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Why do they call it a tip?

The Origin of the Word “Tip”

The word “tip” originated in the early 1800s from the term “To Insure Promptitude” or “To Insure Performance.” It was first used by English coffeehouses and pubs where customers would place coins in a small box that had “To Insure Promptitude” printed on it as a way to encourage good service from the staff. The coins were considered an advance payment for the service the customer expected to receive. Eventually, the practice spread to other service industries like restaurants. Over time, the phrase was shortened to just “tip.”

Reasons for Tipping

To Reward Good Service

The main reason we tip today is still to reward and encourage good service. Tips show your server or staff member that you appreciate their efforts to provide you with a positive experience. Good tips incentivize waiters, hairdressers, taxi drivers and other service professionals to deliver excellent service to each customer.

Supplement Low Wages

Many service industry jobs rely heavily on tips as a major part of their income because they often pay lower hourly wages. Waiters and waitresses in the United States, for example, typically earn $2-$3 per hour before tips. Tips help them earn a decent living.

Social Custom

Tipping is considered a social norm and standard practice in the United States. Most people tip because it’s what they’ve always done and seen others do. Not leaving a tip can be seen as rude. Many people just automatically tip a certain percentage without necessarily thinking about it.

Who Do You Tip and How Much?

Here are some common tipping practices in the United States:


The standard restaurant tip is 15-20% of the total bill. For exceptional service, 20-25% is appropriate.


$1-2 per drink or 15-20% of the total tab.


15-20% of the total bill.

Taxi/Rideshare Drivers

15-20% of the total fare.

Hotel Housekeeping

$2-5 per night or $5-10 for longer stays.

Food Delivery Drivers

10-15% of the total order cost.

Service Provider Standard Tip Amount
Waiters/Waitresses 15-20% of total bill
Bartenders $1-2 per drink or 15-20% of total tab
Hairdressers 15-20% of total bill
Taxi/Rideshare Drivers 15-20% of total fare
Hotel Housekeeping $2-5 per night or $5-10 for longer stays
Food Delivery Drivers 10-15% of total order cost

The Etiquette of Tipping

Here are some general tips on tipping etiquette:

– Tip based on the pre-tax amount of the bill, not including discounts.
– Hand cash tips directly to your server discreetly or leave it in the tip area on your table.
– Include the tip when paying by credit card to ensure the staff member personally receives it.
– Don’t skip the tip if paying with a gift card or certificate. Only deduct the value of the gift amount.
– Tip each individual service provider separately rather than splitting one tip.
– Adjust the tip up or down a few percentage points to reflect the quality of service.
– When in doubt about whether to tip, err on the side of tipping.

The Future of Tipping

Tipping practices are evolving in the United States. Some restaurants are adopting no-tipping policies, instead adding service charges to bills or paying higher wages. Apps allow customers to pre-determine automatic tip amounts. Debates continue over whether tipping should be abolished or not. However, tipping remains firmly ingrained in American culture for the foreseeable future.


Tipping originated as a way to ensure prompt service but has evolved into a social custom and economic supplement for service workers in many industries. Standard tipping etiquette calls for customers to base tips on a percentage of the total bill for good service. Exact tipping norms and percentages vary by location and type of establishment. Tipping looks to persist as an enduring social behavior in the U.S., even as some aspects may change. Understanding tipping practices and etiquette allows customers to show appreciation for service and support service professionals through monetary recognition of a job well done.