Moving Etiquette

Of course, Victoria has very neat and organized boxes.

Of course, Victoria has very neat and organized boxes.

Victoria moved recently, so we had a nice talk about how we tip movers and try not to abuse our friends when they help us out.


Victoria: I have something else for us to talk about! Moving etiquette! And tipping!

Jaya: Oooh! So what sorts of issues did you run into during your move?

Victoria: So I wish you had been here and not swanning around Europe when I was trying desperately to figure out how much would be a fair tip. Have you ever used movers?

Jaya: I completely forget what we did when we moved last. Technically we had them,  though by “movers” it was more like “three Russian 20 year olds from craigslist with a van.”

Victoria: Matt said that you guys gave them like $20-30/guy.

Jaya: I think that’s about right, and made sure to offer them lots of water.

Victoria: Haha I didn’t really do the water thing, well I sort of did- in our original place, I left out a bunch of plastic cups and said they could help themselves. at the second place, we didn’t have anything. But anyway, my roommate and I had originally agreed that like, $60/guy would be fine. But then, they were SO AWESOME, like literally finished the ENTIRE move in 3 hours and were super nice and jokey the whole time, and never made any gross sexist remarks or anything, that we were like, JK, $80/each sounds better. Which ended up being 20% of the total move cost, which seemed like a good place. But SOME people have told me that that’s crazy high. (ed: but then, isn’t the definition of a tip to be extremely generous when called for?)

Jaya: Interesting. Obviously it depends on the company, but I do think movers are generally paid well, so that tipping a mover is not a requirement like it is for a waiter or hairdresser. According to this, the industry standard is 5%

Victoria: Ahh but other things online told me they are NOT paid well and tips are essential. Basically what I found is that no one agrees. Some things said 15-20% of the total move, some things said $20 per person.

Jaya: Interesting, The couple links I just pulled up said 5%, but yeah, it varies. I think if you’re going with a moving company, you should absolutely call and ask a manager.

Victoria: But yeah, i think basically you should also go with what feels right, like they also didn’t break or damage a single thing. And like I said, really fast and professional. Whereas if they had been slow and sloppy, the tip would go down.

Jaya: Absolutely. Yeah, I would probably call a manager earlier and ask what the standard is, and then keep that in mind as they do things. If they’re breaking stuff and being jerks, you don’t have to meet that.

Victoria: Yeah, that probably would have been a good idea. Haha, although, I was such a stressball during this move that I think the manager was getting tired of talking to me. Everything was at the absolute last minute and I changed the date once, haha.

Jaya: The other thing I always think about is how moving affects your neighbors. There have been many times when someone is moving into or out of the building where they prop the doors open to get stuff in, but nobody is there watching the doors.

Victoria : The door thing doesn’t bother me so much because usually there’s a steady stream of people in and out.

Oh yeah! My new ~*fancy*~ building has rules- we had to move in on a weekday before 4pm so as not to inconvenience other tenants. AND they made the movers bring everything into the garage and put it in the elevator there instead of going through the lobby which also makes sense.

Jaya: Ooh that makes sense.

Victoria: So what about when your friends help you move? Beer and pizza? What age is it no longer quite cool to make your friends move and you should really be hiring movers? For me, I was definitely not going to be having anyone help me move because I have a TON of stuff and lots of heavy furniture. We had, i think, about 57 boxes. Oh! And our movers mentioned they were happy we put all our books into little boxes so they weren’t too heavy and we were like duh, and they said that not everyone thinks of that.

Jaya: Ooh that’s true! I mean really, I think you can always ask your friends for help, but as we get older you gotta realize not as many people will be able to.

Victoria: Yeah, definitely. Although, I did actually have some friend help this time! So due to the terrible complexity of the situation, I had to sign my lease at 9am on the day of my move and the movers ALSO wanted to arrive at 9am. Luckily, a friend didn’t have to be at work until noon that day, so he came and sat in my apartment to let the movers in until I got back. I bought him a doughnut the day of and I plan to buy him dinner sometime soon.

Jaya: Aww that’s nice! Yeah, I just helped another friend move, but by that I mean I waited in the van and made sure they didn’t get towed while he and his brother carried all his furniture.

Victoria: Hahah yeah. That type of help is always good to give. Also, the building I moved into works with a broker to fill the apartments, so we had to do everything through him (and pay a fee, grrr) but he did come by with a couple of bottles of wine as a housewarming present, which I thought was pretty nice.

Jaya: Hahah that is like, nobody’s experience. I mean that’s amazing but don’t get anyone’s hopes up.

