Starbucks Tip App Sparks Tipping Questions That We Answer

PHOTO: A tip sits on top of a check at a restaurant.
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Starting next week, you'll be able to tip Starbucks baristas with the coffee chain's mobile iPhone app, but how much of a gratuity, if any, should you leave? Deciding who gets tipped and how much is more complicated than ever, so read on for some tips on what to do.

First off, those hard-working Starbucks baristas do depend on tips, but it's entirely up to you. The Emily Post Institute, named after the legendary advice columnist, says customers aren't under any obligation to tip baristas, unlike the way social norms dictate one should tip a restaurant waiter.

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If they go out of their way to help you or provide a great level of service or courtesy, Daniel Post Senning, great-great-grandson of Emily Post and author and spokesman for the Emily Post Institute in Burlington, Vt., says you almost can't go wrong in tipping a service professional.

The Emily Post Institute offers general suggestions for tipping, based on historical precedence. But there are some industries that aren't considered traditional tipping services in the eyes of many.

While Post Senning doesn't have a suggestion for occupations such as full-service gas station attendants or tailors, that doesn't mean you should refrain from giving something to them.

"I would never tell someone not to tip if they felt inspired," he said. "That's what a gratuity is, to show they're thankful."

He adds that a genuine verbal expression of gratitude can go a long way, and sometimes might even go further than disrespectfully throwing money at someone.

"Saying that or leaving a little note is a meaningful gesture," he said.

Social norms tend to guide individuals in tipping for services that are more intimate, such as personal grooming.

Post Senning includes in that category home services, such as house-cleaning or driveway plowing. And it's usually a nice gesture if you tip service professionals, such as au pairs, private nurses, pet groomers, more during the holidays, the Institute advises. Tipping in certain professions, such as doctors and teachers, might be frowned upon, but non-cash gifts in those cases are usually appreciated, Post Senning said.

In case some people, cultures or businesses might be offended at a tip or lack thereof, the Emily Post Institute says it doesn't hurt to ask about guidelines. And tipping "discreetly," the Institute says, is "classy."

Here are some more tipping guidelines from the institute:


Sit-down wait service

15-20 percent, pre-tax

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Buffet wait-service

10 percent, pre-tax


Host or Maitre d'

No obligation unless they go "above and beyond" to find you a table during a busy time



No obligation, although extra services like curb delivery or a large, complicated order merit 10 percent

Read More: McDonald's Pulls Emily Post Guidelines About Tipping Au Pairs


Home Delivery

10-15 percent of the bill, $2-5 for pizza delivery depending on the size of the order and difficulty of delivery

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$1-2 per drink or 15-20 percent of the tab

Non-Sit-Down Restaurants

Tipping jars

No obligation, but "tip occasionally if your server or barista provides a little something extra or if you are a regular customer."


Restroom Attendant

$0.50-$3, depending on the level of service, but Post Senning adds you're really under no obligation especially if you don't partake of the attendant's resources, like mouth wash or lotion, unless you're thankful for an immaculately clean bathroom.



$2-$5. Tip when the car is returned to you.



$2 first bag, $1 per additional bag



$1-$4 for carrying luggage; $1-$2 for hailing cab (add an extra $1 if it's raining); $1-$4 beyond the call of duty; and "a smile and a thanks when he opens the door."



$2 first bag, $1 per additional bag; $2-3 for each additional service, such as room delivery



$2-$5 per day, left daily with a note marked "Housekeeping - Thank you"



No obligation for answering questions; $5-10 for tickets or restaurant reservations; and $15 for hard-to-get tickets or reservations, or 10-20 percent of the ticket price


Taxi driver

15-20 percent of the fare, but minimally $1; $2 for the first bag, $1 for the second


Hair Salon

15-20 percent, ask to be split among those who served you



15-20 percent


Facial, waxing, massage

15-20 percent

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