Tips on Tipping

By Lain Ehmann

When budgeting your meeting, one line item that needs to be included – whether you like it or not – is tipping. "Even planners with decades of experience are often confused by who, when and how much to tip," says the Dolce International Meeting Planner’s Handbook. Here are answers to some of the most-asked tipping questions:

1. What’s the difference between a "tip" and a "gratuity?" Nothing, other than the party who receives them, says Dolce. For example, the bell staff receives a tip while the catering staff may have a gratuity built into the bill. Do note that there can be a difference in whether the item is taxed or not – for instance, some states tax on service charges but not on gratuities, and vice versa, Dolce explains.

2. Do I have to pay the "mandatory" gratuity to the F&B staff? Unless you’ve negotiated otherwise beforehand, yes. And remember – the gratuity is sometimes set by union contract, so you may not have any wiggle room to negotiate.

3. When do I tip? Dolce recommends asking the venue’s sales staff questions up front, such as how gratuities are distributed. Then, says Dolce, "Reward – don’t bribe!"

4. How do I know whom to tip? In addition to your mandatory gratuity, you will want to reward those who have assisted you and your attendees – those who provided extra or exemplary service, someone who exceeded your expectations, an employee who went "above and beyond" in the performance of his or her duty.

5. Can I give something other than cash? While greenbacks are often the currency of choice, you may also want to consider other items, such as letters of appreciation, flowers, candy, or logo items from your company, suggests Dolce.

6. How do I know how much to budget? Since you may be locked into a certain gratuity, you can plan ahead based on your contracts. But you can also budget in other methods – 1 to 1.5 percent of the total meeting budget, says Dolce, or by allocating a set amount based on attendee or by room.

7. Should attendees tip on their own? If you’ve already agreed via contract to provide a mandatory gratuity, make sure to inform your attendees of that fact so they do not “double tip” (unless they feel it’s warranted). Also let your employees know if – and at what level – gratuities and tips will be reimbursed.

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