How to tip in Charleston

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We’ve all been in that situation: we go to sign off on a bill, or hand over our payment at a counter, and when we get to the tip line, panic. Do we need to tip? If so, how much?

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In some industries, workers’ livelihoods depend almost entirely on tips. That’s due to a 1966 law that allows employers to pay servers as little as $2.13 an hour

Tipping etiquette can vary greatly from service to service, and whatever the norm was a few years ago, may not be the norm today. To fix that, we reached out to people who work in the service industry and asked them to tell us what kind of tip they generally expect.

We compiled their answers + made a guide that can be used as a reference point for tipping around town. Because how can you follow the rules if the rules are unwritten?

For your consideration

Tipping may vary based on industry, but there are a few golden rules that transcend any service:

  • If you receive a discount, tip on the original price of the service– not the discounted price.
  • If you’re unsure about whether someone works on salary or commission, don’t forgo the tip– if nothing else, just ask. Even those who are self-employed may rely on tips.
  • If being taxed, (e.g. at a restaurant), you can calculate your tip based on the pre-tax total– rather than the total after tax.
  • If it’s a holiday, or the business is particularly slammed, a little generosity never hurts.

Food + Bev

💸 Sit-down restaurants: 15-20%
Remember, at most restaurants in South Carolina, servers make only $2.13 an hour– that’s less than a third of the minimum wage. (Otherwise, your bill at the end of the night would be a lot higher). So, even if your service isn’t great, you should be tipping something (at a minimum, 10%). And keep this in mind: at many restaurants, servers are required to hand over a portion of their tips to other front-of-house workers– like hosts, food runners, bartenders, bar backs, + bussers.

💸 Bars: Always tip $1- $2 per drink, or 20% of the bar tab

💸 Coffee shops: Depends
If your order is simple + you’re only stopping in to get coffee, no tip is necessary. But complicated orders call for tipping your barista 1-2 bucks. And– if you’re hanging out in the coffeeshop for an extended period of time– make sure to leave a few bucks for the staff.

💸 Buffets: 10%

💸 Takeout: No tip necessary– unless your order was large and/or contained special requests– then, tip 10%

💸 Sommelier: 15% of the cost of the bottle

Personal care

💸 Hair salons: 20%+
Pro tip: “A lot of people don’t realize that most stylists only get paid a portion of the service they provide, and on top of that we have to pay taxes on it due to being an independent contractor.”

💸 Massages: Always tip at least 20%
Pro tip: “Massage is a physically demanding and exhausting industry. Therapists are not robots and even the most experienced have off days just like everyone else, so please bear that in mind if you are unsatisfied with your service.”

💸 Mani/pedis: 15%+

💸 Estheticians: 18-25%
Pro tip: “Always consider what type of service + how much product we are using.”

💸 Barbershop: 20%+


💸 Valet: $5+
Pro tip: “The majority of restaurants offer ‘complimentary valet’ but this can be deceiving. A lot of people may not realize that at the end of the night the valet(s) have to split their tips to cover the parking lot fee. Anything left over is what you walk away with.”

💸 Uber: Always tip
When Uber started gaining popularity, people thought of it as a way to get a ride without worrying about a tip. But since then, the rideshare service has lowered its faresmeaning drivers now make less money. And now, there’s an option in the app to tip your driver right after a ride is complete– so not having cash on you is no longer an excuse.
Pro tip: $2 or $3 on most trips. On a longer trip it’d be great to get $5- $6. As a side note– I always appreciate tips. They are never expected.”

💸 Pedicab/Bicycle Rickshaws: Always tip
Pro tip: “If taking a bicycle rickshaw or pedicab, add on 2-3 bucks per person for a normal ride, adjust accordingly for longer rides.”


💸 Furniture Delivery: $5- $10 per worker

💸 Pizza delivery: Always tip
Pro tip: “If I averaged $3 tip an order over the course of the night, I was doing well. Then again, I worked in super high volume, which probably figures into things as well. Small spots probably rely on higher tips since they won’t take 30-40 deliveries in a night.”

💸Catering delivery: Always tip
Pro tip: I work for a restaurant & do a lot of catering deliveries. When I deliver a large amount of food (like over $250), I hope/sort of expect a tip between $10- $20. For orders $500- $1,500, I hope to get at least $25- $50. I don’t just drive your food to you. I pack your salad dressings, utensils, plates, cups, etc., and set it up for you so it is displayed beautifully.”


💸 Shuttle drivers, doormen + bellhops: $1- $2 per bag if helping with luggage

💸 Tattoos: 10-20%

💸 Tours: Tip optional
Pro tip: “While I don’t expect a tip, it is appreciated. $5 per person seems to be the average.”

💸 Bathroom attendants: $1

💸 Maid service: $1- $5 per day

💸 Car wash: $3- $5

💸 Car detailing, painting + tinting: Sometimes tip
Pro tip: “Typically, if it’s just a standard detail ($200- $400), I don’t expect a tip– as the majority of these tickets are moms/dads who don’t have the time to clean their cars thoroughly, are cars from body shops (which don’t tip), or the occasional vomit comet from Uber/Lyft. If I’m doing a heavy paint correction and ceramic coating ($900- $2,000), then in most cases I expect a tip– even if small– based on the fact that I’ve gotten tips for those jobs since I’ve worked there. Hell, even if it’s just $50 on a $1,500 ticket, that still pays for my lunch and gas during the time I was working on the vehicle.”