Victoria: Hahaha I know! It was so strange. Also, my previous landlord returned my deposit within 3 days of me requesting it with no fuss.

Jaya: Are you a witch or something?

Victoria: I guess! Maybe it’s karmic retribution for having literally the most stressful move ever. And I basically live in a castle now, so.

How To Order Takeout Like A Champ

500px-PanuccipizzaWhen I was growing up, a mainstay of our apartment was the gigantic folder of take-out menus next to the phone. I had working parents and cheap Chinese food at my fingertips, and not a week went by when we didn’t order delivery at least once. If you’re thinking this means my parents were horribly neglectful and that I somehow missed out on some quality family bonding time by not having every meal at the family table, please stop, eating pad thai while watching Entertainment Tonight with your mom and your cat is just what a family looks like now okay??

Anyway, at the time ordering delivery was pretty specific to a certain type of city living. It still is, but sites like Seamless and Grubhub make it really easy for a lot more people to do it, which as you may have guessed, opens everyone up to a type of interaction they may not know the rules about! It’s pretty straightforward, but here are some of my tips based on years and years of doing this.

1. If you go crazy with your order, don’t be surprised if it’s not perfect — Think about the restaurant you’re ordering from. It’s probably cheap, or just unfussy. That doesn’t mean that quality restaurants won’t deliver, but the point is to get the food to you fast, not present you a four-star dining experience in a styrofoam tub. If you have allergies or other strong preferences, obviously make them known, but the more complicated the order the greater chance the restaurant will fuck something up.

You’re likely ordering online, so there will be a place for you to type any specifications for most orders, but if you’re ordering over the phone be clear and patient, and ask them to repeat your order back to you to decrease the likeliness of screw ups!

2. If they do get something wrong, figure out whether it’s worth it to bring it up — If the waiter messes up your order in a restaurant, they can usually bring you something else pretty quickly. If the delivery guy forgets your soda, they have to run back to the restaurant to get it for you, and by the time they show up again your dinner will probably be cold. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t complain if your order is messed up, but check in to see if it’s worth the hassle to bring it up. If it is, explain it to the delivery person, and keep them there while you call the restaurant. Ideally they’ll be able to refund you something, or the delivery guy can bring you the right order soon.

I’m never one for chastising waiters in restaurants in general, but I think this goes double for delivery guys. They have brought food TO YOUR HOUSE. Already prepared! Even if the order is messed up or they forgot something, it’s still such a luxury, so just remember to be grateful it’s happening at all.

3. Tip well, especially in bad weather — Seamless sets its default tip to 10%, which frankly, I think is too low. Yes, it’s not like your delivery person is waiting on you, but they’ve carted your meal across town on an electric bike, which is a pretty rough job! You don’t have to go a full 20%, but I think 15% at least is a good tip. However, when it’s bad weather, you should be tipping 20% or more. Likely delivery demand is higher in a rain or a snowstorm because we’re all lazy sons of bitches who don’t feel like walking to the grocery store, and we should be willing to pay more for the privilege. Your delivery guy is likely going to spend all night zipping pizzas around town in a blizzard, so make sure it’s worth his time.

Talking About Tipping

Not THAT kind of tipping [Via Flickr user tracy_n_brandon]

Not THAT kind of tipping [Via Flickr user tracy_n_brandon]

Recently, Gothamist posted an article saying that you must tip a dollar on your coffee. Naturally, since we just had a big post about tipping, we had a few thoughts (what else is new) on the subject:

Victoria: Dirty lies!!

Jaya: Hahahahaha

Victoria: Also, IDK about smaller coffee places but my last investigation into the subject was that Starbucks pays at least several dollars over minimum wage and also has health insurance for employees (this might not be true, I realize!).

Jaya: Absolutely. For smaller places you may not be able to know, but Starbucks might negate that “tip to bump up hourly pay to minimum wage” thing. But yeah, it’s hard to know.

Victoria: Yeah. Well technically only actual servers in restaurants are not paid minimum wage. All coffee shops and ice cream places and whatever MUST pay at least minimum wage. Although this brings up a good point about bars- why do we tip at bars? (IDK about how bartenders are paid).

Jaya: Dunkin Donuts seems to hover around minimum wage too (I  can’t see city specific stuff). Not that minimum wage is perfect. I think bartenders are paid more like waiters at most places, like $2-3 dollars an hour and then tips.

Victoria: Yeah, I mean, certainly tip if you want! But then like, why aren’t you tipping someone who helps you find the perfect dress at Macy’s? It just seems so arbitrary, the whole tipping thing.

Jaya: Because those sales people get commission often! Like, at stores where they asked if anyone in particular helped you, that’s commission.

