Tuesday, October 02, 2007

To tip or not to tip?

Damien Whitworth writes in the Times today about the etiquette of tipping.

My personal view is that I detest the very idea of tipping. Left by myself I will rarely offer a tip. I have been known to occasionally round up the fare in a taxi to the nearest pound and sometimes, if offered exceptional service in a cafĂ©, will leave 10-15% of the bill if I have some spare change. Usually however, I don’t. If I am out for a meal with several people who do tip then I will do but only so as not to cause a scene or embarrass my friends, although if the service poor I will refuse.

My rationale for my behaviour is thus: why should I have to pay extra for something which should come as standard. And moreover, why should I be made to feel guilty for refusing to tip substandard service.

When one eats in a restaurant one pays for far more than the food. The bill covers the costs of employing the staff including the waitresses whose job is to serve the food. If the job is done adequately then I am satisfied but I am not going to tip someone for simply doing their job. If their performance was exceptional and it was not a restaurant where you would expect that level of service then I might tip, but they are already being paid to do their job. If their boss isn’t paying them enough and is making up the wages with their tips then I feel for them but that is their issue with their boss. I am not going to pay someone’s wages.

Similarly, at the hairdressers I am already paying for the stylist’s skill and expertise. I see no reason why I should have to pay extra. So I don’t. In the loo of a bar or nightclub I rarely leave any money either. I am grateful for them handing me a towel and I always thank them but I am capable of doing this myself and would generally rather do this myself. A night can get very expensive if expected to leave £1 on each visit to the loo. This actually annoys me greatly as a job has been created where there is really no need. And why should I have to pay for it when I have already paid an entrance fee? Should I also be giving a £1 to the bouncer each time he removes someone with a bottle from the dance floor? I am far more grateful to him than the lady manning the towel dispenser in the loo for he is actually helping me to have a safer night.

There is also disparity between who expects a tip and who doesn’t. Waitresses, taxi drivers, delivery boys all seem to expect tips. I don’t get a tip by a client for doing my job. No-one when leaving court when I have spent months working on their case says “thanks Rachel, here, have this £x for helping me win my case” or whatever. It doesn’t happen.

So, it is with some dread that I ponder a trip to Washington DC to visit my little sister. I am against tipping on principle but I am also pro fitting in with local behaviour and customs when in a foreign country and trying to respect their culture. Yet I just do not see how I can bring myself to tip someone who is just doing their job. This is a conundrum which may take some time to work out.


James said...

I totally agree. I was only thinking last night about what I would nominate to put in Room 101 if I ever went on the show (highly unlikely I know) and one of the things I would consider would be 'tipping'. My reasons are pretty much exactly the same as you have made.

Good luck with the dilemma about Washington. I think I'd ask your little sister, she is the one who will still be around visiting the restaurants etc when you leave.

P.S. At some point in the next few days I intend to put my Room 101 ideas into a blog post.

Rachel said...

Thanks James.

I like the idea of a post about Room 101. I think tipping would be high on my list of contenders although I can think of several others.

Speaking of Room 101, my favourite story relating to that show is when Stephen Fry nominated Room 101 itself...

Anonymous said...

I think it's a bit different in the states - waiting staff's wages are very much lower (relatively speaking) than they are in the UK, because of the American culture of tipping. I tip in the US and Canada but rarely here. An American friend once said it's about as rude not to tip there as it would be to tip the remains of your lunch over the waitress who served it to you. It really indicates that you think they are the pits - completely beneath you. I think it's still the case that in America they have a separate minimum wage for waiting staff, because it is assumed they will get extra in tips. I'd not omit it there.

The thing which really irks me is when they add 12.5% or whatever as a gratuity, and say that you should speak to the manager if you are not happy with it - why should you have to ask them to remove something which should only ever have been given voluntarily?

Sean S. said...

It is completely different in the States.

Wait staff depend on tips there; tips from customers are considered part of the salary.

15% of the bill for average service.
20% of the bill for good service.
25% of the bill for exceptional service.

bubandpie said...

I can see the rationale behind the IDEA of tipping - it motivates service-providers to, um, provide good service. In practice, though, tipping is so codified that I doubt it makes any difference: most people tip an amount automatically regardless of the quality of service received.

Personally, I find it almost mortally embarrassing to offer people cash tips. It's not so bad at a restaurant where I can leave change on the table or add an amount to the Visa slip, but tipping hair-dressers and cab drivers always makes me want to climb into a hole.

Liz said...

I always tip my hairdresser. Perhaps this is partly to do with the fact that I have been going to see her for quite a while and am very grateful for the personal service and friendly manner with which she deals with me.

I absolutely agree about adding a tip to a bill in a restuarant though - I hate feeling as though you are expected to pay it, and if you don't you are making a scene.

When I was at University I waitressed in a variety of different restuarants, including a Michelin Star restuarant. It was incredibly rare to actually benefit from the tip money that was left for our service. Often this money goes straight into lining the pockets of the management. At one establishment that I worked in, tip money was used to balance the tills and pay for any wastages!! It was so infuriating to see a table leave you a generous tip and know that you would see none of it whilst they thought that they were expressing their appreciation. I remember some people would get into very serious trouble with the manager if they kept money they had been given. Once a family friend came and ate at the restuarant I was working in and left me a tip, which I had to argue with the manager over in order to keep!!

Obviously not all places are like this but I definately think twice about tipping in restaurants as a result of these experiences.