Tips On Tipping & Other Things When In The USA

Are you considering a USA holiday but just aren’t sure about what to expect, especially regarding their tipping regime? Well, since I’ve only just returned from there I reckon I may have a few tips that I can pass onto you. The first thing is to make sure you convert some of your currency into US dollars, ensuring that you have several of the smaller notes, especially one and five dollar notes. You’re going to need these as soon as you leave the airport to pay for your cab or shuttle fare to your hotel. I’m sure they take credit cards but I find it a lot easier to pay by cash. Oh, in case you’re wondering yes, you do have to tip the cab driver, usually between 15-18% of the fare. I found this strange but perhaps it’s necessary because they’re not very well paid and need it to supplement their poor wages.

Musso & Frank Grill was one of the first restaurants that we used a credit card to pay for the meal, which by the way was superb, as was the ambiance of the restaurant. Upon getting the bill I noticed there wasn’t anywhere to add the customary tip and I thought perhaps it wasn’t required so after checking the bill for errors I placed the credit card in the folder. It was promptly returned along with a copy of the bill but this time it had a spot where you add your tip gratuity.

OK, now I’m confused. Shouldn’t they have given me this copy in the first place? Mystified I queried the waiter but I reckon he had trouble with my accent, as did most Yanks, you’d be surprised how many blank stares we got whilst over there. So I filled in the gratuity section thinking he would take the credit card again. Nope, it seems they can add the tip with the original swipe. Seems to me that a shonky establishment pancakescould embellish the amount of the tip if they wanted to. Personally I would have preferred getting the second bill, the one with the gratuity, first rather than as an after thought. Apparently this seems to be the norm so be prepared.

I reckon my favourite breakfast was at the Twist Restaurant and Bar which is found at the Renaissance which meant we could charge it to our room. I found this the simplest way of paying for our meals and the bills had a place for the customary tip. My favourite breakfast for the trip had to be the pancakes that came complete with blueberries and bananas. It was delicious. Anna couldn’t finish hers but I managed to get all mine down.

HomaAnother thing we learned whilst in LA is that if you want to know what’s going on around you the only way to do it is to go on a tour and the one we settled for was Starline Tours although there was no lack of people trying to shove brochures at you as you walked down the street. We booked our first tour via a small lady named Homa who did try to book a second tour for the next day but we insisted on doing it when we were ready and promised we would come to see her so she could get the credit for our next tour. I don’t think she believed us and I must admit she looked shocked when I tapped her on the shoulder the next day. Did you know that Muhammed Ali does not have his star on  the sidewalk? Yep, he told them that he refused to be walked on and so he’s the only celebrity that has been placed on a wall. One of the many tidbits I picked up on the tour.Muhammad

When wanting to learn something it’s always a good idea to talk to the locals. Anna wanted to do some shopping and she heard that Macy’s at the Beverly Centre was a good place to go. As a taxi was an expensive option we asked the locals which bus to take to get there. It turns out that the 217 would take us to Fairfax and Third where we would take another bus to our destination. The cost of the trip was only $1.50 each and was as simple as feeding three dollar notes through the receptacle. On the way back I wanted to get rid of some coin so counted out $3 for the first leg of our return trip. I placed the whole lot into the coin receptacle which caused it to get jammed. “Sorry mate” I said to the bus driver, “Is there a trick to it?” “Sure” he says as he calmly tries to unjam the mess, “you put it in a lot slower.” So there’s another tip for you, place the coins in one at a time.

Speaking of coins, for the life of me I don’t understand why the Yanks still use one cent pieces. We got rid of them years ago and it’s a hell of a lot better not having to carry around all that spare change.

A couple of last tips before I go;

  • If you’re an Aussie and you feel you’re not being understood, try speaking a little slower and enunciating properly.
  • Don’t catch a cab during rush hour it will cost you a fortune. Better to sit and relax with a coffee or something.
  • No need to tip a bus driver or staff in a department store
  • Don’t freak out when cab drivers don’t stop at stop signs, they all seem to do it.

If you have any questions you know the drill, ask away in the comment section.

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Peter Pelliccia

I'm an Aussie blogger who loves to blog and share everything that I've learned on my blogging journey, including blogging tips and ways to blog for money. I am also trying to make my way on YouTube. You can follow my progress by subscribing to My Bonzer Channel.

