How much should you tip for counter service?


These days you’re likely to see a tip jar when you go into a coffee shop, a sandwich shop or any other place with counter service.

I was recently in a rental car van and the driver was very helpful with my traveling partners’ suitcases. Though I usually wouldn’t, I did tip in this instance. But there’s this constant grey area when it comes to tipping.

Most people know to leave a tip for a server; a bellboy who helps with your bags; a housekeeper at a hotel; or a concierge who does something for you.

Money Advisor once asked people how often they put money in the tip car at pizza shops, ice cream parlors and the like. 48 percent said never; 3 percent said they pretend they never see a jar; 4 percent said they always tip when they see a jar; and a little less than half said they occasionally pop funds into the jar.

Read more: Etiquette expert reveals the new normal for tipping

Electronic tipping is the latest trend

My son and I were at a grill the other day. I was listening to one of the waitresses who was very upset about a table that ran up a $50 bill and gave her less than a $5 tip.

There’s long been an expectation that decent table service warranted a 15 percent tip. Then more recently, that changed to 20 percent.

But now the latest wrinkle is tipping in a limited service place like a coffe shop, pastry shop, or a Starbucks. Many establishments have apps that suggest a tip amount if you’re paying electronically. The Starbucks app has suggested tip amounts of 50 cents, $1, and $2 built right into it.

What are you supposed to do? This idea of tipping for limited service is coming into the culture. There was no such thing 15 years ago. But now, it’s becoming what’s expected.

As job prospects improve, places that offer limited service have to deal with turnover. So often they’ll become more aggressive about having you tip, rather than them paying their people more to reduce turnover.


It’s a hard question. But I want to warn you that if you don’t pay attention, a lot of the things that will suggest an amount will default to around 25% or 30% for counter service. It’s up to you. But you’ve got to pay attention and make a decision. After all, it’s your money!

Read more: How often do you tip your Starbucks barista?

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