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Handouts or Common Courtesy? When and Whom You Should Tip

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RALEIGH — A package is delivered to your door, do you tip the delivery person? If so, how much? Unraveling the confusion of when, how much and whom to tip is not easily done.

"Some people don't really know how to tip," says Carl Baxter, who has been in the hotel business for more than a decade.

"When a person checks into a hotel, they're trying to check into a place that makes them feel comfortable," Baxter said. "That's my job, make you feel relaxed and at home, that way you'll come back."

The general rule is to tip the bellhop at least $1 a bag. Skycaps are also in the $1 club, along with house keepers -- $1 for every day should be left in an envelope in the room before checking out.

Other workers in the $1 club include pizza delivery persons at $1 a pizza. The same rule, $1 for number of items, applies to coat checkers and valet parking attendants.

The folks who bring the mouth watering biscuits and the hot entrees only make $2.13 an hour, less than half the minimum wage.

For them, tips are not gravy, they are part of their take home pay; 15 percent is the norm, sometimes 20 percent.

"A lot of people don't understand that's how we make our money," says waitress Katherine Brown.

Bartenders make their money the same way -- minimum 15 percent of the tab -- cabbies and limousine drivers are also in the 15 percent mix.

When making plans for a cruise, be sure to set aside 15 percent of the cost of the romp on the ocean for tips.

Until the turn of this century, tipping was considered un-American. People in the service industry thought that being given what was thought to be a handout was an insult.

There are some tipping traditions that have remained intact, like the so-called "Christmas tip," which is a minimum of $10 for the paper boy, the mail carrier and the trash collector.

When it comes to getting a haircut, the gratuity for hairdressers is similar to restaurant workers at 15 to 20 percent of the bill.

"We base our price on not what we'll get in tips, but it's based on the quality of service and what it takes to do that service, not plus if we get tipped," says cosmetologist Thurston Evans.

At full service salons, though, leave it up to management to distribute the tip evenly among all employees who contribute to the haircut, and never tip the salon owner, even if he or she does the cutting.

There are no tips either for Fed Ex and UPS, but sliding a minimum of $10 a head to the people who deliver your furniture is a good idea -- that rule holds true as well for movers.

At full service gas stations, $2 to $5 is one way of saying "thanks."

For service workers who depend on the courtesy of strangers, tips are not only gratifying, they are a reward for a job well done.

There are a few people that do not receive tips including flight attendants, bus drivers, and cruise ships' officers, just to name a few.