The Everyman's Guide to Tipping People in NYC
Tipping in New York isn’t so much discretionary as it is a yardstick by which your soul is measured. And that’s not entirely unreasonable -- most people in the service industry in New York depend on your tips so they can, you know, live. But the line between appropriate tip and shame on your entire family is thin. So just to make sure we’re all on the same page, we talked to a combination of experts, including people in the industries, the New York tourism board, and an expert on New York etiquette to pull together the official New York tipping guide.
While the taxi drivers we chatted with would be more than happy if you tapped that 25% button on the screen (and also “politely” reminded us that cash is preferred), Patricia Fitzpatrick, founder and president of the Etiquette School of New York, says “15% should be your base for taxis. There are a few caveats. For example, if your fare is $8.50, you might just round up to to $10. If the driver puts your bag in the trunk for you, you would give them an extra $1 for that. If there is a lot of traffic and they are doing their best to get you there faster or on a better route, you might also give them a little extra. But don’t give less than 15 percent.”
New York City’s tourism board, NYC & Company, agrees that 15-20% of your total fare is entirely acceptable.
Tipping your super is usually customary at Christmas time, and is based on a variety of factors, like how long you’ve lived there, how big your building is, how much work your super has done for you throughout the year, etc. “I consider it to be proportional to your rent,” says Ken, a superintendent at a building on the Upper East Side. “I usually get a range between $20 and $150 from each unit during Christmas.”
Fitzpatrick, however, believes you should swing a little more generous. “Depending on the size of the building, how much they do for you, how much they do for the building, etc, the standard would be $100-$250. If it’s your first year there, you might give them a little less than that,” she says.
Seamless delivery people
Seamless makes it super easy to add a tip -- all you have to do is click a simple button when you’re checking out, so you don’t have to be bothered with fast math at the door. As with most of the service industry scene in New York, 20% is pretty much the standard for tips. You might consider giving a little extra if you’re making those delivery guys trek out in things like rain or, you know, those pesky blizzards.
“Never tip less than $2,” says Fitzpatrick. “Weather and distance factors in. For a typical pizza delivery, I’d suggest $2-5 depending on the size of the order. But even if what you order costs you only $10, a $2 tip is appropriate.”
“Again, this depends on the size of the order,” says Fitzpatrick. “If it’s just a few things, anywhere from $2-5 is fine. If it’s a huge order, I would give more.” Also consider whether you live in an elevator building or a walk-up. A general consensus among people from FreshDirect and Trader Joe’s is that $1-2 per bag is appropriate, depending on size of order and actual manual labor involved with the delivery.
If you don’t live in a doorman building and actually communicate with your laundry delivery person, the consensus is they expect $3-5 depending on the size of the wash. “In most buildings with doormen, you don’t actually see the laundry person, but if you do interact with him/her, a $2 tip is fine,” says Fitzpatrick.
Waitstaff in restaurants
NYC & Company recommends tipping 15-20% on the total bill, but waiters we spoke to seem to agree that 20% is the new standard. “Tips are where we make our money, which I’m sure everyone knows. If we’re doing our job well, we kind of expect that 20%. We have to live in New York, too,” says Sandra, a waitress with jobs in both Long Island City and Fort Greene.
“It used to be 15-20%, but 18 is the new 15,” says Fitzpatrick. “In some restaurants they recommend 25%, but that’s only for really fine-dining.”
If we’re bottom-lining it, 20% would be the base for tipping, dropping less than that if service was substandard, and going over a bit if it was really stellar. Besides, 20% is way easier to calculate on the fly.
But tipping in restaurants may soon be a thing of the past. Some of the city’s most popular restaurants have implemented a no-tipping model, arguing that it’s better for the customers, staff, and business overall. Danny Meyer’s been most vocal about the benefits of no-tipping, committing to putting it into practice at all of his restaurants. Craft, Eleven Madison Park, and newcomers Momofuku Nishi and Pasquale Jones have hopped on the trend too, among others. Lois, an all-tap wine bar in the East Village has eliminated tipping as well.
“$1 a drink is usually standard,” says Kate, a bartender in Astoria. “But if you’re paying with credit card, we expect 20% on the total bill.”
Fitzpatrick agrees that $1 for a beer or regular drink is the standard. “But if he or she is making something really special, give $2.”
If you’re at a fancy lounge, versus a regular dive, it’s also expected to tip a little higher, as well. If you’re getting bottle service, 20% of the total is expected.
“If you’re sitting at the bar for hours drinking one drink, give $5, because you’re taking up space,” adds Fitzpatrick.
Bellmen at hotels
If you live here, you’re probably not staying at a hotel. But when your parents visit you, they’ll want this info. A doorman at a New York City hotel expects $1 for hailing a cab. Porters and bellhops expect $1 per bag. Fitzpatrick suggests $2 for the first bag and then $1 for each additional bag.
How much you should tip your doorman depends on a number of factors: how often you ask them for things, how many units are in your building, how many years you've lived there... to make it easy, simply use TripleMint's clear-cut quiz, which will have you answer all of those questions and more to figure out the proper amount to tip your doorman.
Horse carriage rides
If you’re doing this, you’re definitely also carrying a foam Statue of Liberty crown in your purse. So if your trip to New York feels incomplete without that Carrie and The Russian moment, Central Park Tours says, “Tipping $10-$15 for a 20-minute ride, or $20-$25 for a 45-minute carriage ride is what is expected.” See you at Serendipity after!
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Meagan Drillinger is a contributing writer for Thrillist and usually hands over all extra cash in her wallet to avoid having to do fast math. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at @drillinjourneys.