I once had a server who didn’t actually serve me much of anything. I ended up getting my own syrup for my cold pancakes and a glass of juice from the bar. I still left him 15-per-cent gratuity.

It’s the former service worker in me that feels like I have to do this to supplement his income. But tipping should be more about the service and in some cases, the relationship you have with the person providing it. Yet there is always confusion. Who, when and how much are all questions that elicit different answers.

Take your barista, for example: Does she automatically get your spare change in her cup? What about the guy who hands you your bag of take-out? Etiquette experts say it’s not necessary but recommend that if it is someone you see often, it’s a good idea to show appreciation. If, like most people, you have trouble quickly calculating the appropriate amount to tip, visit smartcookies.com for a quick and easy guide.

The norm for restaurant service is 15-20 per cent. If you’re in a large group, be sure to check if gratuity is already included, as it often is for large parties. For most other restaurant staff, such as a bar server or checkroom, $1 to $2 is an acceptable tip.

If there are services you are unsure about how much to tip, call ahead and ask what the norm is. In situations where there can be multiple people looking after you, such as a beauty salon or spa, the easiest thing to do is tip about 15-20 per cent on the entire bill and ask that the tip be split between those who attended to you.

When travelling, it’s best to keep a bunch of small bills on hand, so that you’re prepared and don’t feel awkward asking for change or giving more than you wanted to. Be sure to check into the cultural norms wherever you are visiting. As a point of interest, tipping is considered rude and is rarely done in Japan, except in certain cases.

If you happen to be unhappy with the service, never leave zero for a tip without speaking to a manager about the situation. Sometimes it may not have been the person’s fault.

Not leaving anything just makes you look cheap and won’t solve the problem. You may also receive some kind of compensation for letting them know about the problem so they can fix it.