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How much should I tip? A guide to tipping at bars, hotels, salons, in an Uber and more

An electronic point-of-sale tablet shows a tipping prompt. | Lighthouse Films via Getty Images

Almost everywhere you go these days, it seems you’re asked for a tip. Whether you’re in an Uber, at a bar, in a hotel, at the hair salon or even buying milk at the corner store, once you start to pay, you’re often prompted to leave a tip. But how much is appropriate or generous? And when is it OK not to tip?

The Standard has explored the ins and outs of tipping in San Francisco and the wider Bay Area in a series of 2023 stories. Here’s a summary of what we’ve found:

Californians Don’t Tip as Generously as the Rest of America

Data from the payments platform Toast shows Californians are stingy when it comes to leaving tips. Toast, a transaction platform used by about 79,000 businesses in the United States, compiled credit card sales data from full-service and quick-service restaurants that use its technology, finding that Californians tipped 17.6% on average in the first quarter of 2023. That’s compared with a national average of 19.8%. Read more here.

And a 2022 report from Toast found San Franciscans are among the lowest tippers in the country. Read more here.

Tipping at Hotels: Who and How Much?

Maria Mata, seen posing for a portrait, works cleaning rooms at the W Hotel in Downtown San Francisco. | Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Hotel workers like door attendants and housekeepers say a $5 or $10 tip is generous these days for good service. Given that the hospitality industry has struggled to bounce back from pandemic-related travel shutdowns, these workers say they are more reliant than ever on tips from guests. Read more here.

Bartenders Say Tipping $1 for a Cocktail Makes You a Cheapskate

A bartender filters a Chartreuse cocktail from a shaker. | Jose M. Montoro/Getty Images

Not long ago, tipping $1 for a drink at the bar was conventional. But bartenders like Gabrielle Linhares said she feels the $1 tipping convention is now obsolete for craft cocktails.

“A dollar tip for a $15 cocktail just doesn’t cut it,” said Linhares, who works in Oakland. “All the R&D that goes into a cocktail, as well as the labor of making infused spirits and other components, not to mention preparing garnishes, deserves a more appropriate gratuity.” Read more here.

How Much Should I Tip My Barber or Hairstylist?

Salon and Barbershop owners say they’re struggling to bounce back from the pandemic as inflation cuts deep.
San Francisco barber Kevin Tanksley says $10 is a good starting point to tip for a haircut. | Garrett Leahy/The Standard

A $5 tip for a haircut was good just a few years ago, but San Francisco barber Kevin Tanksley says nowadays anything less than $10 isn’t really generous. 

The folks who look after our locks say the pandemic and rising inflation have made the act of tipping more crucial to helping them make ends meet as costs for basic barbering supplies jump. Read more here.

Do I Need To Tip My Uber, DoorDash or Lyft Driver?

Ride-share costs on services like Lyft and Uber have increased in recent years, and many drivers say they are seeing smaller tips because of it. They also report struggling to cover their costs. DoorDash driver Ben Magana said the “bare minimum” should be $3, though 15% to 20% is customary. Read more here.

I’m Being Asked for a Tip at My Corner Store. Do I Have To Tip?

Diaa Askandafi, owner of Ted’s Market and Deli in SoMa, says tips are not expected for all purchases, just sandwiches. | Garrett Leahy/The Standard | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

If you’ve gone into a bodega, corner store or deli to buy a Coke and been baffled when the payment screen asks for a tip, deli staff are here to clear up the confusion—they say you only need to consider tipping if they make you a sandwich.

“We never expect a tip from a regular purchase; only when a high amount of effort is put in,” said James Choi, owner of Rhea’s Deli in the Mission. “Money is a very private issue. If people can’t tip, they shouldn’t feed bad. It’s a courtesy, not a law.”

Choi, who has run his store for 15 years, said a generous tip at a corner store with a deli is between 10% and 15%. Read more here.