This Post Has 48 Comments


  1. Twitter:
    Glad you enjoyed your trip to the States, Sire! We’ve used a debit card when going out to eat on a number of occasions, and we always get the receipts in just the same way you do. The first is just the bill. They swipe the card then and you sign on the one with the tip on it. We’ve never had a problem with someone changing the tip amount, but I always document it just in case and keep it until I make sure the amounts match up on the bank statement.

    Those blueberry/banana pancakes looked yummmy! I might have to make some soon for the family. :)

    1. Thanks Allie. As to those receipts, you guys may be used to it but it’s damn confusing to us foreigners. :lol_ee: It sure would be a lot easier, and makes more sense, if they presented the bill with the gratuity factor on it ready to be filled. Also if there is an error it will be pretty hard for me to go there and complain about it. :wink_ee:
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  2. Thanks for sharing your views about spending the vacation in USA. I have to say that it’s a little bit strange that the cab driver or the guys at the restaurant all expected some kind of tip.
    The pancakes with blueberries and bananas look and sound delicious.
    Maybe next year i will consider a vacation into the States, who knows.

  3. I always find it fascinating to get to see how others – people from other countries or planets – view the things I have come to take for granted as “normal”. Thank you for this account. I’m glad you enjoyed your visit.

    There are quite a few of us who wonder the same thing about pennies (one cent coins); Except for paying odd amounts resulting from adding sales taxes, (and giving change from odd prices like $9.99 becuase merchants think $9.99 sounds less expensive than $10.00) they serve no purpose.

    1. Hey Allan, there was a lot to like about what I saw of America. It was also interesting for us to see how you do things over there. I loved the way your buses display the destinations as they approach them. This makes it extremely easy for others not used to the area to know when to signal the driver that they want to get off, as long as they know their destination that is.

      We got rid of our one a two cent pieces years ago and yet they will still advertise stuff for $9.99 even though people realise they will actually pay $10.00. Weird huh?
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  4. I have a few Aussi friends that I worked with at summer camps and they all said the same thing. My Favorite Rene from Adelaide had the hardest time just trying to remember to drive on the right side of the road. It was fun taking him around and showing him the tricks of the American way. We had such a blast when He visited for a few weeks. He also really loved the Water parks, he said the ones over there were not as big and wild. So Check one out the next time your here.

    1. I’m not one for rides David so I reckon I’ll give the parks a miss. :lol_ee:

      1. I can understand that. You make some great tips for the unseasoned traveler. To explain the credit cad tipping system and why they don’t need your card after you put the tip in. The card reader keeps your card in que on the machine until the tip is added. Then it is processed after the tip has been entered. It is also used in bars to keep an open tab and not have to pay for each drink individually. Once you close out your tab the car is run and gives you an area to add tip. It sounds weird but it works well. If you notice a weird transaction on your CC bill the company will review the receipt and your signature if it matches it will process if not they will usually give you your money back and put a mark on that particular companies profile. If it happens often they will be notified of false transactions. It is a big deal so most are not stupid enough to mess with it.

  5. Enjoyed your post, Pete. Glad you had a great trip. Tipping gets up my nose; but I understand Yanks don’t get paid very well. They are only entitled to two weeks holiday a year too!. If you Aussies can’t understand our Kiwi accent, i wonder if the yanks could? LOL. You are right about the one cent coins. Our smallest is ten cents and they are getting irrelevant too.

    Regards,

    Peter
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    1. Hey Pete, I have no trouble understanding your accent, heck there’s a NZ program here on TV that I love and one of the reasons I like it so much is because of the accent.

      Only 2 weeks holiday huh? That must suck. We get four weeks and there are still some who think that’s not enough.
      Sire recently posted…A MailChimp Review- For The Good Affiliate MarketerMy Profile

  6. When my friends visit from other countries they don’t do the tourist bit – they have friends around the country put them up or at least recommend the best Bed & Breakfasts and restaurants and what is happening in the area. When I traveled abroad I did the same thing. If you don’t know anyone to ask, reviews on sites like Yahoo Local can be very helpful.

    It may not have been your accent that throws Americans off as much as the many words that are used in the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand that are unknown to non-traveling Americans.

    For example, one friend from Australia arrived at a hotel we were staying at for a conference before I did. When she checked in it was very late and even though it was an exclusive, swank hotel they didn’t have anyone to get her bags. She asked where the lift was and they said there wasn’t one so she lugged her very heavy luggage up the stairs (fortunately only one flight). She did not know to ask for an elevator and hotel personnel had no idea what a lift was and were not bright enough to ask.

    Similar issues arise when you tell someone to put something in the boot. The last American car owners who called their vehicle’s trunk a boot were back in Model T days.

