In the past, when to tip and when not to was fairly intuitive.
In a nice restaurant, you left a tip. Ordering from a deli, you didn't.
Taking a taxi? The driver certainly expected a tip at the end of the ride. If there was an attendant in the hotel restroom, he or she certainly expected a tip for handing you a towel or sprinkling some cologne on your hands.
Miriam Cross, writing in Kiplinger's, says tipping is not so clear cut today. These days, she notes you are almost always likely to encounter a tip jar at the deli, coffee shop – just about every kind of food establishment except fast food. She says gratuities aren't necessary outside a sit-down service venue. But...
“When the counter staff go out of their way to accommodate your requests, however, tipping is a way to show thanks,” she writes.
And the baristas behind the counter may be working just as hard or harder than a wait staff in a full service restaurant. The presence of a tip jar may also suggest management could be compensating its employees on the assumption that you will generously add to their take home pay.
What about tipping an Uber driver? You instinctively tip a cab driver, but the Uber transaction doesn't exactly lend itself to tipping since payment goes directly to a credit card. But Cross says that doesn't mean you shouldn't tip or that the driver doesn't expect one.
“Contrary to some assumptions, a tip isn’t factored into your fare,” Cross writes. “However, the company states on its Web site that you don’t need to tip.”
In the end, when to tip is a judgment call. It is, after all, called a gratuity because it falls outside of what's a necessity. And if you believe strongly that low-wage workers should earn more, well, it's a small step you can take to help.