Tipping etiquette in America has become a minefield of awkward handshakes, rudimentary mathematics and social blunders. This week, New York’s Conflicts of Interest Board fined two sanitation workers $2,000 for accepting a tip. They were paid $10 between them for hauling off an unusually large amount of trash for a resident in Queens, N.Y., though they requested $20.
But while tipping sanitation workers is a no-no, a growing number of workers expect it and depend on it. Many consumers may be surprised to learn that they’re expected to tip baristas, for instance. (Consider it a goodwill tax for all that free Wi-Fi.) Just this week, New York’s Court of Appeals ruled that Starbucks baristas must share their tips with shift supervisors. The court found that the supervisors do much of the same work as baristas and are, therefore, entitled to a share.
Tip jars are popping up in the most unexpected places, says Chris Young, executive director of The Protocol School of Washington, a company that offers courses in etiquette. “What used to be old-fashioned customer service has now become a privilege to receive” for customers, he says. But with workers facing stagnant wages and increases in the cost of living, it’s little wonder tipping has become more widespread, he says.
Here’s a guide to some of the other more unusual places customers are expected to tip in 2013 (besides fast-food chains).
Store baggers: $2
Publix supermarket has a no-tipping policy for employees. “Carryout service is part of the shopping experience at Publix,” a spokeswoman says. But in Florida, some customers quietly tip Publix staff regardless. “I often feel sorry for them and want to help them out,” says Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach, Florida.
Dog groomers: 15% to 20%
It’s the most obvious way to help ensure that your dog gets extra love and attention. “I have someone come to my home,” Whitmore says, “and I always give her and her assistant a tip.” And the earlier puppies are trained in the grooming process — being obedient and comfortable getting their nails clipped and coat trimmed — the better for everyone concerned, she says.
Camp counselor: $50 to $100
The average price of overnight summer camp has increased 22% to $500 a week over the past five years, according to the American Camp Association, but tipping camp counselors is still expected, says Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick, founder and director of The Etiquette School of New York, “especially for parents who use the same camps year after year.”
Building superintendent: $20 to $100
Etiquette experts say it’s wise to get on your super’s good side. Superintendents constantly field calls from residents, and you want to avoid getting put at the bottom of the to-do list. It’s money in the bank in the event of a broken toilet or lost latch key. (Some landlords can charge $300 for lost keys; a super might be able to cut a new key as a favor.) “They know how to get things done,” Napier-Fitzpatrick says.
Waxing salon: 15%
Customers are often presented with an envelope for tips, but a Brazilian bikini wax may require more from a provider than, say, an eyebrow wax. Around 10% “is usually a nice warm spot,” Young says. But he suggests 15% for a particularly intricate waxing. “Did they know you were in a hurry?” he says. “Did they do it with skill, aplomb and discretion? And in a way that mitigates the pain?”
Door man: $100 gift certificate
Nobody wants to tip their doorman $5 every time they forget their keys. Once a year, around the holidays, is adequate, Young says — and maybe on birthdays if you have a particularly good relationship. “You don’t have to give cash,” he says. “A very nice bottle of wine or $100 gift certificate is appropriate.”
Cable guy: refreshments
Ever since the Comcast cable guy was caught on camera sleeping in 2006 and the video went viral on YouTube, cable installers have gotten a bad rap. But experts say a glass of ice tea or a lemonade is all he expects. A $50 tip probably won’t get you free movie channels. (And if it did, it probably wouldn’t be legal.)
Coach bus driver: $1 to $2 a bag
While taxi drivers almost always get tipped, drivers for private bus companies and rental car companies frequently get passed over, Whitmore says. On a recent bus ride from the airport to the car rental company, Whitmore says she was the only person who tipped the driver. “The poor guy was lugging everybody’s heavy bags. I always give a $1 a bag, or $2 for an extra bag.”
Personal trainer: price of one session
When it comes to tipping personal trainers, once a year is usually enough — around the holidays or at the end of a series of sessions, says Napier-Fitzpatrick. It doesn’t have to be cash, but candy is probably a bad idea and the gratuity should be the equivalent of at least the cost of one training session. She also recommends tipping locker room attendants on a regular basis.
Big box store clerk: $10
If a member of the sales staff carries a flat-screen television or treadmill to your car, a tip is in order, says Ummu Bradley Thomas, founder of the Freddie Bell Jones Modeling & Finishing School in Denton, Md. “In some of the larger box stores tipping is not allowed, which seems unfair given all of their heavy lifting,” she says.