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Are there instances when it is (nearly universally) understood that tipping is not appropriate?

So with that being said, only one I can think of is for flight attendants during meal/beverage service on a flight.

I rarely, if ever, travel by rail, but I believe tipping is appropriate for meal service on trains. But maybe I'm wrong.

So are there other situations where tipping is understood to be inappropriate?

(And really, I'm probably just limiting it to the U.S., as I know many European countries, and even Asian ones, tipping is not required.)

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  1. You don't tip the bag boys/girls at Publix.

    8 Replies
    1. re: grampart

      When my friend was on crutches, and the bag boys at the local grocery store bagged and loaded his bags, they got tipped -- and it wasn't inappropriate.

      When a person tries to tip a flight attendant, you are told they cannot accept such gratuity. The reason I was provided is that flight attendants are considered "safety stewards and security personnel" not service attendants.

      Just like you don't tip a fireman for rescuing your cat from a tree, you don't tip a flight attendant.

      1. re: ipsedixit

        At Publix they're not allowed to accept tips and will refuse them if offered.

        1. re: grampart

          Several grocery chains have signs stating explicitly that customers can Not tip.

        2. re: ipsedixit

          This is not meant to offend, if you or a loved one is a flight attendant, but really, "security personnel"?? I will give them all the credit in the world for being responsible for passenger safety. On a full flight on a big bird, around 4 people are responsible for keeping 250+ passengers calm and safe in an emergency, but security?

          I will consider them security personnel if next time some guy tries to hijack a plane, one of them pulls out a Glock 9 and orders him to drop his box cutter and put his hands on his head.

          BTW, you may not tip fire fighters with cash, but they love it when you bring a cake, cookies, or a big pot of homemade spaghetti to the station to show your appreciation.

          1. re: PotatoHouse

            That's what they are classified as.

            I didn't make the classification, nor do I pass judgment on it.

            Just passing along info.

            From what I understand, if a passenger wishes to "tip" a flight attendant for exemplary service (or even the converse, I suppose), they should get their name and tell corporate. I am told that corporate will remunerate them (either pecuniarily or otherwise) appropriately.

            1. re: PotatoHouse

              In appreciation to our local fire fighters, I've taken trays of lasagna to the firehouse.

          2. re: grampart

            I was at target once and had tons of stuff and the bagger helped me to my car and helped me load it up. i tried my damnedest to tip him, but he wouldn't accept it.

            also, in a grat included hotel, a friend who works there says they have to refuse a tip 3 times before accepting.

            1. re: grampart

              My father is in the military so I spent most of my youth shopping at military commissaries and it was customary to tip the bag boy/girl although they always bagged and brought them to the car. It was actually a great job for the teenagers.

            2. I'm really not sure if this is right (so it's also by default not universal) or not but when I know that I'm dealing with the actual owner at take out type places usually with some kind of tip jar, like a coffee shop, I tend not to tip - and I'm usually a pretty generous tipper. I somehow feel those tip cups are for the worker bees and not the owner. I would expect that the owner would not split those tips with their employees as well. I don't have anything other than my own gut feelings to base this on.

              6 Replies
              1. re: bobbert

                I tip, regardless. And believe many people do the same.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  It used to be universally understood that to tip the owner was an insult to the owner. Not anymore, it seems.

                  1. re: Karl S

                    Yeah, that was always my thought.

                2. re: bobbert

                  Interesting that I had this experience just last week and was unsure how to handle it. Had lunch with a friend at a six table
                  tea shop. The owner did it all - host, server and "chef".
                  Unfortunately, he was not a great multitasker and the
                  experience was a bit leisurely and disjointed but overall it
                  was an enjoyable. I debated whether or not to tip, based on
                  the hair salon "guide". Then I thought about how hard this
                  guy had worked and the fact that with only two other two-tops
                  and a take-out order while we were there I had to wonder how
                  he kept the place going - he only serves from 11 to 5. I wound
                  up leaving a generous tip and now I'm hoping I didn't insult
                  him by doing so.

                  1. re: ferventfoodie

                    Sometimes I think it gets tricky. If the owner is my server or bartender throughout my meal, I tip as usual. My thought is that in places where I might regularly tip someone but it's not necessarily expected (like where there is a tip cup or take-out and the employees are not being paid the reduced "server" wage) and I'm being served by the owner, I tend not to tip. In those type of places where the owner actually does a portion of the serving, I would think it very bad form for him/her to expect a share of the tips from the $3.25 per hour employees as well. This would be similar to a manager or owner of a restaurant who helps run the food when busy - I wouldn't expect a manager on salery to expect a portion of the tips. Once again, that's just me - I don't know if that's universally how it's done or not.
                    Another example: If I'm at a B & B and a worker bee helps with my baggage, I tip. If the owner helps me, I don't.

                    1. re: ferventfoodie

                      Any of the chef-owners with whom I'm familiar would distribute any tips to his/her staff. Often, if the chef-owner is serving our table, there is support from the staff servers.

                  2. I don't tip the owner of my hair salon when he does the service. I do give him a very nice bottle wine/champagne at the holidays.

                    I don't tip at an all inclusive spa I go to for about 4 days each year but I am pretty sure the price includes some kind of gratuity.

