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Opinion: Whom to tip and how much

In the movie “My Blue Heaven,” actor Steve Martin is a government informant who goes into witness protection. The former mobster remarks, “I tip everyone.” And he spent the movie tipping the box boy at the supermarket and everyone else he came in contact with.

When my husband and I began dating back in the dark-ages (1975) he didn’t tip anybody. He figured that since service people were paid by the hour, why should he augment their salaries? Then we spent a few seasons working at the Speedway. He sold beer and I worked concessions. We were paid minimum wage, plus tips.

It was for him a revelation. If the cup of beer cost $4.50, the change from a $5 typically went into a tip jar. At the end of the evening, the money in the jar was split with whomever else worked in the booth that night. It was the first time in his life that tips were part of his payment package. It was like watching a light bulb going off above his head like in a comic strip.

When we dine out, I am typically the one who pays the bill and leaves the tip. While I will often use a credit card to pay for the meal, I try to leave the tip in cash. The nail salon I visit has a prohibition against adding the gratuity to the credit card.

So whom exactly should we feel obligated to tip and how much should it be? Is it better to be thought of as a clueless bad tipper rather than one who doesn’t tip at all?

According to USA Today, a 15 percent gratuity is a good place to start. Sit-down restaurant servers should be left the 15 to 20 percent of the check, before sales tax, and it states $1 or $2 per person at a buffet for help with beverage orders, removing used plates and the like.

When staying at a hotel it is suggested that between $2 and $5, paid daily for housekeeping services is appropriate. Bartenders should be tipped $1 to $2 per drink or 15 to 20 percent of the entire bar tab.

The 15 to 20 percent standard should be applied to hair stylists, manicurists, massage therapists and at least $2 for the pizza delivery person, it said.

Tips vary based on the personal relationship one develops with the service provider. In a town the size of Madera, it is not unusual to visit the same barber, beautician or manicurist for years.

When traveling, you should pay valets $2 to $5 for retrieving a vehicle and taxi drivers should receive 15 to 20 percent of the bill. Hotel bellhops and skycaps should be tipped $2 for the first bag and $1 each additional bag. Excellent service should be rewarded and sub-par assistance not so much.

I visited one of those big-box, membership stores in Fresno. Some things are less expensive when bought in bulk. The checker at the door asked if I needed help with my purchases, and I gratefully accepted. The young man who unloaded my cart was rather a flirt (and should be in a job where he receives tips as a matter of course.)

As a Notary Public, the California Secretary of State sets the maximum amount we are allowed to charge, which is $15 per signature, per document. Travel expenses are allowed providing the fee be agreed upon in advance. Tips, while unnecessary, are always appreciated.

Long days and pleasant nights, have a great weekend.

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Readers may contact Tami Jo Nix by or following @TamiJoNix on Twitter.

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