The lead story in my New York Times e-newsletter on Easter Sunday was focused on tipping (as in tipping your server in a restaurant). Because the story had nothing to do with bunnies or church or a golf tournament, I automatically assumed the worst.

Oh dear, I thought. People are stiffing their servers and all wait staff in the country are on strike. No Easter brunch today, pal.

However, as I read the article, I saw that the issue isn’t that people are under-tipping their servers (although some servers might challenge that assessment). But some of us might not be as up to date on how and what to tip for all sorts of contemporary services – from Uber drivers to Instacart deliveries to dog groomers. Do we tip the owner of the salon? What about the bus driver? And what about all those other apps we use now to procure goods and services?

During the Year That Wasn’t Real (2020), our household became quite familiar with Instacart for grocery delivery. The app was easy to access, and my local store was a participant. I could find all our regular groceries, order them, and wait for delivery sometime the next day. 

Two months later, the delivery time was trimmed down to a matter of hours. Eventually, they arrived as soon as I hit the “order” button. (Just kidding.) 

What I didn’t understand was the tipping mechanism included on the order. How could I tip my shoppers appropriately if they hadn’t yet delivered my order? I had no way to judge their level of service.

It’s different when one goes to a dining establishment or bar and orders food and drink.

These days, the suggested tip for sit-down meal service is generally 20%, and it’s up to the guest to determine whether to increase that tip based on superior service.

I firmly believe the vast majority of servers and bartenders in our tourist-oriented Lowcountry work hard to provide the best experience they can for their guests. They are serious about good service, and they strive to increase their tips based on that service.

And this brings me back to a point made in the article: “Tipping has not only been entrenched in American life but also formalized as part of the economy. The U.S. is unusual among developed countries in allowing tipped workers to make below the minimum wage, sometimes as low as $2.13 an hour.” 

That is correct. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the minimum wage for tipped employees in many states, including South Carolina, is still just $2.13. 

That is pitiful. We can do better. And, for now at least, it’s up to those of us who go to restaurants and bars to make up the difference. These workers truly depend on tips to make ends meet.

We are early into our high season. If we want to continue to entertain visitors well, and to enjoy hospitality venues ourselves, the least we can do is tip appropriately those who provide related services. 

Not sure how much? Use your browser’s search bar and look up “tipping etiquette.” For smaller eateries, which might share tips among each shift’s workers, toss some extra bills in the tip jar. Same goes for musicians.

While we’re being a little more generous, consider those who might not expect tips, like your trolley driver, your dog groomer, the babysitter, and your favorite barista. And yes, even that Instacart shopper who pays attention to your note to “Please put the chips in the top of the bag.”

Want to make someone’s day? Once in a while, dish out a 50% tip or more. It’s fun to watch someone’s eyes light up!