Tipping in the United States can be very confusing, not only for international visitors but for Americans alike. However, it is a requirement when you dine in at a restaurant or order at a bar; meanwhile, there are other instances where it is also expected (and that you may not realize–such as tipping the maid at the hotel where you stay).
How much should we tip? The rates vary by the type of service provided, the region of the country and other factors. The Emily Post Institute provides these general recommendations: 15% to 20% of the pre-tax bill for sit-down restaurant service, 10% for servers at buffets (for help with drink orders and plate removal) and $1 to $2 per drink for bartenders, or 15% to 20% of the bar tab. In Massachusetts, the minimum tip for at a sit-down restaurant should probably be closer to 18% or 20% because of higher cost of living. Keep in mind that servers depend on these tips, since most are making only $4.35 per hour in Massachusetts (in many other states, the federal tipped minimum wage is $2.13 per hour); their tips are supposed to make up the difference to total the minimum wage, which in Massachusetts is $12 per hour (federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour).
Other examples include: valets ($2 to $5 to retrieve a vehicle), $1 or $2 for Uber/Lyft drivers, 10% for taxi drivers, 15 to 20% for hair stylists, manicurists and those doing massages, and at least a couple of dollars for pizza delivery. For hotel bellhops and luggage handlers at the airport, figure on $2 for the first bag and $1 for each additional one. Doormen could receive a dollar or two to carry luggage or hail cabs.
Read about the conflicting histories of tipping below: