There is nothing more awkward than fighting over a bill with a client. Both of you want to make the situation painless by putting down a credit card but the other won’t let you. Then, there’s the aspect of tipping. If they paid the bill, you may offer to pay the tip and then be on the receiving end of a look that says, ‘Do you seriously think I’m too cheap to give 20 percent?’
Tipping situations can be confusing. And if you spend an entire day (or series of days) with a client, numerous tipping opportunities will inevitably arise: Taking cab rides, meeting hotel greeters, ordering take out, checking luggage at the airport, and parking in valet—just to name a few. (Check out this related story: Tip Sheet: Debunking Dining Etiquette)
How should you handle such situations? Here are 10 tipping rules to live by:
1. Always tip 20 percent, regardless of service quality
This can be a toughie (especially if you experience poor service), but before stiffing a server, consider this: A restaurant worker’s compensation is based around tips. Depending on the city and state, servers can make around $2 per hour. This is only legal because they are expected to meet minimum wage (or higher) in tips during each shift.
“I see tips as part of a server’s salary; they need them to pay their bills,” says Jacqueline W. Sales, founder and owner of HAZMED, Inc., an environmental engineering and IT consulting firm in Lanham, Maryland.
If you’re part of a large group where gratuity is included, Sales recommends still paying attention. “Sometimes restaurants will automatically add a service charge of 15 or 18 percent on a big group, but it is good tipping etiquette to bring that up to 20 percent.”
Instead of punishing poor quality with a skimpy tip, Sales suggests explaining the situation to the restaurant manager.
2. The invitee always pays the meal and the tip
Pay attention to whom does the inviting in a business scenario—it is always that person who pays for everything, including the tip.
“If you’ve been invited to something, don’t offer to tip and don’t leave money for a tip—it implies that you don’t think they will pay enough,” says Shelley Davis Mielock, chief image expert at Mieshel Image Consulting in Lansing, Michigan.
Sales takes a slightly different approach. In an effort to ensure servers receive a good tip, she will gently convey concern to her host. “When they tell me, ‘it’s my treat,’ I usually say, ‘I generally leave 20 percent, so I can help if need be;’ to that, they usually answer by saying they do the same and will take care of it—that always makes me feel better because I don’t want to be embarrassed in a restaurant that I frequent,” she says.
3. Don’t skimp cab divers
Imagine this scenario: You and a client land at an airport and hurriedly hop in a cab on the way to a business meeting. You’re a little late and the fare comes out to $10.75. You give the driver $11 and leave. Ouch.
“Taxi drivers should always be tipped 15 percent of the full fare, and I suggest bumping that up to 20 percent if they are handling your luggage,” says Rachel Wagner, a certified corporate etiquette consultant, trainer and speaker in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
4. Carry a lot of cash
Before every business trip, Wagner makes a trip to the ATM, takes out $20, walks to the corner store and changes it for 20 $1 bills. She then puts the wad into an easily accessible part of her purse and heads to the airport.
“You don’t want to fumble through your wallet when trying to tip someone or give a bellman a $20 bill and ask for $17 back. As a host, you need to be prepared for tipping situations with lots of $1 bills,” she notes.
5. Take care of client’s tips for bellmen, skycap, etc.
If you and your client check into a curbside airline counter, take care of your tip and theirs. “Say to the skycap, ‘thanks for helping us with our bags,’ and give them money for you both; make sure you are in charge of the interaction so your client won’t resist,” advises Davis Mielock.
The same goes for hotel scenarios. Wagner suggests a $1-$2 tip for doormen, and never less than $2 (or $1 per bag) for bellmen who help you up to your room.
6. Don’t forget about restaurant carryout workers
Are you supposed to tip a whopping 20 percent for a carryout restaurant order? Wagner says no, that 10 percent suffices, but more is always welcome because usually those employees are on the same pay structure as full-service servers.
7. Tip hotel housekeeping staff
Like restaurant servers, the salaries of many hotel housekeepers also rely on tips. Wagner recommends leaving $2-$3 on your bedside table each day of your stay. “Make sure to do it every day, because different people may clean your room on different days,” she says.
8. Don’t tip high-level employees
This one can be a little confusing. If you have a great experience at a restaurant, you may be inclined to exchange favorable words with the establishment’s owner—which is fine, just make sure not to give her/him a tip. “It’s offensive to tip owners of restaurants,” says Davis Mielock.
9. If you can’t tip, send a note/gift
Some establishments will not accept tips under any circumstances. In these cases, Davis Mielock recommends sending a nice card or small gift as a sentiment of thanks.
If your client is adamant about paying for a meal or tipping your server, let them. “You don’t want to get in a fist fight with them; just say thank you and send them a nice note,” she says.
10. There’s no such thing as over-tipping
In a generous mood? Feel free to dole out the dough.
Says Davis Mielock, “A waitress might look at you like you’re crazy when you give her a 50 percent tip, but don’t worry, it’s totally fine and very nice, in fact.”