Victoria: Oh! right! I guess I forgot about that. But then, like, Target? Sometimes they help me a bunch. And I know fancy stores do commission. But like, your basic Macy’s?

Jaya: It really does get confusing. It becomes the consumer’s responsibility to understand the salary plans of each place they go to.

Victoria: Lol which is totally nuts. And, like, at a busy Starbucks- if everyone tipped a dollar, that’s a SERIOUSLY huge amount of money.

Jaya: But right, most of the reasoning behind tipping in this country is based on the assumption that the person serving you is making much, much lower than minimum wage. But if they are making that or above, what is the incentive? Just being nice? A recognition that minimum wage isn’t a living wage? Basically, the system’s fucked.

Victoria: Yeah, I mean, I guess the point is to reward good service. But if you are literally pouring me a coffee because I have come into a coffee shop and ordered coffee…does that REALLY deserve a tip? I mean, I get if you walk in and they start on your order right away and maybe sometimes they sneak you a free muffin. But just doing the bare minimum of your job?

Jaya: Right, I do think tipping has become detached from the idea of it being a reward. And being on your feet all day and up early and dealing with people is a tough job. But lots of people have tough jobs that don’t have the opportunity for tip jars. Jobs that also don’t pay well.  I so wish we could have a real, living wage minimum wage, and that food workers were paid it, so I didn’t have to worry that not having a dollar on me that day means they can’t make rent.

Victoria: Yeah, that’s what I hate about tipping, it’s so stressful.

Jaya: Right. Sometimes I don’t have extra cash. And I hope that my local coffee shop won’t hate me if I don’t have change on me a few times.

Victoria: And then, like at weddings, when there’s an open bar people are tipping and technically, the host should be tipping at the end of the night so the guests are always a guest and never has to open their wallet.

Jaya: No see that’s good because you slip them a $5 at the beginning of the night and all your drinks are hella strong.

Victoria:  Lol, I have really never noticed a difference. And at MY wedding (n.b. I am in no way getting married anytime soon), I won’t allow the staff to except tips because its ridiculous for my guests to be tipping them when I will also be tipping them at the end.

Jaya: Hahahaha

Victoria: Also I didn’t really see anyone doing it at your wedding. But other weddings I have.

Jaya: I didn’t even notice if there was a tip jar. But from the papers I signed, I know all the servers were paid well!

Victoria: There wasn’t! But I’ve never seen a tip jar at a wedding, I’ve only seen people hand it to the bartender. But exactly my point- you were the host and you saw to it that the people you hired were well paid for their time! As it should be. I’ve actually read that some hosts find it insulting for people to tip at weddings, because it implies that people don’t think the host is paying the staff adequately. Not that I agree that that’s what’s going on

Jaya: Oh god I’ve never even thought that hard about it. I’m just on bartender=tip autopilot.

Victoria: Lol yeah. I mean, everyone has the best intentions, I’m sure. But like, what if you had a fancy party at your house where there was a bartender and waiters and someone doing dishes? And like, why should the bartender get tips when the waiters don’t?

Jaya: We had that once! My building hosted a building-wide holiday party a few times. It was 5 units so it wasn’t nuts.

Victoria: Yeah, and wouldn’t it be weird for someone to tip someone who was working in your house?

Jaya: Definitely, because yeah, we handed them a check with a tip included.

Victoria: Yeah! Exactly.

Jaya: I mean, if someone thought they were doing that really great job, it’s not on me to PREVENT someone from tipping. Because again, I don’t think anyone would do it in an assumption that I wasn’t paying well enough. I don’t know, it’s so interesting to me that tipping remains this one thing that is so inconsistent across different job sectors, and so disagreed upon. Like, that core “just be a good person” thing about etiquette, no one can figure out what that means with tipping. I guess you can just walk into every establishment, ask what the average hourly wage is for their servers, and decide accordingly. Totally practical.

Victoria: HA. Yeah, and then corporate chains such as McDonalds don’t allow tipping even though you can be pretty sure they are paid as close to minimum wage as possible.

Jaya: Yes! And then it just devolves into this argument over who deserves it and who doesn’t and all the drama that comes with that.

Victoria: Yeah, it’s so nuts.

Jaya: When really, it just comes down to everyone deserving a living wage. And that’s on the company, not the customers. Or at least, should be.

Victoria: Totally. And to an extent, I feel some classism in it- like you will tip at the fancy coffee shop where the staff probably grew up middle class and went to college and follows the liberal arts major=barista stereotype, but you won’t tip at Dunkin Donuts/McDonalds where the workers are more likely to be immigrants or working class.

