NEW YORK — As you head out to a nice dinner or on vacation at the height of the summer travel season, everyone will understand if you tip less because of the recession, right?
Well, some people may. But it's guaranteed they've never made a large portion of their income from tips — as waiters and other hospitality workers do. And hospitality workers already have taken a direct hit from the downturn, as companies cut jobs and work hours to save money.
To be certain you tip properly for the services you enjoy, here's some advice:
Do the math
Business psychologist Debra Condren says 15 percent is the minimum for just being served — even unsatisfactorily — at a restaurant. For good service, she says, 20 percent is fair.
"Tipping 10 percent and justifying it by saying, 'We're in a recession,' makes you a heartless Scrooge," she says.
If you need help figuring the amount, use a calculator or download a tip estimator on your smartphone. And try to tip in cash: Waiters and waitresses greatly appreciate being able to head home that night with cash in their pockets.
Consider a cheaper restaurant if you can't afford to tip appropriately at an expensive one.
Most of U.S. hospitality workers' income comes from tips, which at a restaurant they share with other staff like baristas, bartenders and busboys. At the same time, there's no need to tip the owner of a business.
Give skycaps at least $1 for each bag and tip taxi drivers 15 percent in addition to your fare. Give a bellhop $5 for opening and showing you around your hotel room, and more if he or she brings up your luggage.
Always keep $1 bills handy so you're not digging for money and won't have to ask the person you are tipping for change. And remember the hotel maid, who makes the bed, takes out the trash and leaves the room pristine. At least $5 a night is recommended, depending on the hotel and length of stay, according to www.tipping.org.
Read the fine print
Some hotels charge fees for room service and other optional services, in which case you aren't expected to tip as well. But service that goes above and beyond usually deserves a little more, and tipping norms can vary by location so check a guidebook or the Internet if you're traveling overseas.
"Tipping is a creature of local customs, so you have to do your homework," Condren says.
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