Let’s Talk About Tipping

Lady Troubridge

A slightly wrinkled Lady Troubridge.

Society hostess Lady Troubridge helps you on your social way, with advice on how to tip the servants after a country house party.

The ‘house-guest’ does incur the necessity of tipping the butler at the end of a visit, the idea being to offer compensation for the extra trouble brought upon him by the presence of a visitor in the house. The amount, too, will vary slightly with the trouble caused.

For instance, if he has unpacked for the male guest, done any valeting, looked out trains, or sent off telegrams and telephone messages, he will expect a ten-shilling note even for a week-end. If he has merely ‘buttled’ and done no extra little jobs, the amount can be less, from five shillings upwards. So much for him.

Now for his underlings, the stately footmen, who are found in large establishments. One of them is usually deputed to ‘valet’ one or two gentlemen visitors, and for a short visit a five-shilling tip will amply satisfy him, but it must be given in addition to the butler’s tip, or he may not see any of it! Should yet another footman have carried up the breakfast-trays for the lady visitor, half-a-crown must go to him for this service, and will be much appreciated.

In these times, however, a trim parlourmaid is probably more likely to be found in any house visited, and unjust through it seems, her tip is less than that of a manservant. Five shillings for a week-end is right and proper in this case, with another half-crown for the housemaid, unless she has packed for you, and then, her tip, too, should be five shillings.

Now for the ‘one-maid household’. This treasure, on whom so much devolves, should receive half-a-crown for a week-end, though she deserves more.

But the scale of tipping is adjusted to the size of the establishment and wages received by the staff.

Choosing the moment for bestowing the tip is a bit difficult sometimes, and rather a test of savoir-faire. The tip left on the dressing-table is quite all right for an hotel, but too coldly impersonal for a private house. So if you don’t happen to see the nice maid who has attended you, when the time comes to leave, ring the bell and demand that, like the genii of the lamp, she shall appear before you forthwith. Then, with a little word of thanks, hand her your money gift. She will like it much better this way. Tipping the butler or parlour-maid under the eyes of your host and hostess is a bit awkward, I admit, so leave this little ceremony till he or she is putting the rug round you in the car. Then let the note slip from your hand into theirs, even although your friends are still waving from the front door.

From Etiquette and Entertaining: To Help You On Your Social Way, by Lady Troubridge (1939)

6 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Tipping

  1. The tips on, er, tips don’t sound overly generous. I wonder if this advice wasn’t a bit self-serving. Maybe Lady T doesn’t want to seem like a piker?

  2. Ha! A divergence of opinion here. I checked on measuringworth.com and five bob in 1939 would be worth today either £12.10 (using the retail price index and rather mean) or £34.60 (using average earnings and rather more generous). You decide…

  3. I think in 2019 your £34.60 would be rounded up to £40 or £50. Paper-money-only means tips are multiples of £10. £5 might be OK for the gardener’s boy who runs an errand. The likelihood is that you are wealthy compared to the servants – don’t be mean, if in doubt be generous.

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