There’s a gulf: those outside the service industry who want to pay too little, and those in the service industry who ??
Here’s our rule of thumb:
Tip in paper.
Round the dollar up, then base your percentage off of that.
9.37 becomes 10.00, then make the total $12.
7.37 becomes 8.00; then tip a couple bucks.
Being generous is better than being tighter than a bull’s ass in fly season.
Give them the benefit of the doubt: don’t assume they’re taking a route that’s going to try to eek more money out of you. They could in fact be, but they also know the city better. This is their job.
From Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/topic/chicago-tipping-cab-drivers (Jan. 2008)
Allow me to ground you all in a more personal perspective, rather than all the hypotheticals about cab drivers.
My husband is a cab driver.
He is a great cab driver, one who keeps a clean cab, calls patrons “sir” or “m’am”, helps with baggage, and even gives free rides to cancer patients and others he has a big heart for. He showers daily, is well spoken, and more than willing to put whatever you would like on the radio.
You know what? He is still stereotyped into being an ignorant immigrant, propositioned for sex, has to deal with people getting waaaay too frisky while still in the cab, has had a gun held to his head, has to suck up the higher cost of gas while rates remain the same, and has to deal with people being jerks. He gets the perk of everyone assuming he is one of the worst drivers on the road. You know why he might take a different route than the one you think is most direct? Because he has driven the streets for so long that he knows he can get you there faster on a different route where there is not as much traffic or not as many traffic signals. It is only in his best interest to get you there as fast as he can, because he has another fare to pick up. More fares is always better.
Talking in generalities doesn’t really help. What if we started talking about all the salespeople? Or contractors? Or personal trainers? Some are great, some are poor.
But if you experience great service, it is worth a great tip. Period. And a great tip is 25%. A good tip is 20%. An ok tip is 15%. If your ride is less than a $5 fare, tipping a between $1-$2 is appropriate. On all fares, you can round to the dollar higher, and then base your percentage on that.
And, if you have a great cabbie, ask for his cell number so you can use his business in the future. My partner has plenty of clients who have an ongoing working relationship because they set up fares in advance, for example a 4 am pick up to Ohare.