The art of tipping can be confusing. How many times have you asked a friend how much they tipped the hotel housekeeping staff or how much of gratuity to give a parking attendant?  International travel writer Linda Milks shares everything you need to know about gratuities when you travel to Palm Springs or elsewhere.

How Did Tipping Begin?

Tipping actually began as a custom in Europe. The belief is that wealthy Americans traveling abroad saw tipping and brought this custom home to “show off” their aristocratic class.

The beginnings of tipping started in taverns of 17th Century England where money was slipped “to insure promptness” (or T.I.P.) After all, these tavern imbibers didn’t want to sit around waiting for their next drink.

Mixologist Preparing Cocktails

In America, in the late 1800’s, there was a movement against tipping. The reasoning was that it created an aristocratic class. In fact, six states attempted and failed to pass an anti-tipping bill to make gratuities unlawful. Who knows if this was their true motivation?

What Are Tipped Minimum Wage Employees?

When I started exploring tipping in the United States, I found that there is a tipped minimum wage which is an hourly pay rate for employees who receive tips on a regular basis, and it is often lower than the general minimum wage.

Believe it or not, the U.S. federal government requires tipped employees to be paid at least $2.13 per hour in direct wages, as long as this amount equals the federal hourly minimum wage when combined with tips. To be a tipped employee, an employee must receive more than $30 per month in tips. This tipped minimum wage applies whenever the state-tipped minimum wage pays less than the U.S. tipped minimum wage.

Small Barn Restaurant Server with Tomahawk Steak

The good news for tipped minimum wage employees in California is that at the current time, California requires employers to pay tipped employees full state minimum wage before tips. Currently, in California that wage is $13 with 25 employees or less and $14 with 26 or more employees. This minimum can even be higher in some parts of California, such as the Bay area.

How Much Is The Acceptable Tip At A Hotel?

Just who qualifies as a tipped employee? Yes, it’s the person retrieving your car from valet parking, the person who provides spa treatment, and the hotel housekeeper, in addition to the bartender and server at a winery or a restaurant.

Hotel Housekeeper Preparing to Clean a Room

How much should you be tipping each of the people who are taking care of you? The tipping rate per day for a Hotel Housekeeper should be $3-5 per day or as much as $5-$20 per day in exclusive resorts. It’s best to tip this housekeeper every day rather than at the end of your stay so that the person who does the work for each day gets the tip.

What about the person who brings your luggage to your room? The suggested amount is $1-$2 per bag. If they give you a great orientation, you may want to tip a little more. A flat rate of $5 plus $1 per bag is customary for storing your bag and then taking them to your room.

Shuttle service to and from a hotel should run between $1-$2 per person or $4-$5 per party.

A concierge or front desk attendant giving you detailed information such as obtaining a desirable restaurant reservation or hard-to-get tickets should be tipped at least $5.

How much for valet service? Tipping when your car is delivered is recommended to be $1-$5. Tipping when your car is parked is up to your discretion but not necessary.

How Much Do You Tip Outside The Hotel For Service?

That special hairdresser should be tipped between 18-22%, especially if you have received excellent service.

Hairdresser Blow Drying Customer’s Hair

How about a massage therapist or manicurist? Tipping with cash is the most desirable way for these professionals to receive a tip. A massage therapist should receive between 15% and 20% of the cost of the treatment. For a manicure or a pedicure, a 20% tip is the norm.

Bartenders should get a $1 tip for a drink like beer, but $2 for a cocktail. If it’s a 2-for-1 special, you still should tip on two drinks. Cash is much appreciated rather than putting it on a card. And, whatever you do, don’t wave your money around. This will not get you faster service.

Do you really need to pay 20% tip on a bottle of wine? The answer is “yes.” That bottle is part of the atmosphere where you are dining, it has probably been selected and described by your server, and has been carefully stored for your enjoyment.

Wine Server Pouring a Glass of Wine

Now let’s talk about restaurant servers. Please don’t be one of those persons who deducts the sales tax when calculating a tip at a restaurant. Many times your server shares the tips with the bussers, the dishwashers, and runners in a “tipping pool.” That server creates a special mood while you are dining and deserves to be compensated for that experience. Think of the difference between a pre-tax tip on a $100 meal and an after-tax tip. If the tax is 10% (the highest in the country), then you are paying an extra $2. That is just not worth the thought or effort.

Is a Service Charge A Tip?

Group of Ladies at Lunch Where They Will Be Charged a Service Charge

Be aware that when a Service Charge is tacked onto your bill in California, that Service Charge belongs to the employer. That employer can either give the money to the employees, give part to the employees, or keep it all for themselves. Perhaps that would be a good question to ask the employer when booking a large group where a Service Charge is required.

Traveling, hotel stays, special treatments, and dining are all wonderful ways to treat yourself and enjoy time with others. Make sure you provide an adequate tip for those working in the service industry to keep everyone happy and receiving a decent pay.