Most people I know, but especially mothers with several tiny tots in tow, suffer from a uniquely American affliction known as “tip anxiety.” This causes us to question how many of our hard-earned dollars we should voluntarily fork over in any given situation. For example, you might think the bellman deserves two dollars for hailing you a cab but you only have a ten on hand, so you debate whether to give him anything, all of it, or ask for change (awkward!). We have been so pummeled into tip submission that the valet could steal your quarters and kick you in the shin and you’d hobble away, having parted with yet another five dollars. Here’s a purely suggestive guide to tipping in certain instances – depending on whether or not you’ve got the family with you.
1. Restaurant Server. On the rare night out without your kids, you may dine at an actual restaurant ordering exotic things like “wine pairings” and “multiple courses.” By the end of the meal you should be in high spirits – maybe even tipsy – so you think nothing of tipping the absurdly standard 15-20%. On the other hand, when you’re dining out with your kids, the situation is remarkably different. The server has had to repeat the specials four times within 15 minutes and already replaced your toddler’s spilled milk, which is now marinating in the carpet. Spilled salt and ripped sugar packets cover the table. Then you realize your kid has graduated from coloring on the paper place mat to scribbling vigorously on the table. The baby is weeping. You deliberately order the cheapest, quickest dishes on the menu, lamenting the decision to go out to dinner in the first place. If you ever want to return to this restaurant you’ll probably want to leave a few bucks above 20 percent – assuming they’ll ever welcome you back.
2. Bellman. If you’re traveling solo and arrive at a hotel, you will likely wave the bellman off with a polite smile. Your small rolling suitcase is perfectly manageable on your own, especially considering what you usually deal with (if he only knew). There’s no need to tip at all! But when your family is traveling, you might need a little help: the poor bellman has no idea how much stuff you’ve managed to cram into that Odyssey. He opens your trunk and gasps; you place your hand on his sagged shoulder and gently suggest he call for backup. He’s going to need a little more manpower and another cart. I’d suggest you generously give $10 after all is settled in the room. He may need a chiropractor after this.
3. Hotel Housekeeper. If you’re lucky enough to occasionally travel by your lonesome, you probably use your hotel room to sleep, shower for no fewer than 37 minutes, watch whatever YOU want on television, and then sleep some more. The effect on your room from these activities is minimal, so you can tip your housekeeper $2 per day, depending on the size of the bills you have on hand. Then there’s the epic travel occasion when you have your entire family crammed into one hotel room. Even though you specifically reserved a room with two beds, you’ve been given a room with one bed, one cot, and a rolling crib so stark it reminds you of a petite prison on wheels. You no longer have any floor space as your suitcases apparently exploded upon entry; the only evidence that this was an intentional detonation is that the toiletries made it to the bathroom and cover at least 96% of the sink’s surface area. Diapers occupy the trash cans, crumbs are blanketing the bed, and at least one child is roaming the hallway. There is sand on the bathroom floor, and you’re not even near the beach. Tip suggestion: $5 per day – and maybe $10 on the last day. You know from personal experience how hard housekeeping is.
4. Restroom Attendant. I’m the first person to admit that I have no idea why this job exists. I can make dinner while talking on the phone, holding a baby, and being “assisted” by a toddler all at once, so I don’t know why I’d need someone to hand me a paper towel or a breath mint in exchange for a dollar. However, if you’re attending a wedding or are in the rare restaurant that employs a restroom attendant and you have your kids with you, get ready: your kids will look at the bounty of tampons, lotion, mints, maxi pads and mouthwash and exclaim, “You mean these are all freeeeeee?!” Before you know it, your child’s two minuscule hands will have somehow made off with enough stuff to obligate you to a $3 tip.
There are so many situations in which a tip is expected that without realizing it you’re handing out 8% of your annual salary as gratuities, and the more kids you have, the higher the percentage you’ll have to pay. But ultimately, another dollar here and there is a drop in the bucket considering having a family means you’re bleeding money most of the time anyway. Your generosity is appreciated – and expected!
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