipping in pubs and restaurants anyway. Because it’s polite and you seem nice enough. However, if you’re not in the habit of tipping in general, or only for a slightly more up-market meal, the policy of tipping in the USA can be an absolute minefield. Let’s start with some basics:
Who not to tip:
The Air Hostess on your way here.
Connecticut State Police officials.
The person serving you at the Shop ’n’ Save at the check out counter.
Your fellow students.
Me for this post.
The Air Hostess on your way back.
However, in the US, tipping is required of any service under hospitality. The money added on to your initial bill is not a tip, it is (the US equivalent of) VAT. So what you see advertised and what you will pay is generally slightly different and slightly more.
America is a tipping culture. Where we are happy giving 10% at a restaurant and occasionally buying an attractive bar person a half of the cheapest lager, you should remember that many of the people who serve you are living off their tips.
To avoid causing offence you can always ask the server if you’re confused. (I did this a lot and people seemed to find it polite and endearing in a bumbling British romcom kind of way. Pretend you’re Judy Dench or a struggling Hugh Grant.) I spoke to servers who said they would wonder what they did wrong for a 10% tip. It is also not uncommon for people to demand of you what they have done wrong to be given such a low amount. So aim for 15% – 20%, unless someone has genuinely offended you with shocking service.
Who to tip:
Your taxi driver: (10-20%, they’re usually very chatty)
Your server in a restaurant: (20%)
Your Bar Server (if you’re Over 21, of course): I made it a research project to interview several, and they claimed that $1 tip per drink (per serve, go 20% if you collect the bill at the end) is fairly standard if you’re buying single beers or glasses of wine. Maybe less if you don’t want to break a note, or you could communicate that you will tip at the end of the evening. Tip more if you’re buying bottles of wine. Definitely tip more if you’re buying cocktails where they’re making a real effort, shaking things and so forth.
Coffee Shop Servers: Anything up to and beyond a dollar, within reason (they usually have a jar for tipping, be nice and if you go there regularly then they will be nice to you).
Your Hotel Bag Carrier: I have only seen this kind of suave manoeuvre on movies, but I assume for the effort of carrying your bags in the event of your blatant laziness, that you should be throwing cash directly into their pockets…
The pizza delivery person (and all other food delivery services): 10% at least.
Try not to forget and be either chased down the street or just straight up blanked next time you go to a place. People remember the generous and the cheap, aim to be the former.
Good luck and don’t be afraid to ask!