Jaya: Yesssss

Victoria: So you want to support people “like you” who are just “kids trying to get ahead.”

Jaya: And I mean, I’m sure that’s part of the bigger companies too if they don’t let you tip. So the original Gothamist article mentions Cafe Grumpy, a very good but also very chichi cafe chain where apparently STARTING pay is 50% above minimum wage.

Victoria: Yeah! And I can’t read the original NYT article but apparently the thing was that they were suggesting a $3 tip on a $4 coffee.

Jaya: Well they have one of those SquareSpace iPad readers where you just click a suggested tip button. And I agree that’s pretty presumptuous but you can type in your own, or choose not to do it.

Victoria: Ahhh. I mean, still, a lot of people feel pressured by “suggested” amounts, like that they will be a total cheapo if they go lower. *ahem* The Metropolitan Museum of Art *ahem*

Jaya: Hahahahahaha. But right, there is no way to come up with a uniform policy. If it’s based on their hourly wages, then you have to make sure you know what they are. If it’s based on service, then great, tip every single person that serves you in some way, equally.

Victoria: Omg and then never go anywhere because you are going to be broke.

Jaya: Well we solved it. How to tip: just die already.

Victoria: What IF, everyone tipped so much that service jobs became the new upper class and then everyone tried to be a service worker and then there were too many service workers and not enough people to buy stuff and the service jobs had to become minimum wage and it was an ugly cycle. That’s my new dystopian novel.

Jaya: I was just gonna say that!!!!!!!

Victoria: Also every single thing I read about tipping, it’s like half the commenters are like, “well I ALWAYS tip a minimum of 40%” and it can’t POSSIBLY be true otherwise servers wouldn’t complain so much.

Jaya: Hahahaha. It’s true! Everyone is ready to be the MOST GENEROUS.

Victoria: I also find something icky about the type of guy who tips ostentatiously. Like, just tip like a normal amount. (Not to begrudge servers and stuff).

Jaya: Right like, he heard too many stories about how women don’t like men who are mean to servers, so he swung the other direction.

Victoria: The “nice guy” of tipping.

Jaya: The more I think about it, the more tipping frustrates me. I mean literally, this is the genesis of shit like Uber and whatever. It’s systems that put all the risk on the employees and customers and not the employers.

Victoria: Hahaha yesssssss.

Jaya: And you can’t win against that. Arguing about how much to tip and social norms and generosity doesn’t change the fact that it should be the company paying a living wage and giving good benefits (or maybe the government taking care of health care).

Victoria: Totally. And then we can be like the paradise that is Europe where a tip is just a little extra.

Jaya: I’m not normally one to romanticize all things European, but this is one thing I will.

The Great Big Tipping Etiquette Post

You may have noticed that this site has existed for quite some time now and yet we have not gotten around to writing a guide to tipping. This is because we are great big cowards and it is a hugely contentious topic. But the time has come to go forth and do our best. As a caveat to international readers, this is a 100% American post, we know people in your countries get paid fair wages and tipping is a token and yadda yadda yadda.

Dining In Restaurants

This is probably where most people do their tipping and is the most fraught with peril. Know before you begin that in many states (but not all! For instance, California servers must be paid minimum wage.) servers are allowed to be paid below minimum wage, something like $2 per hour with the assumption that tips will bring them up to a fair wage. So by entering a restaurant, you are entering into a social contract that you will pay for both food AND service. If you receive subpar service, it is NOT acceptable to lower your tip from the standard. You really need to speak with a manager and alert them to the problem and ask that it will be rectified. If you leave a poor tip, your server will just think you are stingy.

So what is standard? 15% is the absolute bare minimum. In many places this is a perfectly fine tip and you don’t need to go higher. In bigger cities (I know NYC for certain), 20% is the general standard (and I find it a lot easier to calculate!) Knock yourself out going higher if you wish. I do think if you have tons of demands, substitutions, maybe your kid spills stuff all over the table, you should raise your tip accordingly.

There is some debate about whether you tip before or after tax. I generally think before makes sense, since taxes are also a percentage of the total, but its not going to make a huge difference either way, so go with what feels right to you. Or servers can chime in in the comments?

Counter Service

We wrote about this before, but you aren’t obligated to tip for coffee or ice cream or simple sandwich places. However, it is very nice to tip if it’s a big or complicated order or if they go out of their way for you.


Someone is literally bringing food to you so you don’t have to step outside your door. Tip 15-20% and definitely raise that up significantly if the weather is horrible.


You probably already know this but maybe there are some bitty baby college freshmen out there (as I once was) who are very nervous about being caught out as underage because they don’t know what to order and don’t know what to tip. $1-2 per drink is standard or 15-20% on the tab.


