Monday, August 10, 2009

Here's a tip for you

Now, this topic has probably been discussed over and over again all over the place and I am not heading into any ethical or political discussion about this, but let me just say that I really really hate the tipping culture in the US...

This comes purely from the perspective of a person coming from a low-intensity tipping culture like Sweden; you might give a little extra if the food and/or service was good, but no one is going to put a voodoo curse on you if you just pay the amount on the bill. And now living in Japan where there is virtually no tipping at all, and if there is a service charge it's a fixed % added to your bill (and this is very rare to begin with and reserved for some fancy restaurants).

My issues with the tipping culture are very simple:
1. It obscures the price you will pay in the end since you have to throw on tax and 15-20% tip on the prices you see on the menu - I'm sure that if you live in the US this is something that comes naturally, but not to me...
2. I never know what amount is suitable to tip, I've talked to american friends and read general guidelines, but I still find my self at loss whether to tip 10, 15, 18 or 20% and end up tipping more than I probably should to not offend anyone.
3. It makes the service feel a bit "fake", since I feel that the staff only are nice because they want good tip and not because it's who they are.

I know that there are institutional and political reasons for the tipping culture with the low minimum wage etc., but that is another issue. I just wanted to bitch a bit about how annoying it is for me as a foreign tourist in the US to deal with the tipping culture...

For those of you who have mastered the tipping culture, I tip my hat to you in respect!


William said...

"I feel that the staff only are nice because they want good tip and not because it's who they are."

You hit the nail on the head. That's -exactly- why it's like that. Or at least, it used to be.

Now, you are expected to tip whether they were nice, good, etc... Or not. At this point, it's just a way for the restaurant to avoid paying full wages to the employees.

I don't tip bad service, though. I go by the old ways, and if service is bad, I'm not paying for it. I can only hope there are enough other people out there doing the same that bad servers will get the point quickly.

Of course, if they are -really- bad, I complain to the management as well.

As for how much to tip... Just let your emotions be your guide. If they made the dinner better, tip them more. If they just barely managed to do their job, tip the minimum (10%).

I've actually had such good service lately that I've been tipping closer to 30% at some places. It really matters to me whether they are just slugging drinks or actively trying to make dinner a good experience.

Me said...

Tipping is also a matter of style. If you go to MickeyD's you don't have to tip.

Coffee shops ^ Denny's level, I tip 10% as a basic courtesy (unless the coffee is crap).

Upscale? Well upscale IS upscale and you should tip the service or complain to the Matre de. But really, if a salaryman can't afford the tip, go to the grocery at Kuhio and Duke, buy some chips and beer and ...

Karen said...

Having been a waitress in an upscale restaurant, I loved the American system, because it's like I had my own little business while still in high school.

Now having lived elsewhere, I do realize how anti-consumer the system is because it does obscure the final price. American sales tax is not figured into the prices like European VAT is - a consumer has two unknowns with the tip and the sales tax (which varies state to state). After a gorgeous meal, who wants to be cognitive and sit there and do pre-tax tip percentages?

Of course, it's only in the restaurant business where people are nice to you because they want your business.

Mr. Salaryman said...

Yeah... I just don'T really get it... Maybe I should hire a real american to follow me around and advise me on suitable sums to tip? But then the problem will come up on how much I should tip that guy/girl for the services...

Rydangel said...

as an american who once worked in the service industry, i'm of two minds about tipping. i worked plenty of jobs where it was supposedly understood that tipping was required, and one of the worst things is to work hard and not be tipped.i once worked as a skycap in atlanta during christmas for $2hr and made less than $20 in tips working christmas eve and christmas day. incidently tipping is part of your salary and some jobs pay less than the minimum wage because you get tips. and said tips are supposed to be reported on your taxes. Because of this i tend to tip higher than the standard 10%(although in certain places 15% is automatically tipped). But, because i have that background, i know what the service is supposed to be like, and if it's not up to standards, i don't tip and will fill out a bad comment card. if the service is really excellent i will do 20% and fill out a positive comment card on the waiter. in some restaurants and bars, tipping is included. so i only leave $1 or $2,unless the service was that exceptional, then i'll tip more. if tipping isn't included, i start with 15% of the bill,if it was a big party and we made a mess or were loud and called for the waiter a lot i'll do more(usually everyone will contribute in this case). i expect my waiters to check on me once i'm seated, give me time to think about ordering , bring me water,drinks,starters, without my asking for them, then come back for the order and not show up again until they bring the food, then i only want them to come by if they see the glasses need refilling, or to quietly remove empty plates that i conveniently stack at the edge of the table. i hate waiters who hover,try and take a plate with food still on it, that's right before you, or those who disappear completely after bringing your food and don't show up until you call for the bill.if i'm at a club, i grab a waitress and tip her up front so she'll keep coming back to my table. same with the bartender, i tip him so he won't water down my drinks, and will give quick refills. i don't tip at places where i have to do stuff myself. if i paid to park and all you did was point me at a spot i don't tip. if my pizza is late or cold, i don't tip. if i go to the bathroom, and i didn't get handed a hot towel,or other amenities from the room attendant, or the restrooms were dirty, i don't tip. if i have to get my own luggage in and out the cab, i don't tip.if i eat at a buffet, where you fix your own plate and get your own drinks, i leave a curtesy tip of $1 for whoever cleans the table when i'm done. in the hotel, i usually tip $5 per day for the maid. i'll do more if they bring me the extra towels,soaps etc. that i ask for everyday without me having to beg for it. if the room still looks dirty, after they clean-no tip and a call to housekeeping. if i stay in a fancy high class hotel, i'll
tip more per day.Unfortunately, some people take advantage of tipping. customers, don't tip when they know they should, and workers who extort tips whether they did a good job or not. the best thing to do is base it on the service, it it was good tip something, if it was bad, leave nothing, and turn in a comment card or tell the manager the service was bad.your paying for the service. but people like me who use to work in those professions, probably are the best tippers, because we know what it's like to do that hard work for little pay.
TIPS=to insure prompt service. 8p

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