Tipping, San Francisco
Driver - 15-20% of fare; generally a minimum of $1
Skycap - $1-2 per bag
Barber - 15% of the cost; generally a minimum of $1
Hairdresser - 15% of bill for one operator; if several operators, 10% of bill to haircutter/colorist/stylist, 10% divided among others
Manicurist - $3-$5 (more if manicure runs more than about $25)
Usher - $1-2 per party if shown to your seat
Bellman - $1-$2 per bag; $5-10 for running errands
Concierge - $10 for a special effort such as handling airline tickets; offer the tip after each service or at the end of your stay
Chambermaid - generally no tip for one-night stays; $2-$5 per night for longer stays
Doorman - $1-$2 for hailing a cab; $2-$5 for unloading baggage
Room-service waiter - 15-20% of bill
Valet park attendant - $1-$2
Tipping is an expression of satisfaction with the service rendered and is therefore a fairly personal decision. Naturally you will want to leave more than the standard amount when you receive extraordinarily good service and less when the service is below par. You should consider how often you will return to a particular place because a nice tip is likely to be remembered and therefore can also be an assurance of excellent service in the future.
All that being said, the following are standard amounts for tipping in San Francisco:
Bartender - 10-15% of bar bill
Headwaiter/Maitre d' - nothing unless special services are provided; in that case, about $5 (more for exceptional services)
Waiter/Waitress - 15-20% of bill
Wine Steward - 15-20% of wine bill
Server at counter - 15-20% of bill; generally a minimum of $1
Coat Check attendant - $1-2 per coat
Restroom attendant - $1-$2
Valet park attendant - $1-$2
This is for those travelers from outside the US, as tipping is pretty similar across all the major cities in the United States. Tipping in restaurants usually runs from 10-20 percent. 10 percent denotes unhappiness with the service, 15% is the norm for regular service, and 20% and up is for great, unordinary service. Bellhops are usually given $1 per bag for their help with luggage. Cabs/taxis - 10% -15% is adequate.
A lot of people are not familiar with how tipping works in a restaurant...especially the nicer ones. Every restaurant,unless it is a real hole in the wall, requires that servers "tip out" other employees. What this means is that an employee will have to pay tips to other people on as much as 9% of their sales. So if a check is $500, they would have to tip out $45 if the tip out is 9%. So say if someone tips 10% in a nicer resataurant, the server might only get to keep 1% of that tip. So even if you spend $1,000 and think you are giving a lot of money by handing out a 10% tip, in reality the hostess will probably be getting more money for seating you than the server did for taking care of you all night.
When getting off the ferries from Sausalito or Alcatraz, be aware of the local street performers who set up shop nearby.
The first time I got off the ferry, I wandered over to where a large crowd of people had formed to see what was going on. I had inadvertantly joined an audience watching the final act of an elaborate street stunt.
When the show finished only moments later, I was dismayed at what happened next. The street performer and helpers were going around collecting tips (as expected). What I didn't expect was the put downs and finger pointing that my fellow ferry passengers and I received when we walked away without tipping. It didn't seem to matter to the performer that we hadn't seen his show.
I'm not sure what the norm is for this type of event, but it certainly left a sour taste to hear the performer praise high tippers, stating to everyone via loadspeaker the amounts, and then chastising those who gave less.
Tipping is always a mystery to me when I travel to new places so I thought I'd explain it for San Francisco. This tip is also applicable to other parts of the Bay Area.
One thing to keep in mind is that waiters and waitresses make their living on tips. Because their base wages are so low tips are needed so they can make a decent wage.
Waiters and waitresses in the US usually expect a 15% tip when you sit down and are served a meal. For those of us from here it's second nature to leave this even if the service is marginally bad. If service is very good you may leave a bit more up to 20% or even higher. If the service was just horrible you may leave a small tip or nothing at all. You might expect a confrontation if you do this.
The tip is not usually included in the price of your meal unless you are in a large party. The policy is usually, but not always, written somewhere on the menu. As a general rule of thumb if you're a party of over 8 people it's a good idea to check your bill to see if the tip has been included. The normal tip in this situation is about 18% and you're usually not expected to add any additional money.
When you go out to a bar and order a drink the bartender will expect a tip of usually $1. If you expect to buy another round of drinks and want fast friendly service it's not a bad idea to leave this (bartenders have a great memory). If you're going to spend the night at that bar you might want to start off with a bigger tip. There is no guarantee that you will get great service because of this but it couldn't hurt. If you don't leave a tip and the bartender overlooks you when you try to get the second round, you'll know why.
I don't usually ride in taxis but I think tipping in SF is pretty similar around the world. Round up and if the cabbie is lifting your bags out of the trunk you might want to throw in an extra dollar per bag.
This is pretty standard around the US as well as all over the world. If a porter brings your bag to your room they usually expect something in return. A dollar per bag is my rule of thumb.
I have also heard of people leaving a tip for housekeeping but I have never done that. It couldn't hurt if you're feeling extra generous.
If the concierge helps you by getting you tickets or dinner reservations it might not hurt to tip them especially if they have gone out of their way to do this. Also if you're going t expect their help in the future it couldn't hurt. If they're just giving you directions or quick advice I don't think a tip is expected.
If I have forgotten any situations or if you find any of my tipping advice inaccurate, let me know and I'll help you out or fix it.
Tip high, take care of the people that take care of you. You will witness one of everything in this city so it's not too uncommom to see people staring which is fine but just don't share your comments out loud. People here are generally nice if they are treated nice.
My friends from the East Coast complain that people are too darn friendly here. Let's just keep things that way: smile at people, make eye contact, and feel the love.
Due to the high cost of living, I would like to encourage anyone able to tip generously when in San Francisco. Without tips, we couldn't live here. (and then what good would it be?)