    I worked briefly with an article writer from the U.K. and was quite surprised at the number of words and phrases she used that meant nothing to me.

    Those traveling on a budget are well-advised to never order room service. If your breakfasts were reasonably priced that would be the exception to the norm.

    What is commonly done in different cities and areas of the country varies enormously. While you might catch a cab in a major city that would cost a fortune anywhere I have ever lived if you could even find one.

    In many areas of the U.S. there is no public transportation or it is rather risky to use it especially in some areas at some times of the day or night. Most have a vehicle or rent a car. Some places you would HAVE to rent a car – such as that aforementioned trip my Aussie friend and I made. She actually drove many hours each way to pick me up because there was no major airport near that resort area I could fly into.

    I am thankful that I got to travel when the potential for being molested was only a fraction of what it is now and equally thankful that I will not be traveling any more. If I were going to travel I would definitely ask around before I started out as that can reduce some nasty surprises that might crop up otherwise.

    Oh – my friend did a world tour and met up with our friends in each country for about the same cost as traveling just to the U.S. because of how she booked it. I don’t remember all the details now – that was over ten years ago.

    I know I’m getting old because it still seems strange to me to see at R rated photos verging on X rated in your blog. I guess moral standards have slipped everywhere as bad as they have here.

    1. My wife actually did quite a bit of research online Gail and she managed to score some good hotels at very reasonable prices.

      I understand what you’re saying in regard to the Americans not understanding certain words that we used but then shouldn’t that also apply to us not understanding certain words that American use?

      Finally, concerning the ‘R rated photos verging on X rated in your blog’ surely you’re not referring to those ads portraying scantily clad women? Heck you see young girls wearing much skimpier outfits on our local beaches and I’m sure the same would apply to American beaches. I would hardly call them R rated.
      Sire recently posted…Happiness In New York City Is All About PeanutsMy Profile


  7. Twitter:
    I have to admit that I laughed throughout this post. It’s funny seeing how someone from another country could view some of our habits.

    Yes, tipping is a major deal here, as employees are allowed to be paid much lower in industries where tipping is expected to help them get over the hump; and yup, they’re taxed on it as well.

    Also, each state handles cabs differently; in New York, for instance, you’re not supposed to be charged when the taxi isn’t moving, so rush hour isn’t as big a deal then. And they do stop at lights, but they also don’t know how to stay in one lane.

    And you put all the coins into the thing at once on the bus? I almost busted a gut with that one. Great stuff! :thumbup_tb:
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    1. Hey Mitch, glad you got a laugh out of the post mate. :thumbup_tb:

      Regarding my bus experience, it’s not all my fault. Heck, you know how that coin thing looks like, I thought you Yanks invented something that was made to put all the coins in at once, and I virtually filled it up seeing as how the $3 was made up of quarters, dimes, nickels and 1 cent pieces. :doh_tb: :lol_ee: Must admit the bus driver was really good about it.

      As to the cab driver he did stop at stop lights, it was the stop signs that he drove straight through, and yes he did have a tendency to drive on the wrong side of the road.
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      1. Twitter:
        Well I didn’t really know you then, but back in December 2005 I was in a cab with 3 other people in NYC and this guy was weaving through tons of traffic and eventually got hit from the side; I knew it was coming even as I’d closed my eyes so I didn’t see it, but of course I felt it. As I said, in NYC they only get paid while the cab is moving. lol
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  8. Have only been to Florida once and found the whole taxi thing very different from the UK, when we got there we hated our hotel, so paid to move 5 miles down the road. Phoning a taxi cab service to drive us there they wanted to charge us $75 which put me off using them for the rest of the trip. I found paying cash much simpler for everything else so would just tip with the payment. They do have some great breakfasts there but they all seem to be very high in calories, but taste great.
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    1. Man, $75 just for a 5 mile trip, now that’s a rip off. I’m not sure how far Fairfax and Third was from Hollywood but I heard a taxi trip was usually $20 but it cost us $50 because of the traffic.

      You’re right though, paying in cash was a lot simpler when having to work in the tips.
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  9. Hi, Sire,
    I can’t stand the whole tipping system. Just pay your employees some decent freaking wages and build it into the final price of your goods and services. Thankfully, here Down under we haven’t adopted that system (yet) and I hope we never do.

