Tipping is not a city in China

25 Feb

You know what I love about Australia?

Nobody expects a tip.

That’s right. Not tipping is customary here, probably due in part to the fact that servers make something like $16 an hour and therefore don’t need to rely on tips to make a living. In America, the federal minimum wage for tipped employees is only $2.13 an hour, so needless to say, every tipped employee feels entitled to excessive tips.

These days, it seems like you can’t even go out to eat at a crummy diner in America without being expected to tip 18% or more, even if the service is terrible. There is this expectation that the customer, not the employer, is responsible for paying them a living wage. Frankly, I think that’s B.S. I much prefer it when the employer takes responsibility for paying their own employees.

If I go out to eat, I usually have no say in who serves me. I didn’t get to interview the person or anything before deciding if they are suitable for the job. So why should I have to pay their wages? A tip should be a bonus for excellent service, not something that is expected regardless.

I do often see tip jars here in Australia, almost as ubiquitous as in America, but they are rarely as prominently displayed and so far, I have never seen anyone sing a stupid song like they do at Cold Stone Creamery designed to embarrass the person who made the tip. (Strangely enough, Australian tip jars often have American one dollar bills taped around them… go figure.)

In Europe, tipping is customary, but always small amounts. In some countries in Europe, 10% is considered a very generous tip. I don’t think that is too bad overall, but Europeans in general are not very customer service conscious and a lot of times I don’t think they deserve a tip at all.

Despite my general distaste for widespread or excessive tipping, I do tip generously for exceptional service. At one of my favourite restaurants back in America, there is one waitress who is the best waitress in the world and I always ask to sit at her tables. I always tip her a good 25% just because I like her and she is so good at what she does. Plus, she always remembers my favourite dishes and on potato soup night, she always sends a few cups of it home with me for free because she knows I like it so much. I usually tip my hair stylist 25%, too, because she’s the only person I trust to come near my hair with scissors and honestly, that’s just priceless. But those are really the only two exceptions and both are people I have long-standing relationships with. I can’t justify tipping so generously a complete stranger whose service was only average.

But generosity in tipping is only relative. If the standard tip were only 10%, then tipping 15% would be seen as generous, not stingy. Of course, in pretty much any country outside of the US, tipping more than 10% is usually considered ostentatious or even patronising. Maybe it’s because it implies an assumption that the person receiving the tip is poor. Of course, tipped employees in America- restaurant servers being the worst- like to go out of their way to remind people how poor they are and guilt trip people into tipping, like this whiny person who believes it is the customers’ job to compensate for a poorly run restaurant that doesn’t treat their employees well or price their products appropriately. They truly have no shame. I have seen waitstaff in Europe refuse what they thought to be too large a tip, whereas an American server would probably wonder why they hadn’t gotten even more. I guess Americans are just greedy.

I like the Australian idea that good service is simply included in the price of what you pay for, not something you only get if you pony up some extra cash, and that it is the employer’s job to see that employees are paid fairly for their work. I think it should be like this everywhere.

10 Responses to “Tipping is not a city in China”

  1. freshcutcountry February 25, 2012 at 4:12 am #

    Im American and I love this article! LOL

  2. megalagom February 25, 2012 at 10:54 am #

    Same as in Sweden (On my list of topic to write about!) Some people leave tips, some do not. It’s not needed because the staff gets paid a regular salary. Its still polite to leave a little something but its not looked down upon if you don’t. This leaves for some awkward moments when some Swede’s travel (have heard stories) and they don’t know that they are supposed to leave a tip.

    • housewifedownunder February 28, 2012 at 7:15 pm #

      G was shocked by the large tips expected in America. He wouldn’t have even known to tip if I hadn’t told him and every time we ate out, he always needed to ask how to calculate the tip.

  3. D.L. Kamstra February 25, 2012 at 7:13 pm #

    I’m an American and I so agree with what you have to say here! I have worked in a restaurant and have heard many servers complain about their tips. An example that comes to mind is that in the restaurant we worked, there was an obviously impoverished man, who about once a month came in for coffee and a roll. None of the servers ever wanted to wait on him because he left very little for a tip. He never required much attention but thinking back it always seemed to awful to me that the amount someone may or may not tip determined whether the servers really wanted to wait on the table or not. The same is true for any customers who regularly came in and tipped the same amount.

    I would love to see restaurants as a whole do away with tipping (or have it left to the customer to decide to leave extra or not). I know that it would probably increase the prices somewhat at restaurants, but I like to think that when I decide to patron a restaurant I can expect good service no matter what, and not have my service depend on how much I may or may not tip.

    • housewifedownunder February 28, 2012 at 7:37 pm #

      The menu prices are definitely higher here, but a meal for two still comes out to about the same price whether you pay the higher price and no tip here in Australia or the lower price and a decent tip in America.

      I think it would be nicer for both the customers and the staff to do away with tips as a server’s main income.

  4. wife ic February 28, 2012 at 7:08 pm #

    Interesting article. I would like to throw my two cents into the discussion. To the best of my understanding in southern Europe, gratuity is often included in the bill that makes it redundant to tip. If there is no service charge, you really should never tip more than 5 %, the employees have such a high wage that there is no need to subsidize their salaries. they are probably making the same money you are. Sounds like this is the case in Australia.

    On the other hand, I would strongly encourage tipping in America though, the low minimum wage for servers around 5 dollars per hour (http://www.dol.gov/whd/state/tipped.htm) means that they literally live off their tips.

    I have no idea what things are like in Asia, would be interesting to hear from someone there.

    • housewifedownunder February 28, 2012 at 7:41 pm #

      I know they do live off their tips in America, but I think it’s not really fair. My sister used to work as a waitress and one thing that she always complained about was that if she got stuck working a shift that wasn’t very busy, she basically didn’t make anything. Sometimes you can make a small fortune during a busy time, but I would think that overall they’d be more likely to come out ahead with a more stable income. And I think the employer should provide that income, not the customer.

      I don’t know about all of Asia, but I was told by a Japanese girl once that tipping in Japan is never done and would be considered rude and insulting.

  5. keepingiteasyandsimple March 8, 2012 at 7:17 pm #

    Depending on the state, wait staff can make minimum wage so you need to know that before you make assumptions abo0ut what they actually get paid.

    Not all restaurants are the same. Those which sell liquor you make far more in tips than you would at a place like Dennys.

    My mother raised 4 kids on a waitress salary so believe me, I know how far the money stretches. I still detest the expectation of a tip. I told a former boss that I felt the tip jar should be removed. I never put money in a jar, if I feel someone needs a tip I hand it to THEM that way they know why they received it and they don’t have to share it with others that had nothing to do with my service. Tips began as a thank you for service above and beyond and in my opinion, too many who work in the food service industry have no concept of what good service is. I say that as a manager for over 15 years not just as a customer.

  6. Cosette May 18, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

    I have mixed feelings about the tipping. I agree that the American system is unfair to both workers and patrons. I like that servers earn a normal wage in Australia, but I’ve also found that restaurant service is just adequate, not excellent. While I dislike that an American server may come to my table too many times to check on me (“Yes, I’m fine, thank you.”), I equally dislike having to flag down my Aussie server who doesn’t generally come back at all after the meal has been served.

    You have a wonderful blog, by the way. I’m slowly reading through it.

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