The etiquette of tipping
I came across something on Social media recently posted to a page of a large group of people with a common set of “culinary” values. The headline is what drew me to this post:
“I don’t tip”
Photo credit: www.IfYouCantAffordToTip.com
Immediately I was riled up by this headline statement. Only to read further and discover that actually, this post created was in fact in favour of tipping “servers” or what we know of as waiters/waitresses. I loved the message behind this, realising that it’s specifically aimed at the US market.
But nonetheless, it got me thinking, I’m sure we can all give tips… don’t eat yellow snow… never put both feet in your mouth at the same time, because then you don’t have a leg to stand on etc. But what is the correct etiquette in applying gratuity to a bill?
Like Dario, I have lived in, travelled to and eaten in many different countries in the world and each of them have a tipping etiquette.
In fact it’s common now in travel guide books or websites to include an insert on the correct tipping etiquette for that specific country. In China, Japan and Korea for example it is actually considered offensive to leave a tip. In hotels there a tip is automatically added to the bill, you must not add extra.
Whereas in the US if you don’t leave an appropriate tip it would be the equivalent of saying “*#@$ You” to the server.
A waitress in the US was very vocal on social media after posting a picture of a receipt, on which a customer wrote “I give God 10%. Why do you get 18?” as her “tip”. Needless to say, unfortunately she was fired, as she was going against company policy, but these sorts of things happen.
I remember being in New York once and having a bagel in the East Village. I left our waitress a 15% tip, not realising that the standard tipping percentage had increased from 15% to 18%. Upon leaving our waitress made it very clear to me how offended she really was, and thought that I needed the money more than she did. Well it threw me a little, but I promptly rectified the situation, apologizing profusely whilst resolving things.
Me at the bagel place 😉
I believe there is a very specific reason for this vocalization of “under-tipping” in the US. There are 10,000,000 restaurant workers in America, and 2/3 of those are earning sub-minimum wage. Even with tips, the average amount a restaurant worker brings home is $9/hour and the $2.13 minimum wage for servers hasn’t changed since 1991.
Last year I was in Canada, and found out whilst chatting to a waitress at a restaurant I stumbled upon, and landed up going twice in the 3 days was there it was so good, that there are so many taxes in Canada, even tips are taxed. So, the request was to give a little more than you would normally in order for the person to come out with the 10% standard (not 8% after tax).
I lived in the UK for nearly 15 years, and there was an unwritten rule. In bars when ordering and receiving a pint of beer… please do not tip (the bar tenders do not know what to do with it), however in restaurants the standard acceptable tip for good service was 15%, you needn’t tip if you felt the service was absolutely terrible, but equally could tip below 15% if the service was average. But this is down to the fact that the minimum wage in the UK is £7.70, almost 4 times the US minimum wage, and over 7 times for South Africa at R20/hour. And so in the UK gratuity is exactly that, the dictionary definition –
“something given voluntarily or beyond obligation usually for some service”.
Here in South Africa it’s a different story. Some restaurants don’t pay a minimum wage, and servers live off tips alone, which are sometimes pooled. Others, pay minimum wage or more, and tips over and above. Either way, I think sometimes we can be really poor at showing our appreciation for good service.
Regardless of this fact, I think I need to outline a fundamental thought I have:
Service levels and standards within the US and UK for me are extremely high, I believe this is down to the fact that overall (and I’m generalizing here) servers are remunerated accordingly for their service and not penalized for the small immaterial things, and so the desire to do better is always prevalent. Thus, has a knock on effect on service levels getting better and better.
We at EST EST ALEA add on a discretionary 8% to the bill. It’s entirely up to the diner as to whether a further 7% needs to be added to take it to the “acceptable” 15 % standard for SA, or stick with the 8% or remove gratuity altogether.
On the whole I have to say thank you to our diners, who never fail to give me those surprises at the end of the evening with the gratuity amounts they add.
But, I also have to give credit where credit is due here, and say that Keke, Brian, Themba and Wellington (behind the bar) work exceptionally well and serve our diners impeccably.