    These are some practical tips and the experience in the restaurant was still a bit baffling. :)

    1. I’m afraid I don’t know enough of the way things work there to give a fair comment about their system Max. Perhaps they make more from this system than if they were on a wage. The Americans don’t seem to mind it and if it inspires people to go that extra mile then it may well have its good points.
      Sire recently posted…More On LA- Las Vegas &amp Rewarding Your ReadersMy Profile

  10. In my part of the world, we do practice tip giving to waiters/waitresses, porters, valets. We however don’t tip to cab drivers.

    With regards to accents, I do need to listen extra carefully when some Brit or Aussie speaks. American english is easiest to understand because we’re all exposed to it on tv and the movies. Maybe if Aussies get to produce more movies for international audiences, they wouldn’t get that many blank stares. :)

    Hey, those pancakes looked really loaded and yummy.

    1. Hey we have lot’s of Aussie movies, some of them quite famous like Crocodile Dundee not to mention series like Neighbours :cheese1_ee:

      I understand your point though James and those pancakes were the best.

  11. Hi Sire

    Sounds like you really enjoyed your trip to the USA. And learnt heaps about their way of life. The blueberries and pancakes look delicious :-)

    When I was living and working in the UK, we would get heaps of American tourists visiting Stratford and other well known places.

    They always tipped in the restaurants, even though you don’t need to there. Guess it’s a way of life to them and they do it anyway.

    Patricia Perth Australia

    1. We sure did have a good time Patricia. You know my son did a stint in major Glenelg Hotel a while back and some Americans tipped him for helping with their bags. The funny thing was he didn’t know what to do with it and went and asked the guys at the desk about it. :laugh_tb:

  12. I love this article! I was born and raised in LA so it is interesting hearing how coming here is to a foreigner. I never even gave a second thought to the receipts and tip before, it’s so ingrained! And also, like most people from LA, I’ve never actually taken a bus. But I would also never take a cab more than a few miles as it’s insanely expensive! I hope you had fun though and learned more about the city and culture besides our strange tipping methods! I say the next time you’re in town, definitely rent a car. It’s a necessity in LA and will probably save you money in the end.

    1. Hi Sarah, it’s so nice speaking to someone from LA, minus the accent :laugh_tb: Seriously, I loved your accent. The bus trips were actually good as we enjoyed seeing all the different people getting on and off.

      As to renting a car, I would have to practice driving around somewhere with a lot less traffic before attempting to drive around Hollywood and all those crazy cab drivers. It’s not that I’m not used to traffic, it’s just that it would take me time getting used to driving on the wrong side of the road. :wink_ee:

  13. I admit that USA has some great touristic attractions, but for some reason i wouldn’t want to go there. At least not in they bigger cities. I guess it’s because of all the stuff i’ve seen on tv over the years.
    But i would definitely like to visit The Grand Canyon, or the Niagara Falls (though i thinks this one is in Canada).

    1. I personally don’t like large cities, but only because I dislike crowds, but that wouldn’t stop me from visiting them and I would certainly return to the States if the opportunity arose.
      Sire recently posted…More On LA- Las Vegas &amp Rewarding Your ReadersMy Profile

      1. Yeah, i also don’t like crowds, but the main problem is the violence i see in movies. I don’t really feel like getting robbed and beaten in an alley :)

        1. They’re just movies Maria and are usually a great exaggeration of reality. A week before we were to leave for our trip we saw a show, I think it was CSI, where a gang were killing tourists in Las Vegas. We were going to Las Vegas but we sure didn’t let that stop us. I can also say that while over there we didn’t see any violence whatsoever.

  14. Hello Sire,

    Your trip really looked like fun, I never travel to American so I enjoyed your tips and I hope I remember some if I will ever go there.

    What’s strange is that I don’t pay any fare in the bus, I have to buy tickets from a booth or have a prepaid card which I have to validate. For tourists, there is a so called prepaid card for one day, this gives you access to all the mass transport for that particular day.

    Now, tipping seems to be something normal, for example when I was in Italy, the tip was included in the bill, so, when you paid it, the tip was included too, the same in Switzerland.

    In Romania (the country I live in) there is no such thing, the tip is something that you give if you liked that way you were served and it’s usually cash, optional and not included in the bill.
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    1. I noticed that there were passengers who also scanned their cards upon entering the bus so I reckon they also have a system for regular users. I dare so you could also purchase a ticket from an outlet if you knew where to go, and then for the more casual user they have a system where you can pay on the bus itself. If I’m wrong I’m sure someone out there will be happy to point it out :lol_ee:

  15. I was really laughing all the way while I was reading this as you just reminded me of a few funny situations.

    There are so many things that I could point out in differences from USA and Mexico but I won’t share those here as I would never end.

