Monday, March 31, 2014

Question About Tipping

I read something in the paper the other day which got me thinking.  It was an article on tipping in restaurants.  The practice of giving a "tip" or gratuity has been going on for centuries.  There are many theories but its true origins are lost in the mists of time. Lately the concept of tipping has been the subject of much discussion.

Who do you tip?  When do you tip? How much do you tip?  I'm always confused about it. 

One thing in what I read about tipping that made sense, was that tavern keepers in the seventeenth century could not pay their servers a decent wage.  To supplement the server's meagre wage and to encourage prompt service, patrons started leaving a couple of coins behind when they left the tavern if they received good service.

Now the question is; do we tip today to reward prompt and efficient service or to supplement the server's wage because the restaurant owner refuses to pay them a decent wage?  Or maybe it's a bit of both!  Minimum wage is a joke!  Nobody can independently support themselves on a minimum wage!  If  servers are being paid at or close to minimum wage, they must be able to collect tips in order to survive!

So who do you tip?   From what I understand we are supposed to tip those who actually serve us food or drink in a sit down restaurant.  This does not include fast food pick-up places or coffee bars. Hotel staff and cruise ship crews expect to be tipped too, but not bus drivers or train conductors.  Very confusing.

When do you tip? Is a evening out with a meal worthy of a tip while a cafe lunch is not?   If the service is bad, do you tip less or not at all?  What if it wasn't the waiter's fault?   What if the chef screwed up and didn't prepare the meal on time?  What if the waiter needed that tip to augment his ridiculously low wages?  What if ...?

So how much do you tip?  Fifteen percent seems to be the going amount.  Is that before or after GST?   Some social gurus suggest twenty percent is better while some say ten percent is a more suitable amount.  In Europe they will often tell you what the expected tip amount should be right on the menu. 

Many years ago while we were visiting Australia we found a restaurant advertising real American pizza!  As we were leaving I left a tip on the table.  We had walked some distance down the street when the waiter from the pizza joint caught up to us and gave me back the coins he said I had obviously forgotten on the table.  No tips there; then.  I wonder if that's changed in Australia now.

Am I going to stop tipping? Of course not.  But the whole issue of tipping is a strange and convoluted one indeed.

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