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This is one of the most frequently asked questions on the San Juan City Trip Advisor Forum. It is also one of the most hotly debated - mainly because many international visitors are not accustomed to and might not understand tipping etiquette.
"PLEASE DO NOT AVOID TIPPING SIMPLY BECAUSE YOU DON'T BELIEVE IN IT OR DON'T AGREE WITH THE CONCEPT PHILOSOPHICALLY."
Tipping is a part of the service economy and taxation system, and all visitors should understand that it is part of the local culture.
In most of the USA and its territories, restaurants and bars are permitted to pay their servers below the minimum wage because it is acknowledged that the difference is often made up via tipping.
"PLEASE DO NOT START A DEBATE ON THE INJUSTICE OF PAYING SERVERS BELOW MINIMUM WAGE. WE KNOW THAT ALREADY."
If you receive unacceptable or outright offensive service (this is extremely rare), not leaving a tip is an option. An additional option is to speak to a manager immediately. Be polite and to the point. It is customary to inform management and provide feedback about service problems. Don't be shy.
If you want to read all the debates about tipping and the finer points on how to do it, enter the words "tipping customs" in the search box on the NYC Forum for instance.
MOST HOTEL RESTAURANTS THOUGHOUT PUERTO RICO INCLUDE TIP IN YOUR BILL FOR GROUPS OF 5 OR MORE or bills over $100.00
RESTAURANTS IN TOURIST AREAS MAY INCLUDE TIP IN YOUR BILL, regardless of number of people
Restaurants in tourist areas serve many visitors from countries where tipping is not customary or is done differently. To avoid squabbles and explanations with every check, many venues will add the tip as a "gratuity" or "service charge" at the bottom of your bill.
MOST SERVICE PERSONNEL PREFER TIPS IN CASH, NOT ADDED TO YOUR CREDIT CARD CHARGE
It is perfectly acceptable to pay your bill and the tip with a credit card. However, it is traditional and considerate to try to pay tips in cash. This makes it much easier for both the management and the person serving you.
IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR DINING BILL OR SERVICE, ASK A MANAGER.
It is perfectly acceptable to inquire about a dining bill, a tip, or a gratuity or service charge that's already been added if ou do not understand it. In fact, it is helpful for everyone. You will be more comfortable with how and what to tip, and the manager will learn if there are any service or billing problems. It is not considered rude or impolite.
One of the regulars on the SJC Forum recently ran across this guide one a website / forum dedicated to service personnel here in the US. It pretty much covers all those who help make your vacation in the US more enjoyable and is a good basic guide. Tipping Standards - United States Note: There are no hard and fast rules about tipping, nor are there laws requiring tipping in the United States. The list below are generally accepted guidelines.
The general rule is that you do not need to tip on tax. Most people just look at the bottom line (tax included) and just tip on that.