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Tipping Etiquette in North America

Tipping is a unique and important aspect of service culture in North America. Unlike in many other parts of the world, where gratuity is often included in the bill or simply not expected, tipping in the United States and Canada allows customers to directly reward service workers for their efforts. It's not just a bonus—tips often make up a significant portion of service workers' income.



Mastering tipping etiquette is essential for both residents and visitors in North America. It respects service professionals' hard work and dedication and ensures they are fairly compensated. This guide will explore when, how, and how much to tip across various service industries.

Watch my tv feature about tipping etiquette:

When to Tip: The Common Scenarios

Restaurants and Bars

Tipping is expected when dining out at a restaurant or enjoying drinks at a bar unless service is truly abysmal. The standard tip for servers and bartenders is 15-20% of the pre-tax bill. If you receive exceptional service – your water glass is never empty, your server offers helpful menu recommendations, or your bartender crafts a perfect cocktail – consider tipping on the higher end of that range or even exceeding 20%.


A small tip is appreciated but not always expected for taxi rides or ride-hailing services like Uber or Lyft, especially on short trips. Consider rounding up to the nearest dollar or tipping 10-15% for longer rides or if the driver assists with luggage. Many ride-hailing apps now include a tipping option, making it easy to add a few dollars.

Delivery Services

Tipping your delivery driver is good etiquette whether ordering through a food delivery app or directly from a restaurant. Aim for a minimum of $2-5, depending on the size of your order and the distance traveled. Consider tipping a bit extra in bad weather or for particularly speedy service.


When staying at a hotel, there are several service professionals to consider tipping:

  • Bellhops: $1-2 per bag, depending on size and weight

  • Housekeeping: $2-5 per night, left daily in the room 

  • Concierge: $5-20 for securing hard-to-get reservations or going above and beyond with recommendations

  • Room Service: Check the bill to see if gratuity is included; if not, tip 15-20%


At salons and spas, tipping is expected for most personal care services. If you're paying individual practitioners directly, tip them 15-20% at the end of your service. If you're paying at a central counter, there's often a tip line on the receipt where you can add gratuity; divide it among the professionals who served you.

How Much: A Percentage Primer

To simplify the tipping process, here's a handy chart summarizing common service industry tips:

Infographic on Common Service Industry Tipping in North America by
Infographic on Common Service Industry Tipping in North America by

Remember, these are baselines – feel free to tip above and beyond for truly exceptional service. A generous tip is a great way to show gratitude for a well-done job.

Beyond the Basics

"Automatic" Gratuity

Some restaurants, particularly for large parties, may include an automatic gratuity (often 18%) on the bill. This is essentially a built-in tip, so there's no need to add an amount unless you feel the service was outstanding. Check your bill to see if gratuity has been added to avoid double-tipping.

Cash vs. Card Tipping

While tipping with a credit card is perfectly acceptable, service workers often prefer cash tips. Cash tips can be pocketed immediately and may help the business avoid extra credit card processing fees. If you have cash, consider using it for tips.

Tipping Jars

Many casual establishments, such as cafes, bakeries, or takeout restaurants, have a tip jar by the register. Tipping isn't necessarily expected in these scenarios, but dropping your change or a small bill in the jar is a nice gesture if you're a regular customer or received friendly, efficient service.


Tipping is more than just a few dollars—it's a way to show appreciation for the hard work and dedication of service professionals across North America. Understanding when, how, and how much to tip in various scenarios will ensure workers are fairly compensated and contribute to a culture of respect and gratitude.

Even when traveling outside North America, it's a good practice to do a quick search on local tipping customs. A thoughtful tip is a universal language of thanks that transcends cultural differences. 

VIP Protocol's mission is to help businesses elevate customer service to world-class standards. If you want to improve your team's service skills, consider taking our Customer Service Bootcamp. Our expert coaches, including I will teach techniques for genuine interactions and provide strategies for handling even the most complex customer challenges. With our program, you'll see serious results and long-term success.


Jeannie Vaage, Etiquette Consultant, VIP Protocol
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