Sticky Situations: How Much Do You Tip?

Posted by Madison on July 21, 2008

How much to tip – that’s what we’re trying to find out today. People usually tip on a percentage basis of the service they are provided. But what if you provide some of the service yourself, or what if the employee is also the owner?

Let me know what you think!

How Much to Tip at the Buffet?

That’s what Frugal Parent asked recently in 10 Ways to Eat Out For Less:

My family and I frequent a local Mongolian Barbecue in our neighborhood. The set-up is such that you gather your own food buffet style and bring it to the cooks who cook it up on a large wok in the center of the restaurant. The waitress simply brings your drinks, rice, and some flat bread.

Since we do much of our own serving is the standard 15% tip still suggested? I suppose this same question would apply to anyone dining buffet style…I’ve always been unsure how to tip in this situation…can anyone help?

How Much to Tip at a Vacation Rental?

I ran into another sticky situation last week on vacation. Instead of staying at a hotel, my husband’s family rented one big cottage. The owners live in the cottage across the street.

Typically at a hotel, we tip the maids. However, we were left with a list of chores to complete before we left (emptying all the trash, putting towels in hampers, etc.) and it appeared that the owners would do any remaining work. Should we have left a tip and if so, how much?

How Much to Tip a Hairdresser?

The owner question reminded me of my hairdresser. She owns her own business and rents a chair. I always tip her, but since she is the owner, I probably shouldn’t tip her, right? I wouldn’t feel right without tipping her though. What do you think?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below and hopefully we can get to the bottom of some common tipping situations!

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Comments to Sticky Situations: How Much Do You Tip?

  1. I think you should still tip 15% at a buffet. Most waitstaff get paid only $2-3 per hour from the restaurant and make up the difference from tips.

    For the vacation rental I don’t know if I would tip or not. I would probably leave the place as clean as I could without going overboard.

    For the hairdresser, I probably would tip. I usually tip $2-3 for my haircut, but that usually costs less than $15, so percentage wise, $2-3 is a good tip.


  2. I wouldn’t tip at a vacation rental place – or any other type of hotel etc. We stayed in one last week and I did leave some empties. 🙂

    I hate the whole tipping concept – I do tip but I just can’t understand why service people can’t be compensated the same way as everyone else. The idea that tipping will improve performance is totally false .


    Four Pillars

  3. In Australia it works completely different. People get paid normal wages to work in restaurants, at bars and at buffets. You never tip at a buffet only at restaurants. And when you tip you only tip a couple of bucks or more if it is a really ritzy restaurant. Much more difficuly where you are from

    Ryan @ Smarter Wealth

  4. 1. I would probably give 10-15% at a buffet as a tip. Because they are still cleaning the tables, refilling water, making sure everything is okay. Just because they don’t bring me my food doesn’t mean they aren’t working hard.

    2. I wouldn’t tip at a vacation rental.

    3. I have been told you don’t tip the owner at a salon if they provide the service, but I still tipped – just not as much. Maybe 7% instead of 15-20%.


  5. I don’t eat at buffets, so I don’t know about that. But at Mongolian bbq, they are still doing the same work they’d do at a regular restaurant. Sure you do some work too, but it’s like picking your lobster at a seafood restaurant. You don’t tip less for that.

    I tip the maid at a hotel depending on what I have on me – I think there’s a set amount, but I don’t know what it is. At a place where I’m the maid, I wouldn’t tip, I’d just be neat (and conversely, if I don’t want to be neat, I’d tip).

    The hairdresser can be really variable. I probably tip 30% if they do a great job. But I go to a student place, so they aren’t making any money anyway…


  6. Buffets? Zero unless they actually refill my glass or perform some duty of some sort. Then a buck or two.

    In the rental situation you were in, I wouldn’t have tipped anything.

    I tip my barber $2 every time, but I don’t think anyone else tips more than a dollar. It’s an old fashioned shop with a real barber pole, 3 chairs tended by men older than dirt, and old pictures on the walls that are faded beyond recognition. It smells like pipe tobacco and “Barbercide.” Some magazines are older than my oldest child (who’s 14).

    I love going in there.


  7. Normally, I don’t tip at a buffet because it is “self-serve”.

    Vacation rental, about $5 just cause I would feel bad.

    Barber, about $3 so they’ll always give you good customer service.


  8. @ Ryan: Sometimes I wish we could have a system like yours. Just looking at everyone’s comments makes it clear that there is not one right amount to tip for any of these situations!

    @ Everyone: Thanks for your input… clearly there’s still room for debate on all three of these situations.


  9. At mongolian barbecue the servers do the same amount of work as a server at any other resturant if not more so. They are responsible for making desserts and bringing out rice and drinks. The difference is that the customer puts together the food instead of the kitchen. the person putting together the food in the kitchen is not the person you tip at a normal resturant, so why would you decrease your tip because this person doesn’t exist at mongolian barbecue?? The waiters get paid like any other waiter and are compensated by tips. If you do not want to pay for the service you are recieveing then you should GET YOUR FOOD TO GO!! Don’t take up space at a table if your not gonna pay for your service.


  10. 1) always tip your waitstaff. Although it would be nice if they were paid a living wage, in the US they at not, so 15% minimum is the standard if there’s any table service at all.
    2) for the vacation rental, because you were left with a list of chores, and I’m assuming they didn’t change your sheets or anything during the stay, I don’t think tipping is required.
    3) Always tip your hairdresser, even if she’s the owner. She’s still performing a service for you. 15-20%


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