Giving a tip, or gratuity, is customary and expected in Houston as in any other part of the U.S. Tipping in Houston varies depending on quality of establishment and the service provided. Waiters, drivers in valet parking, pizza delivery, and others who provide services often only make minimum wage and earn the majority of their income through tips. As all gratuity is taxed, most service personnel prefer cash in hand rather than having it added onto a credit card or check. It also guarantees that they have received it as some establishments may charge a service fee but the personnel may never see it. If you pay the bill in cash and the rest is tip, simple note that no change is required and the person will understand the difference is their tip.

If you become a regular customer and always receive friendly good service, it is recommended to show your satisfaction by tipping well. When you become known as a ‘good tipper’ you will soon be able to establish a good relationship with your service provider and experience great personal service.

Do not tip the grocery baggers or package delivery people; they are often prohibited to accept tips. Government workers are also strictly prohibited from accepting tips.

Most tips are evaluated by a percentage of the net amount (before tax). For proper etiquette, use these recommended guidelines:

Taxi

Tipping drivers in Houston is not mandatory but standard. Taxi drivers are tipped on top of the fare.
Standard tip fee: 15% of fare plus additional fee for heavy luggage or extra services.

Shuttle Drivers

Tipping drivers is not mandatory but highly recommended and Houstonians generally give at least $1 when exiting the shuttle. Feel free to give $2 or more for very heavy luggage.

Limo Drivers

Tipping the driver is customary.
Standard fee: 20%, more for very heavy luggage.

Valet

Some valet requires a service fee up front, and it is up to you to pay a tip on top of it. Some people prefer to pre-pay a tip as they hope it may get the car be parked right up front but it is not guaranteed. All valets should definitely be tipped when you are handed your keys unless you are absolutely unsatisfied with their service due to a long wait-time, for example.
Standard tip fee: $2 – 5, up to 10 for an especially nice place or you own an exclusive car.

Hotel

You can tip at the end of your stay but it is recommended to tip every time you receive services, such as carrying bags, extra pillows, special information, recommendations for a nice restaurant or entertainment, etc. Hand the tip directly to the person after they provided the service.
Standard tip fee: $2 – 3, $ 5 or more if it is a luxurious hotel.

Restaurants

Tipping is customary in all sit-down restaurants. Exceptions are fast food establishments, coffee houses and most buffet style and self-seating restaurants, such as La Madeleine’s, Subway Sandwiches or a BBQ place where you pick up your food in a line and it is then given to you on a plate for you to seat yourself. If you have wait staff refilling your drink on a regular basis or cleaning your used plates from the table, you may leave $1 for gratuity on the table.

Gratuity may be included in some restaurant checks and it is advisable to check the bottom of the ticket. Some tickets also pre-estimate the tip for you based on a certain percentage, making it easier to calculate.

You can leave the tip on the table, hand it directly to your wait staff or have it added to the payment if you are paying with a credit card.

It is not necessary to tip anyone but the waiter. Waiters and waitresses are expected to tip their table cleaners as well as other helpers in the restaurant by giving them a portion of the tips they received.
Standard fee: 15 – 20%, more if the service was exceptional or it was a high class establishment.

Bars

Most bars have jars for bartenders at the bar. Either wave at the bartender to keep the rest of the money or throw a dollar or two into the jar.
Standard fee: 10 – 20%

Shoe Shine

You can find shoe shine downtown or inside a restaurant, club, event or a shopping center. Standard fee: $2 per pair of shoes.

Hair and Nail Salon

The amount of tip for hair stylists and personnel providing manicure, pedicure, waxing, facials and massages depends on the type of service provided, expertise, job well done and relationship established. You may add the tip on top of the credit card charge or a check but it is preferred that you hand the person the tip in cash instead. Especially, if you had different people treat you that day, hand each person their tip. Some establishments allow you to place the cash in envelopes to hand to the personnel later, which is fine if it is standard for that salon.
Standard fee: Generally 10 – 20% of final bill. Minimum for eye brow wax should be $2. If someone different than your stylist shampoos your hair, a tip of $2-4 is typically given.

Pizza and other food delivery

Tips can depend on speediness of delivery, size of load, weather and stairs or other access challenges. Please ask for an expected delivery time when placing the order, so you can make note whether it was the driver’s fault if he is late or not. If you pay with a credit card, have the card ready when receiving the delivery. You may add the tip on top of the credit card charge but it is preferred that you hand the driver the tip in cash instead.
Standard fee: 10 – 20% of order amount

Carwash

Houston has a lot of full-service car washes. Service depends on what you choose to select from the menu and can range from a run-through the automatic carwash to a full cleaning and detail with vacuum cleaning.
Standard fee: $2 – 5 or more, if you own an exclusive car

Tour Guides

The smaller the group given the tour, the larger the individual tip should be. If you are given a personal tour, be more generous than within a group. Tip each tour guide individually.
Standard fee: $1 for larger groups and up to $ 5 – 10 for a personal tour, depending of type of tour, and quality of presentation.

Movers

Movers should be tipped depending on whether they are in a group or individuals.
Standard fees: One mover with light loads and less than a dozen of boxes $10 – 20, otherwise, up to $ 50. Groups of movers should receive at least $5 – 10 per person.

Yearly Tips and Holidays

It is customary to give yearly tips during Christmas holidays. Tip your housekeeper, cleaning maid, lawn mowing service, newspaper carrier, pool cleaner, and babysitter. Do not tip the mail man as he is a government employee, but he will probably not mind a bag of self-baked cookies. Give an extra big tip to your hair stylist, your manicurist and anyone else you usually tip for services on a regular basis.
Standard fees: $5 – $20 or more, depending on length of relationship, service and quality provided.

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