    About the tipping thing particularly in the USA, I found it was easier to think that if somebody did anything for me, I’d just have to tip that person, end of discussion.

    In Mexico is definitely NOT like that at all so this tipping ‘etiquette’ did caught me way unprepared as well.

    I would have loved to know how the public transportation worked by myself but I rented a car while I was there so I don’t have much to add in that topic.

    About the language itself well… I remember that as soon as I got off the plane I was asked by a few black people to give a donation for an AIDS foundation which had a minimum donation of US $10 and in return you’d get a cool sticker about your donation.

    I said something like ‘you know what, don’t mind the sticker as I don’t have ten on me right now but I’ll give you A dollar for the cause’.

    They were like ‘GREAT!’ and when I flipped $1 and put it in their counter they were a bit confused (and by looking at their faces I got confused as well) so the girl went ‘and the other seven dollars?’ I was really embarrased to realize they thought EIGHT bucks and quickly said ‘Oh I meant ONE dollar’ (it was my lucky dollar btw I wasn’t carrying any cash on me)

    They were even more embarrased than me and said ‘one dollar is fine dear’ I just walked away as I didn’t know what else to say.

    So yes, a stupid bad pronunciation got me in a somewhat awkward moment there and I’m pretty sure they thought I was being cheap as well but I survived.

    ***

    You mention the Aussie pronunciation, there are two people that I absolutely love from Australia, one was the crocodile hunter Steve Irwin (RIP) and the other one is Ed Dale (Internet Marketer) and I can understand them pretty well.

    Do you have a more complicated Aussie accent Sire?

    1. Isn’t it amazing how people can make simple errors when it comes to understanding accents and such and it seems it was an embarrassing moment for both of you but at least it ended well.

      I personally don’t think I have an accent :lol_ee:
      Sire recently posted…More On LA- Las Vegas &amp Rewarding Your ReadersMy Profile

  16. Personally I think your 15-18% tip recommendation for taxi drivers is quite high. I generally tip closer to 10% for taxis.

    As for tips not showing up on your restaurant receipt, yes that is common practice. It essentially goes on the honor system, but if in doubt you can double check your credit card statement to see how much you were charged. I suspect a restaurant would get in a fair amount of trouble for claiming a higher tip. So I think it would be quite rare to pay more than what you write on your receipt.

    1. Now you tell me :lol_ee:

      Seriously though, I don’t mind giving them more considering how, while in their car, they hold my life in their hands. I suppose the size of the tip could depend on the amount of service they provided. Stuff like did they help with your bags or provide polite chatter and useful information during the trip? My tast cab driver did all that and I tipped him even more.

  17. I laughed with tears when I read “Don’t freak out when cab drivers don’t stop at stop signs” therefore the tipping includes the adrenaline fun :))

    1. Never thought of looking at it that way :lol_ee:

  18. Tipping has gotten out of control in the US. Many waiters are suggesting a tip of 18-20%. How about the restaurant just charge a little more and not require tips?

    1. I suppose the problem with that may actually cost the paying customer more than what they’re now paying in tips.
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  19. I live in the USA and I’m used to having to tipping after they had already swiped my card. But it does sometimes make me wonder if they ever changed the amount.

    You see, I rarely even pay attention to the exact final bill. I just estimate to the nearest $5 increment. Then I later wonder if someone would put let’s say $0.50 more to every transaction they swipe.

    I mean 50 cents may not be a big deal for some people, but if they have 60 transactions, that’s $30! So just imagine if they do like 1000.

    Also, to make it clear I haven’t known of any restaurant done it here. But just saying how some person trying to be “smart” would do it so they won’t raise too much red flags.
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    1. At least if they do change the amount, as long as you’ve kept your copy, you can go back and question them about the difference. It’s a bit harder when you live overseas. That being the case they probably wouldn’t rip off a local but they may try it with a tourist.
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  20. Thanks for the great article and tip reccomendations. I have generally always followed similar rules and usually go for 15% for anything that requires gratuity. I might tip more for exceptional service or less if the service was poor.

    1. More for more and less for less, I get it :wink_ee:

  21. Totally agree with you in this case Don’t catch a cab during rush hour it will cost you a fortune. Better to sit and relax with a coffee or something.

    Golden rule is: don’t travel in roush hour-just enyoj the moment.

    1. What moment is that Rok, the waiting moment? :cheese1_ee:

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