I used to always think that you only tipped if you had bags, but then I moved to NYC and find that people tip 15-20% per ride regardless of bags. We are pretty anti-Uber at Uncommon Courtesy, but I am a kind hearted soul and checked, and it turns out that Uber includes a 20% tip in the fare, so you don’t need to worry about tipping separately.


At salons (hair, nails, spa, etc) you tip 15-20% (more for big cities or more personalized services). Technically if your service is provided by the owner, you don’t need to tip, but I would want to be REALLY sure they were the owner before I did that. Also, if a separate person than your stylist shampoos your hair (and gives you a head massage if you are lucky!), you should give them a couple of dollars separately.


$2-5 when you get your car back, fancy-wheels.

Restroom Attendant

Restroom attendants are the most ridiculous thing. I fly into the Charlotte airport when I go to visit my parents, and they have them in ALL the restrooms. Like, I get it at a fancy nightclub or something where I am choosing to be, but an airport is a glorified bus station and it’s ridiculous. I don’t tip when they are foisted upon me and I don’t need their services, but if you do take their little mints and towels and stuff, tip between 50 cents and $2 depending on what you need.


What is this, the 1920s? Okay, if you are fancy enough to stay at a hotel with a bellhop (especially if they have a cool hat) you should be also be able to afford to make it rain for them. Otherwise, $2 for the first bag, $1 for all the following bags. Do airports even have skycaps anymore? (actually I used to use them in college all the time for some reason?) But anyway, if you can’t haul your bags the extra 50 feet to the desk, they also get $2 for the first bag, $1 for the second bag.

Hotel Housekeeping

$3-5 per day. Do it daily as the person doing the cleaning might change from day to day. Always leave a note saying “for housekeeping” or something so they know it’s for them.

How Do I Punish Bad Service?

luis-guz-man-waitingDear Mesdames Courtesy,

The etiquette of tipping has been covered in multiple places, but those are more for rewarding good service. What is the polite way to punish bad service? Say, for a waitress that ignores you for an hour, or a cab driver who has no idea what he’s doing and gets lost before you have to get on your phone and figure out how to get home?
Where’s My Waiter?

Amy Vanderbilt says that you can reduce a tip in a restaurant if “service is minimal or unbearably slow.” She also says that, although a tip is a reward for good service and not required, it usually ensures better service in the future. Mr. Pink also has some strong ideas about this.

Jaya: I definitely think you can tip less/not at all for bad service, though it really depends. The only time I’ve not given a tip at all was when a cab driver spent the entire ride complaining that I was going to Queens (from Manhattan), and that he’ll never find a ride back, and it’s gonna cost him so much money and time to do this, and basically implying that I was a real bitch for wanting to take a cab home.

Victoria: I would definitely not tip the driver in that situation.

Jaya: I was even trying to convince him to go to the airport (not far from my house) to pick up a fare! I was trying to help! And I was all ready to tip him nicely for a long ride, but nope.

Victoria: For bad service in a restaurant, you want to call the manager and really let them know that the service is bad rather than tipping poorly.Then they have a chance to fix it or make it up to you instead of you stiffing someone out of their already low wages.

Jaya: Yes, because it’s often so hard to figure out whether it’s actually your server’s fault, since there are so many moving parts. Maybe your server put in the wrong order, or maybe the kitchen messed it up. Talking to a manager will usually result in the right person being reprimanded, instead of you giving a waitress a 10% tip when it’s not her fault.

Victoria: I feel like i see a lot of server complaints that are like, “they left a 10% tip and I don’t know if I did something wrong or they are just cheap.”

Jaya: When I was a waitress that happened a few times, and I asked the people dining if I had done anything wrong, and it turns out they were just bad at math and thought they left a 20% tip.

Victoria: Hahahaha! That’s why tipping should be abolished- Americans are becoming increasingly bad at math and can’t calculate a proper tip even though there are apps for that!

Jaya: I’m trying to think of other tipping situations.

Victoria: Getting your hair done. But if you’re not happy with a cut, you can ask them to fix it rather than tip poorly.

Jaya: Yes, and usually you can see what’s going on, so if it takes a turn you can speak up.

Victoria: Changing your tip only works if the person you’re tipping has complete control over the situation.

Jaya: I’d add that they should have complete control and don’t seem to be trying very hard. What if your bartender is slow because the other person didn’t show up for their shift? Or a machine broke in the coffee shop? Always try to be understanding first. But yeah, do not tip your cabbie if he gives you shit about a totally legal request to take you home.