Acknowledging those who serve you in NYC:

 

UPDATE: Automatic gratuity added to bills are illegal for any group size
A new law passed January 1st 2014 has mandated restaurants who want to automatically add tips to bills to call it 'service fees' in which they have to report the income as taxable income. Otherwise, if the restaurant wants to avoid reporting the income and calling it gratuity, the restaurant has to allow the customer to determine the tip amount (yes that includes large parties) Call it semantics, but it's fair.

According to NY law restaurants who engage in this illegal practice can be fined $250 for it as this practice has tricked many patrons into leaving double tips.

. If you do decide to out, make sure if the restaurant is asking for gratuity, that it is suggested not automatically added, and you are able to leave your own tip should you decide to. Otherwise, they need to call it a mandatory service fee as per the law and have this posted on their menus.

This is one of the most frequently asked questions on the New York City Trip Advisor Forum. It is also one of the most hotly debated - mainly because many international visitors are not accustomed to and might not understand tipping etiquette.

PLEASE DO NOT AVOID TIPPING IN NYC SIMPLY BECAUSE YOU DON'T BELIEVE IN IT OR DON'T AGREE WITH THE CONCEPT PHILOSOPHICALLY.

Tipping is a part of  our service economy and our taxation system, and all visitors should understand that it is part of our local culture .

In most of the USA, restaurants and bars are permitted to pay their servers below the minimum wage because it is acknowledged that the difference is often made up via tipping.

PLEASE DO NOT START A DEBATE ON THE INJUSTICE OF PAYING SERVERS BELOW MINIMUM WAGE. WE KNOW THAT ALREADY.

If you receive unacceptable or outright offensive service (this is extremely rare), not leaving a tip is an option.  An additional option is to speak to a manager immediately. Be polite and to the point. It is customary to inform management and provide feedback about service problems. Don't be shy. 

If you want to read all the debates about tipping and the finer points on how to do it, enter the words "tipping customs" in the search box on the NYC Forum.


MOST RESTAURANTS THROUGHOUT NYC  INCLUDE TIP IN YOUR BILL FOR GROUPS OF 5 or 6 OR MORE

  • This is usually indicated at the bottom of menus. Read the fine print.  Some of the more expensive restaurants will ask for your credit card number to hold a reservation for five or more.  In the event you don't show and fail to cancel, your card may be charged at a rate set beforehand by the restaurant, e.g., $20 per person. 

RESTAURANTS IN TOURIST AREAS MAY INCLUDE TIP IN YOUR BILL, regardless of number of people

Restaurants in tourist areas serve many visitors from countries where tipping is not customary or is done differently. To avoid squabbles and explanations with every check, many venues will add the tip as a "gratuity" or "service charge" at the bottom of your bill.

  • Read your bill carefully
  • Check if there is a "gratuity" or "service charge". There should be only one of these charges.
  • The tip should not be at an "extortionist" rate. Anything over 18% can (and should) be challenged.

MOST SERVICE PERSONNEL PREFER TIPS IN CASH, NOT ADDED TO YOUR CREDIT CARD CHARGE

It is perfectly acceptable to pay your bill and the tip with a credit card.  However, it is traditional and considerate to try to pay tips in cash.  This makes it much easier for both the management and the person serving you.

IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR DINING BILL OR SERVICE, ASK A MANAGER.

It is perfectly acceptable to inquire about a dining bill, a tip, or a gratuity or service charge that's already been added if ou do not understand it. In fact, it is helpful for everyone. You will be more comfortable with how and what to tip, and the manager will learn if there are any service or billing problems. It is not considered rude or impolite.


 A GUIDE TO TIPPING

One of the regulars on the NYC Forum recently ran across this guide one a website / forum dedicated to service personnel here in the US. It pretty much covers all those who help make your vacation in the US more enjoyable and is a good basic guide. Tipping Standards - United States Note: There are no hard and fast rules about tipping, nor are there laws requiring tipping in the United States. The list below are generally accepted guidelines.

  • Waiters/Waitresses: 15% - 20% for average - good service, more for exceptional service.
  • Headwaiter/captain: May get a cut of table server's tip; so tip your server extra to reward captain, or tip captain separately.
  • Bartenders: $1 - $2 a round -or- 15% to 20% of the tab, with a minimum of 50 cents per soft drink, $1 per alcoholic drink. If you tip well, and have more than 2-3 drinks, you'll probably get a "buy-back" - a drink on the house - as a reward.
  • Cocktail Waitresses: $1 - $2 per drink
  • Sommelier or wine steward: 15% of cost of the bottle
  • Buffet Servers: At least $1 per head if you get your own beverages. If you order beverages (or more) from the server, then you should tip 10-20% of the bill based on service quality.
  • Coatroom attendant: $1-2 per coat
  • Room Service: 15% - 20%  (However, if a tip is already included in the bill, you may forego the tip or tip lightly as an extra thank you.)
  • Valet Attendant: $2 - $5 average for each trip to the car; more may be appropriate given conditions (like weather or location).
  • Pool Attendant: $1 - $2 for each service (e.g., providing towels or lounge chairs).
  • Showroom Maitre d': $1 - $2 for preassigned seats
  • For unassigned seating, you may tip according to where you want to sit (usually a tip over $50 will guarantee your seat)
  • Washroom attendant: 50 cents to $1
  • Taxi driver: Varies depending on locality. Assume 15% will be enough; an extra $1 to $2 for help with bags.
  • Food delivery person: The Greater of 10% of the bill or $2.00. Should tip 15%-20% for a difficult delivery.
  • Grocery loader: Check with store policy if tips are accepted. If so, $1 for bringing bags to car; $1.50 to $3 if you have more than 3 bags.
  • Barber: 15% to 20%, minimum $1, for a haircut. For other services (shampoo, shave or manicure) tip $1 to $2 to service provider.
  • Hairdresser: 15% to 20%. (It is acceptable to tip owner, unless he or she says otherwise.)
  • Shampoo person: $2 or more
  • Manicurist: 15% or more
  • Spa service: 15% to 20%. If service is provided by owner, no tip.
  • Coffee/food retailers w/ tip jars: Tip is optional.
  • Handyman: Tip is optional but frequently expected.
  • Gas attendant: Tip is optional.
  • Skycap at airport: $1 per bag if you check-in curbside; $2 per bag if skycap takes bags to check-in counter.
  • Hotel doorman: $1 per bag for help with luggage; $1 per person for hailing a cab.
  • Hotel bellhop: $1 per bag for bringing luggage to your room (but a $2 minimum if you have just one bag)
  • Hotel housekeeper: $2 - $5 per night.  Customary to leave on the nightstand with a note such as, "To Housekeeping:  Thank you!"
  • Tour guide: $2 - $5 per person in your party. But, first inquire with the tour company whether tips are included in the cost of the tour.
  • Hotel concierge: $5 for getting you tickets or reservations ($10-plus if they're hard to get). No tip required when you ask for directions, suggestions for restaurants.  But if they make a reservation for you at the restaurant, they would appreciate a nominal tip.
  • Cruise: Varies. Ask cruise line about customary gratuities.

The general rule is that you do not need to tip on tax. Most people just look at the bottom line (tax included) and just tip on that.