The Elephant in the Room – Tipping Guidelines

Blog » The Elephant in the Room – Tipping Guidelines

Tipping is often a controversial topic. We have received requests from many of our guests to provide some guidelines for tipping while on vacation. While not a mandatory practice, it is often customary – especially considering that most of those working in professions where tipping is common, hourly earnings are below the minimum wage. In an effort to provide a resource to our visitors and guests, we have decided to take a stab at providing some suggested guidelines for tipping in the hospitality industry. We hope you will find these suggestions useful while vacationing in beautiful Myrtle Beach.

Following are some general guidelines for gratuities:

Restaurants with table service: Tip 15% or more of the bill, based on the quality of service. If you receive exceptional service, 20-25% is customary. Note: In many restaurants, the server has to pay back a portion of their tips to the bartender, busser, hostess, and food runners. A good rule of thumb is if you see people other than your server helping maintain or clean tables, serve wine, or deliver food, those people are being tipped by your server for their work. Even if you do not see additional “support staff, it is very likely that the server is paying a portion of their tips to other staff.

The exception to this general rule occurs at some restaurants for large parties (typically six or more people). If you’re with a large party, be sure to check your bill just in case. 15% – 20% is often automatically charged for a large party (six or more). If the tip is included, the breakdown of the bill will read “gratuity” or “service charge,” which means that a tip is already included. As always, if you feel you did not receive 15% service, inform the management before paying your bill and have it adjusted to the adequate amount.

Buffet restaurants: Tipping servers who clear multiple dishes and provide drink refills is recommended. Some persons may tip buffet servers $1 per diner, others as much as 5 to 10 percent of the total pre-tax bill, depending upon the level of service provided. Buffet servers may not take orders or bring out food, but they do work hard keeping your table clean of the empty plates after multiple trips to the buffet line. In addition to this, they often help to keep the buffet line stocked and clean, and they make coffee, brew tea, etc. Remember that the minimum tip for any server should be $1 per person. Do not leave only 75 cents for a $5.00 buffet! As always, if you feel you have not been well-served, adjust the gratuity down. If a tip has been added to your bill beforehand because your party was 6 or more, but the server was inadequate or rude, inform the manager immediately before you pay your bill that you want the tip adjusted.

Bartenders: $1 per drink, or 15-20% of the total bill. If you tip well and consistently at bars and pubs, you *might* receive a drink on the house, known sometimes as a “buyback” or “comp”. This typically occurs after the 3rd drink you buy, however, is usually reserved for regular customers. Some bartenders will still use the “old school” signal of leaving an upside-down shot glass near your spot at the bar, especially if you are engaged in conversation or if the place is very noisy, but it’s not that common anymore. Turn the shot glass over when you want the free drink. Even though the drink is free, the labor isn’t. Don’t forget to tip on the “buyback.” Note that some bars do not allow this.

Hotel housekeeping/maid service: $2-3 per night up to $5, more in high-end hotels. Also more if there are more than 3 people in a room or suite. Leave the tip on your pillow or in a similar obvious place with a note that says thank you. Leave the tip each day when you leave the room, rather than at the end of your stay, because your room might get cleaned by different people each day. If you have additional items delivered to your room, such as extra pillows, hangers, luggage racks, tip the person who brings them $2 or $3.

Bellman/Porter: $1-2 per bag. More if the bags are very heavy.

Taxi or Uber/Lyft Driver: 10-15% of fare, based on service.

Valet Parking Attendants: $2 – $5 (when picking up car).

Spa: For a massage or other treatment, 10% – 20%. Ask if the tip has been included, some spas will include a gratuity on your final bill. Most spas will provide you with an envelope to leave at the reception desk for the person who gave you your treatment. Also, if you wish to leave a small gratuity for the spa attendant who showed you around the Spa and got you situated, it is well appreciated, $2 to $5.

Concierge: Tipping is never expected, but always appreciated. The more difficult the request, the higher the tip. $5.00 and up per request is good.

Room service wait person: Always read the bill, if there is a tip included, it will be on the bill breakdown. Ask the server. The policy of having the gratuity included in the bill is not the norm anymore. A service charge or convenience fee goes to the hotel, not the server. If there is no gratuity added, tip the server 15% – 20%.

Airport limo/shuttle driver: For a free ride from the airport, $10 – $20.

Drink Server in a bar or casino: $1-$2 per drink. Some tip $5 for the first drink to make sure the waitress “remembers” them and returns often.

Tour Guides: 15% – 20% + depending on quality (knowledge, friendliness, etc.)

Tips should only go to people who are helpful. If they don’t help you, don’t tip them. If you receive bad service, you should speak to management, not just ignore the tip as the server is unaware of the situation. Perhaps they think you overlooked the tip or another person picked up the tip and pocketed it themselves. (Note: These recommendations are based on ones provided by the Emily Post Institute.