                    I don't tip the servers at weddings, convention meals and the like.

                    Open bars at parties are tricky. I don't tip the servers passing appetizers/nibbles or the person who takes my drink order at these parties. If I order a drink at the open bar I will follow the lead of other guests. Would it be "inappropriate" to tip the bartender? No but I also don't want to offend my host.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: foodieX2

                      Well, the salon is non-food, which I thought was an obvious parameter. Maybe not.

                      I've tipped at spas, and know that many people do as well. Not saying one way is "more appropriate" than the other.

                      As to weddings, banquets, etc., those are meals you usu. do not pay for when you are a guest, so just like a regular meal, the normal course would be the host (or payor) taking care of any tip or gratuity.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        this particular spa is one where money never changes hands during the stay. You basically get into your fluffy white robe and don't get out if it until you leave. It actually quite nice as there are no pretenses and everyone is treated the same regardless of whether you are a peon like me or a famous actress.

                        However its also a place where you would feel awkward whipping out your wallet from your robe, slipping anyone cash or leaving money on the table of the restaurant. The cost is such though that the gratuity is built in to the price structure and tipping is not expected.

                      2. re: foodieX2

                        I think that events that fall under the category of private celebrations (weddings, funerals, bar/bat mitzvahs), I never tip. At professional events that have open bars - if there's a tip jar, I will tip - but if not I don't.

                        Basically, I count on the host arranging how they want tips to be handled and would follow in line.

                        1. re: cresyd

                          Right. They are tipped, just not by you.

                          With flight attendants, they are not tipped -- by you or anyone else.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            I've given flight attendants candy, cookies, flowers and have written many letters stating great service.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              I don't consider the service charges levied up front by many event venues/caterers to be tips. I guess by my definition, tips are optional. I may never actually withhold a tip but I reserve the right to do so. Event service charges are not optional. Maybe some people tip on top of that but I did not for our wedding for example (I know the staff there are well-paid).

                          2. re: foodieX2

                            I know of the 'no owner tipping' rule, and it seems to extend beyond salons. I have no idea, really, why that makes sense in businesses where (especially in the economy of the past 5 years, there's no reason to believe that the owner necessarily makes more than his/her staff.

                          3. Fast food. Or is that too obvious?

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: mwhitmore

                              No, it isn't.

                              I know most people don't tip the person operating the cash register at, say, McDonald's, but let's say you did, would they turn your money down?

                              A flight attendant *cannot* accept tips. Is that the same for the person taking your order at McDonald's?

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                When I worked McD (admittedly decades ago), we were trained to decline all tips.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    I think it is part of the ethos of fast food---that they are not restaurants, where you tip for service. But rather places where you can just get food without service, as we know it. You collect your food, bus your own table---this was especially true back when fast food didn't even have tables. And if you permitted some employees to accept tips from some customers, that would put pressure on all customers to tip, making fast food a 10-20% more expensive proposition. And cheapness is one of it's major attractions.

                                    1. re: mwhitmore

                                      GAH! "*its* major attractions". I do know possessive vs. contraction.

                                      1. re: mwhitmore

                                        Spell-check often "corrects" to "it's" inappropriately. Annoying.

                                        1. re: jackiechow

                                          Thanks. Are you familiar with damnyouautocorrect.com?

                              2. re: mwhitmore

                                I tip at Sonic, when I'm served by a carhop.

                                1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                  Decades since I have seen a carhop, but agree tipping us appropriate.

                              3. I think tipping has gone to the extreme. I tip for service in places where I get service and the server gets a wage that is set/allowed by law to be lower than non-servers because tipping is the norm.

                                That said: I have never tipped when I stand on line to get a coffee at a place such as Dunkin Donuts. the counter person fills my order, hands me my pruchases and takes my money. Growing up there were signs at Dunkin Donuts that said 'NO TIPPING PERMITTED"
                                Now there are large soup mugs on the counter that are labelled for tips.
                                Except in Dunkin Donuts located within Stop and Shop supermarkets. There the employees are employed by the supermarket and must refuse tips.

                                This also applies to Starbucks, tip containers at Starbucks, but forbidden at Starbucks within Target.

                                So if the location is posted no tipping, tipping is innapropriate.

                                My 20 something worked at the mall through college, From her store it was 100 feet in one direction to Starbucks, 100 feet in the other direction to the Starbucks within Target. Daughter took her coffee breaks at Target, that 75 cents a cup twice a day adds up.
                                The counter person at Target Starbucks made more than $9 per hour, the one at the Starbucks owned and operated location only $6. Never mind that when using her Target red card at Starbucks within Target, daughter saved another 5%. 20 somethings don't use cash.

                                I don't tip counter personnel at delis, fast food, coffee counters. They are not servers in the classic sense, but retail clerks purveying consumables.
                                That said if I sit at a stool and am served in such a place, I tip. i remember when all Dunkin Donuts had counter service and you were served hot, frresh coffee in a mug, not paper or styrofoam.
                                I wouldn't tip the order taker at Panera, either, and since one has to bus one'sown table I leave nothing for the person who occasionally washes the table.
                                When my parents livedinFlorida, Panera would bring the meals to the table (a safety factor with so many elderly customers with walkers, etc.) this servce called for a tip.