New York: A guide to tipping for foreign tourists
New York business owners and workers consider foreign tourists notoriously bad tippers. To be fair, many tourists are visiting from countries that don’t expect substantial tipping. And face it, eating, drinking, traveling and getting beautiful in New York is already pretty expensive, even without the gratuity thrown in at the end.
Although tipping can stretch the traveler’s budget, it’s really quite important. Most waiters don’t make a living wage, so they rely upon the tips to balance out their income. The same goes for taxi drivers, whose tips make up roughly 25 percent of their income.
Tipping isn’t hard or complicated. Here’s a quick overview of how much to tip in New York:
Even New Yorkers find tipping taxi drivers difficult at times. It’s no secret that cabbies face long hours and dangerous working conditions. That said, some drivers can be pretty rude, refusing to drive to outer boroughs or ignoring you while chatting on their hands-free phones. Still, you’ve got to tip.
Most passengers tip around 15 percent of the fare. The credit card machines available in all yellow cabs give passengers the option to tip 15, 20 and 25 percent. Don’t panic, Cheapos. You can still tip as you see fit using the keypad.
This is the big one, and applies to all restaurants where a waiter brings food to your table. (This does not apply in fast-food restaurants where you order at a counter and take your own food to a table.)
After paying your bill, leaving a 15-18 percent tip is standard. If service is outstanding, reward your waiter with 20 to 25 percent. You can add it to your bill if paying by credit card, or simply leave the money on the table, if paying with cash.
Always look carefully at your bill: The tip should not be already included. However, we’ve heard that certain swanky establishments like the Gansevoort Hotel have started adding 18 percent gratuity for everyone.
Larger groups (more than six people) should expect to have gratuity automatically added to their bill (usually about 18 percent). Make sure you check your bill carefully, and ask if it isn’t clear.
Note for foreign visitors: We’ve noticed, with some frustration, that gratuity is sometimes added to bills when it’s obvious that the diners are foreigners. It’s annoying, as it sends a message that just because the waiter or manager overheard the table speaking a foreign language, the diners will be unaccustomed to adding a tip on their own. Be aware and check your bill carefully — especially if you’re speaking another language.
If you hand your coat, bag or purse to an attendant to be checked away while you dine or attend an event, giving a $1 tip is customary when you pick up your item.
At some bars, you’ll pay a small charge per item when you drop them off. This is a sort of preemptive tip. Feel free to drop off another tip when you pick up your item, although it won’t really be necessary.
Note that tipping is not required (and may be forbidden) when checking items at museums.
For a drink under $10, a $1 tip per drink is common. Go up from there depending on the quality of the bar. Most bartenders agree there’s a difference between pulling a beer tap at a dive bar and muddling fresh ingredients to make a top-notch drink at a lounge—and they expect customers to tip accordingly.
Tipping in bars has more to do with making sure your next drink comes faster than it is about service. But by all means, give the cute, friendly or super-efficient bartender a couple more dollars.
In the land of $7-manicures, feel like a big spender with a 30 percent tip—it’ll only set you back $2 extra.
When it comes to the other services at hair salons and day spas, the standard 15 to 20 percent rule applies.
Getting a 90-minute massage? Feel free to go over 20 percent for your tip. You’ve just spent quite a bit of time with a complete stranger!
Have any advice on tipping to add to our list? Tip us off in our comments section.
Also in our guide: Heading to New York and looking for great, affordable places to sleep? Check out our reviews of the best cheap hotels in New York City, all visited, inspected and reviewed by our team of editors. Read more in our New York hotel guide.