In our ever-evolving world, we are all seeking more guidance on modern behavior, aren’t we? Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., our Ms. Social Graces, is here to help resolve your most pressing issues.

Dear Ms. Social Graces,

Lately, I’ve noticed that some people, who are doing carry-out to support their favorite restaurants, are confused about tipping. What do you recommend to help the service industry during these trying times?

Inquiring Tipper


Dear Terrific Tipper,

The best way to help the service industry during these trying times is to consider your many options. While tipping is a personal choice and discretionary, it has been a U.S. custom for decades. There are ever- changing standards and rules for different job positions, and sometimes it’s difficult to say what is best. However, tips have always been important, and during a global pandemic, they are crucial–making a significant difference for many service workers and their families. 

Avoid tip-baiting, where a generous tip is promised on an app and then reduced or deleted entirely after the delivery is completed. Maybe not in the past, but today we tip 15-20% for takeout, curbside, and pickup orders because of the extra time and effort involved with anti-viral precautions for the customer. Deliveries require more time and involve someone coming to your front door or high-rise elevator who has not only the risk of personal exposure but also the potential to transmit the virus to their family at home. 

Guidelines for how much to tip different workers, if you choose: 

  • Baristas: $1 per drink (more if customized)
  • Bartenders: 20% plus
  • Restaurant servers: 20% plus
  • Takeout, curbside, pickup: 15-20%

In closing, my advice is to remember that 25-30% is the new 15-20% when tipping. 


Dear Ms. Social Graces,

Due to the pandemic, we all know that community giving seems to be off. I support many fine organizations already, yet how do you recommend I address the new ones looking for support?

Give, Give, Give


Dear Giving Largesse,

When charitable organizations seek support, think about these guidelines:

  1. Set a budget and respect your own boundaries.
  2. Set monthly, quarterly, seasonal, or annual limits.
  3. Define charitable objectives by selecting a primary charity, then making a prioritized list of favorites. When and if your financial situation changes, you can adjust accordingly.
  4. Give considerable thought to and create an annual, a 5-year, and/or a10-year charitable donation strategy with your partner. Consider your legacy, if appropriate.
  5. Donating to whoever is asking often means losing track of how much you’re giving. It can also distract you from focusing on the great work that your primary charitable organization is accomplishing.
  6. Philanthropic giving is a highly personal decision, so avoid the guilt when deciding not to contribute.
  7. It’s always appropriate to advise others that you and your significant other have an annual charity budget–just as any well-run business operates with a yearly budget.
  8. Consider these six polite ways to decline giving to a good cause without guilt once you and your partner agree on a budget and charitable donation plan:
  • Empathic: My spouse and I admire your organization. Keep up the excellent work. However, for 2020-21, we’ve already allocated our charitable funds to [fill in the blank organization].
  • Short and direct: Thank you for thinking of us. However, we’re committed to the charities we are currently contributing to and must decline at this time.
  • Loyal to a different cause: We’ve been donating to a different organization to make a difference in the lives of [fill in the blank]. We appreciate their accomplishments with the funds we’ve allocated and plan to continue our support.
  • Financial change: We’ve supported your cause for many years, but unfortunately, this year, we have to decline. We hope to continue our support next year.
  • Future possibility: We’d consider donating; however, we are already committed to support [fill in the blank]. We’ll review [your organization] and consider it next year.
  • Supportive decline: Congratulations on your success–it is great you’re making a difference. We’ve already made our contributions for the year, so we must decline.