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Teaching Your Child About Tipping

Money ABCs

A tip is money given as an additional payment for services. It's also called a gratuity.

Piggybank on It

Tipping isn't mandatory—your child won't be arrested if he doesn't leave a tip in a restaurant. In fact, he should know that he shouldn't tip (or that he should leave only a minimum amount) if he has received especially bad service. Sometimes places don't treat kids right because they think they won't tip. If your child gets this treatment, he shouldn't reward the servers for bad behavior.

When you take early elementary kids to Denny's, they may be confused about why you've left some money on the table after you've eaten. They may even be tempted to pick it up, thinking you've merely forgotten it. After all, they don't have the vaguest idea that the money is a tip and that you've purposely left it on the table.

Tipping is a part of the way things work—it's also good manners. But it's up to you to explain what tipping is and to teach your child when and how to tip.

When Your Child Should Tip

Tipping started as a way of rewarding good service. Tips were viewed as gifts to servants. Today, tips are a part of the way we pay for things. Different countries have different customs on tipping (in China, for example, it's an insult to tip). Here, however, tips are expected in certain situations. It's helpful for your child to know when it's appropriate to tip so that as he gets older and goes out in the world without you, he'll know what to do.

Your child might run into some of these more common places that call for tipping:

  • Restaurants. Tip the waiter or waitress on the basis of the bill.
  • Taxis. Tip the driver on the basis of the fare.
  • Pizza or other food delivery. Tip the driver on the basis of the cost of the food.
  • Watch Your Step

    It's not necessary to tip a waiter if a gratuity has already been added to the bill automatically (the menu should specify that there's a fixed gratuity). However, even if this is so, a tip is still good manners if the service was exceptional.

  • Coat check attendant. No tip is required if there's a charge for checking a coat. Otherwise, the tip is usually a fixed amount (see the following section).
  • Parking garage and valet parking. Tipping here works similar to tipping for the coat check attendant: If there's a charge for valet parking, no tipping is required. Otherwise, follow the instructions that follow.

How Much to Tip?

Knowing when to tip is only half the battle. Your child also needs to know how much to tip and how to figure that amount. Here's a little guide to what's usually expected in the way of tips. This serves as only a guideline, though: Great service can always be rewarded with a larger tip, while poor service may not be worth any tip at all.

Type of Service Amount of tip
Wait staff 15 percent of bill (before the addition of tax)
Taxi driver 15 percent of fare
Food delivery person $2 for a bill of $10 or less
$2.50 for a bill of $10-$20
$3 for a bill of $20-$30
$3.50 for a bill of $30-$40
At least 10 percent for bills more than $40
Coat check attendant $1 to $2 per coat
Parking attendant $1 to $2 per car

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Money-Smart Kids © 1999 by Barbara Weltman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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