Gig econ­omy calls for new tip rules

The Morning Call - - BUSINESS CYCLE - By Claire Bal­len­tine

Few so­cial sit­u­a­tions puz­zle even the most man­nered eti­quette ex­perts so much as de­cid­ing how much and when to tip, es­pe­cially in the U.S., where it’s not al­ways op­tional and work­ers can be paid be­low min­i­mum wage if they’re also re­ceiv­ing tips.

The his­tory of re­ward­ing good ser­vice with ad­di­tional money is murky, but it most likely orig­i­nated in Europe, pos­si­bly in me­dieval times, when a serf would re­ceive a tip from his lord for per­form­ing well. This prac­tice gained pop­u­lar­ity in 17th-cen­tury Eng­land among the up­per classes and then spread to the U.S. af­ter the Civil War, when wealthy Amer­i­cans be­gan trav­el­ing to Europe more reg­u­larly.

For tipping af­ter a meal in a restau­rant, the pro­to­col is straight­for­ward: Leave 15% to 20% of the to­tal check, in­clud­ing tax, for your server. But with the ex­plo­sion of the gig econ­omy — in which about 57 mil­lion Amer­i­cans are em­ployed — and the rise of ser­vice apps such as Airbnb, Uber, and TaskRab­bit, the ex­pec­ta­tions around tipping have be­come un­clear and, in some cases, are still be­ing de­vel­oped.

Ac­cord­ing to a Con­sumer Re­ports sur­vey of more than 1,000 adult Amer­i­cans in De­cem­ber, 27% of re­spon­dents said there are more sit­u­a­tions to­day where they are ex­pected to tip than there were even two years ago.

“It takes a while for new guide­lines to be es­tab­lished in the cul­ture at large,” says David Cog­gins, fash­ion critic and au­thor of the New York Times best­seller “Men and Style.” Of the in­crease in new ser­vice apps, he con­tin­ues, “I think it’s good to err on the side of gen­eros­ity. A good tip­per has a clear con­science.”

With that in mind, lead­ing eti­quette ex­perts were asked how to han­dle tricky sit­u­a­tions in which the tipping pro­to­col may be un­cer­tain.

When Uber first launched in 2012, the app didn’t in­clude a fea­ture to tip driv­ers, which the com­pany said elim­i­nated driv­ers’ uncer­tainty around their pay. But in July 2017, Uber yielded to pub­lic pres­sure and com­plaints from driv­ers and in­stalled a built-in tipping op­tion sim­i­lar to those on such com­pet­ing apps as Lyft and Via.

Di­ane Gotts­man, founder of the Pro­to­col School of Texas, which spe­cial­izes in ex­ec­u­tive lead­er­ship and busi­ness eti­quette, rec­om­mends leav­ing 15% to 20% for ride-shares, sim­i­lar to what you might leave in a tra­di­tional taxi cab.

“They are putting their own in­vest­ment in their car,” she says. “The per­son who is pro­vid­ing you that ser­vice is work­ing to­ward mak­ing a liv­ing. What might be con­ve­nient for us is their liveli­hood.”

When tak­ing an Uber or Lyft, eti­quette ex­pert Jodi Smith tends to leave a big­ger tip than when rid­ing in a taxi­cab, whose driv­ers may be rep­re­sented by a union.

“In a ride-share, these peo­ple have no health care, no va­ca­tion or sick days. They’re not get­ting a whole lot of money, so I have to be savvy enough to un­der­stand that,” says Smith, the pres­i­dent of Man­ner­smith Eti­quette Con­sult­ing. “If it’s rush hour, I’m go­ing to tip more. I’m tipping in the 20% range.”

The beauty of these apps is that there’s no face-to-face hand­off of the tip, Cog­gins ex­plains. And you can do it af­ter the fact, as well. “I think peo­ple are dy­ing not to have to be in these sit­u­a­tions. It’s so fraught, be­cause you’re hav­ing to put a value on some­one’s work.”

When stay­ing at a tra­di­tional ho­tel, guests should leave a cash tip each day, says Elaine Swann, founder of the Swann School of Pro­to­col in Cal­i­for­nia. She sug­gests from $5 to $10 a day. But when stay­ing at an Airbnb, Vrbo, or other home rental, she typ­i­cally es­chews a tip.

“Most of the fees are built into the cost of it, so you don’t have to leave a tip,” she says. “Then, that’s up to the dis­cre­tion of the owner to pass along to the clean­ing ser­vice, or pocket it for them­selves. I would not say it’s re­quired.”

Sim­i­larly, Maryanne Parker, founder of San Diego-based Manor of Man­ners, stresses the im­por­tance of leav­ing a cash tip at a ho­tel each day be­cause the clean­ing staff may change dur­ing the length of your stay. “You should write a note and let them know that this is a tip,” she says. “You need to very di­rectly ex­plain.” Even a sim­ple ‘Thank You’ can do it, lest house­keep­ing staff leave the money so they won’t be ac­cused of steal­ing.

For home shares, cash is un­nec­es­sary, but she sug­gests leav­ing a thank-you note for the hosts, es­pe­cially if they were very re­spon­sive and went out of their way to im­prove your trip.

Many cof­fee shops, food trucks, and quick-ser­vice eater­ies now use iPad point-of-sale sys­tems that are swiveled to cus­tomers, prompt­ing them to choose op­tions af­ter swip­ing their cards — “no tip” or op­tions be­tween 10% and 20%.

Paul Bag­dan, pro­fes­sor at the Col­lege of Hos­pi­tal­ity Management at John­son & Wales Uni­ver­sity in Rhode Is­land, calls this “guilt tipping.”

“Peo­ple tip more when prompted to, or when they have to de­cline, es­pe­cially when the per­son is right in front of you,” he says.

Smith ex­plains that it’s not nec­es­sary to leave a tip if the em­ployee is sim­ply hand­ing you an item from be­hind the counter. She might leave a dol­lar or two in a nearby tip jar if her or­der is un­usu­ally com­pli­cated or if she vis­its the shop of­ten.

“If I’m go­ing to places that I fre­quent, I’m tipping for the re­la­tion­ship, be­cause two months from now, when I for­get my wal­let at home, they know me and re­mem­ber me and know I’m good for it,” she says.

The ex­perts we talked with shared ad­di­tional tricks for be­ing a good tip­per and get­ting the best ser­vice pos­si­ble.

Cog­gins, au­thor of Men and Style:

Al­ways tip at a restau­rant. “I think it’s bet­ter to talk to management; say you were dis­ap­pointed with what hap­pened. Usu­ally, the man­ager will try to rec­tify that.” Re­mem­ber that the per­son serv­ing your food rarely has any in­flu­ence over how it tastes.

Smith from Man­ner­smith Eti­quette Con­sult­ing:

If you don’t have enough money to tip in the mo­ment, you can get cash and come back. “Peo­ple think that if they don’t tip in the mo­ment, the mo­ment is lost, and that’s not true.”

Parker from Manor of Man­ners:

Don’t for­get to tip a tour guide. “I usu­ally leave $5 per per­son but if it’s just me, and it’s the whole day, I’ll leave $15.”


If us­ing a ride-shar­ing ser­vice, eti­quette ex­pert Jodi Smith leaves a larger tip than when rid­ing in a taxi, whose driv­ers may have union rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

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