The Moneyist: How much should you tip the delivery person, wait staff or Uber driver during the coronavirus pandemic?

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America is battening down the hatches.

Restaurants are closing. Music festivals have canceled. Broadway has gone dark. There are lines outside some supermarkets with people on the hunt for fresh fruit and vegetables, cleaning products hand sanitizer, toilet roll and, yes, oat milk. While more people are working remotely and avoiding public transportation due to the coronavirus, not everyone has the luxury of working from home. How do you show people in consumer-facing industries that you appreciate all they do?

In New York, studies show people tend to tip 15% to 20%. It’s often less than that in other parts of the country. Wages are higher in metropolitan areas such as San Francisco, New York and Seattle, among others. Service-industry workers may be feeling extra anxious going to work and dealing with members of the public. They are, after all, among those Americans who do not have the luxury of working from home. To quote a slogan of yore from an Irish credit union: Every little helps.

You may care more about whether COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2, is more deadly than the flu, worry about how long coronavirus lasts on surfaces, or wonder if recirculated air at 30,000 fee increase your chances of getting sick, I’m turning my gimlet eye to etiquette. It’s a question that I’ve been asked this several times in recent days. I will tip service workers 5% more. For me, that’s 25%. Likewise, if you usually tip 10%, perhaps consider 15%.

Also see: Meet the most generous tipper in America

I asked Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach, Fla. “Exchanging money is not the best thing to do at the moment,” she says. “Use a credit card or an app, and tip at least 15% to 20%. I usually tip $4 on a $20 pizza, but it’s not going to make or break me by giving them one more dollar. However, I am also aware that there are a lot of retirees living in this state, and not everyone tips like I do.” (This Square SQ, +7.84% survey says Floridians tip about 16%.)

As economists warn of a looming recession, some industries may be less secure than others. “Declining consumer confidence, potentially severe retail-traffic declines, and temporary store closures are evolving risk factors that depend on uncertain variables like the geographic spread of the virus and the timing of containment/eradication solutions,” analysts at Cowen, a financial-services company. wrote in this research note.

That said, there’s one thing (almost) better than an extra dollar: Acknowledging that people in the service industry are turning up for work. Today, I met a security guard, a man who gave me coffee in the local bodega, and a Lyft LYFT, +1.21%  driver. I told each of them to stay safe and stay healthy, and I thanked them for showing up. When I said hi to Angie, the hostess at my local Italian restaurant last night, I gave her the peace sign and said, “V for Victory. We’re gonna beat this!”

I can’t speak for Angie, but it made my day.

Want to read more? Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter and read more of his columns here

Do you have questions about inheritance, tipping, weddings, family feuds, friends or any tricky issues relating to manners and money? Send them to MarketWatch’s Moneyist and please include the state where you live (no full names will be used).

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Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyist private Facebook FB, +10.23%  group where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas: inheritance, wills, divorce, tipping, gifting. I often talk to lawyers, accountants, financial advisers and other experts, in addition to offering my own thoughts. I receive more letters than I could ever answer, so I’ll be bringing all of that guidance — including some you might not see in these columns — to this group. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

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