It may be an obvious information to many people – but I am sure that what I’m talking about here is new to some first-timers. No matter what is the purpose of your trip – just know the city? Shopping? – you need to be informed about two factors that deal with the value of goods and services here in New York: the sales taxes and the gratuities system.
The price of a product on the shelf is not the amount you will pay when going to checkout because the taxes only appear at the time of purchase. The percentage varies according to each state and city. In New York, for example, the overall rate is 8.875% (state and city taxes). So when you go shopping, remember that every item you purchase will have an increase of 8,875%. This percentage makes a difference when it comes to more expensive products, such as an iPhone, for example. Some products are exempt from fees, such as diapers, medicines, newspapers, magazines, laundry services, etc. – you can check out the list here.
Now, a very important information that few people know: there is no sales tax on an item of clothing or footwear that costs less than $110. An item of clothing or footwear that costs $110 or more is subject to the full 8.875% tax rate. Sales tax is calculated per item, so even if you buy two or more items that add up to $110 or more, you only pay tax on the items that individually cost $110 or more.
Ah, remember that meals and snacks are also taxed!
This is a controversial subject that displeases Brazilian tourists (and maybe others tourists too): gratuity or tips. I know that many people think is unfair, but the truth is one: you are visiting the city – then you must adapt to the rules of the place you are visiting. Here is the rule: customer pays tip. And look, I can understand the indignation of many of you – I was against this system when I arrived here – but even so, I never refused to pay. The point is that you can not argue with what is fact and the fact is that the system here works this way. No matter if we think it’s right or wrong – probably the American also do not agree with many aspects of other cultures. When you are in someone’s home, you adapt to the routine of the house, right?
Leaving the controversy part aside, how the gratuity system works? It is present in various sectors, but, during your trip, you will deal with probably three of them: restaurants, cabs and hotels. Keep in mind that at any restaurant where you sit and is served by a waiter, you need to leave a tip. The percentage varies from 15 to 20%. At the end of your meal, when the check comes, you will see the subtotal and total (with taxes included). You can calculate the tip on the subtotal – and let’s face it, nowadays everyone has a smartphone, so it’s easy to do the math. If you are paying by credit card, handed the card to the waiter. He will bring the receipt for you to sign and put tip. If you are paying cash, let the full amount, with the tip. If you have not change, just ask for how much change you need. Remember that in most restaurants, groups of 6 people or more, the tip should be 20%. In chains like McDonald’s, Starbucks, Shake Shack – where you make your – it is not mandatory to tip. You will see a container near the box for this – when I have some coins, I usually leave them there.
In the case of cabs, it works the same way. All taxis accept credit cards and a screen will display a keyboard for you to enter the amount of the tip. If you are paying cash, just follow the same protocol from restaurants. In hotels, I don’t have a lot of experience, but the ideal is $1 to $2 for each bag and the same value for the doorman that ask a taxi for you.
Remember: employees that receive gratuity are not exploring you – they depend on you to receive the salary at the end of the month!
Laura Peruchi is a Brazilian blogger, author, and entrepreneur. She has lived in Manhattan with her husband since 2014. Since then, she has shared on her blog varied content about the Big Apple. From travel tips, including unusual things to do, shopping tips, etiquette, restaurants, and a lot more, her blog has become a reference in Portuguese (also available in English) for anyone planning a trip to New York City.