/ Money

Tipping should be performance related

Coffee cup and tip

On a recent restaurant visit I was presented with a bill that already had an ‘optional’ 12.5% service charge added. The food had been average, the service surly and the atmosphere positively lunar. What did I do?

Of course, I put my card in the chip and pin machine and paid the bill, tip and all.

When I left, I spent a good half-hour moaning to my wife about the tipping system. She very logically explained that I didn’t have to pay it.

Unfortunately, while she’s obviously right, not tipping means I’m hitting the often underpaid staff in the pocket. But who sets the rules on tipping? How much do I have to pay? Where do I tip?

Confusion when tipping abroad

A recent survey shows that it’s not just me who’s confused. And it gets worse when we go abroad. The survey found that 87% of travellers were confused by how much to tip and that 65% had over-tipped due to lack of local knowledge.

This is no wonder when you find that in Japan, for example, it’s considered insulting to tip, while in the USA and Canada, tipping up to 20% is considered perfectly normal (that’s a full fifth of your bill!).

In Europe, tipping tends to be around the 10% mark. In the UK, it’s 12.5%. Who sets these arbitrary amounts?*

However, aside from the obvious confusion and the varying amount – the main question is why do we have to tip in the first place?

Tipping etiquette

The argument put forward in favour of tipping is that waiting staff are often low-paid, so tipping helps boost their pay packet. But we don’t tip in McDonalds or Starbucks – so why should we tip in Pizza Express or The Ivy?

And ‘discretionary’ tipping being added to bills seems like a ‘guilt’ tax – are you really going to take money away from the person standing over you with the bill?

Tipping should never be added to bills and should always be at the customer’s discretion. This is why tipping should be performance-related. Perhaps, a little business-like for a night out, but it would benefit the waiting staff and their customers.

If you get great service, then feel free to give as much as you want (there’s no law to say you have to give 12.5%!) and, conversely, bad service means no tip.

It may seem uncharitable, especially coming from someone who’s own mother relied on tips when I was growing up, but in these cash-strapped times, tips are a luxury many of us just can’t afford.

*The answer to that, in case you were wondering, is absolutely no one.

Susan says:
18 June 2011

I was told by the waiter that they did not receive the service charge and that it went direct to the owner of the bar so I never pay this charge and prefer to leave a tip as and when I feel it is deserved. But I do wonder why sometimes as they will be paid at least the minimum wage which is higher than my pension, and when I worked I didnt get a tip on top of my wage for doing my job.

A lot of the staff depend on these tips to have a living wage. If you leave cash it is shared amongst the staff. If it’s included in the bill, the business takes it and gives a portion of it to the staff and uses some of it to pay their costs!

Darl says:
19 June 2011

The voluntary service charge belongs wholly to the restaurant, not to the staff.

Yes you are right, many people are paid poorly – it is only the restaurant industry that is proud of that fact and uses customers to be the go-betweens in this wage dispute between wait staff and employer. The customer is seen as a cash cow, ever ready to donate to the restaurant.

Ninety-five percent of employtees are paid the rate for the job. Almost alone are wait staff who are paid according to customer numbers and customer spend at each and every transcaction.

It is tempting for the restaurateur to keep the voluntary service charge and not give it to the staff.

Cash tips ensure [almost!] the cash goes to the staff. And in Europe Australia New Zealand and more,about 3 % is left as just a thank you.

In those countries the staff are paid the rate for the job.

Tips are a Totally Inadequate Pay System

Mike says:
20 June 2011

I see no valid reason to tip . I enter into a contract with the restaurant or other establishment to provide me with a meal . As I would not be allowed to get it from the kitchem myself this contract should also include someone to bring it to me . I expect the meal to be cooked properly and the service to be pleasant and efficient. If these conditions are not fulfilled I feel complaints are in order. Tipping only gives the restaurant owners excuses not to pay their staff a proper wage . Waiting on and service should be seen as the honourable and worthwhile occupations they are and the staff employed should not be reliant on hand outs and charity.

Darl says:
20 June 2011

It is outstandingly unfair to automatically add a charge to a customer’s bill without their authorisation. That’s what happens to the, so called, voluntary or discretionary service charge.

It’s my money but it lands on the restaurants bill – there is no item to account for this charge, nothing consumed by me.

Not only is it unfair, but it is not proportionate. An easy job for the restaurant – a short sentence at the bottom of the menu, the small print I never noticed. But I have to claw it by asking for it to be taken off my bill at the end of the meal. Only the restaurant industry tries to embarrass it’s customers. So most of us go along with it, justifying it to ourselves with a ‘they’re paid poorly’ and a ‘they work hard’.

The proprietor doesn’t seem embarrassed that his staff are paid poorly so why should I be embarrassed to get my money off the bill to donate how I wish.

I always, without fail, ask for the voluntary, optional or discretionary [or whatever fancy term is used] service charge to be taken off my bill.

It’s my right to spend how I choose. It’s easy – try it – consumer rights are mine and yours – we deserve to decide.

After all I am only doing what the restaurant invites me to do -opt in or opt out. Out thanks – then I’ll give how I want.

Darl says:
22 June 2011

@Nick Cheek

I believe we should get the restaurant industry into the 21st century and pay the rate for the job. It’s very sad that we encourage ‘fair trade’ somewhere far away, but here under our noses we watch employers in the restaurant industry treat waitstaff badly.

So what is wrong with trying to emulate Japan,or France or Spain, Australia. Is it because we are still snobs and we want and like to control the under-stairs staff? I hope not, but in Australia the relationship between wait staff and customer is equal; they like equality in work – why don’t we? Why do restaurants enjoy this perpetual wage dispute?

It is the irresponsibility of the restaurant industry that angers me. It turns to cash cow customers for the unpaid wages. It looks down on it’s staff in the same way as far-away garment manufacturers do, the ‘unfair trade ones’.

Nick, when you refer to ‘performance related’ you are not referring to the employer rewarding staff through a company system. You are referring to customers deciding the wages of each employee all the time. That is pay or punish.

We don’t do that. The company knows the targets and standard that staff are trained for and the company gets the increase in turnover and profit when customers return satisfied. Customers don’t interfere in pay packets. Perhaps tempting; when we are kept hanging on the phone we can track down the culprit and reduce their pay for that day. No, it only happens to wait staff.

And it should not happen to them. That’s why the Japanese and Australian way is right, honest, fair and equal.

Nick, help publicise the stingyness of our restaurant industry so they will pay in the normal way and we can relax with our fiends doing something so simple – eating, instead of tampering with paypackets.

Chris Nation says:
6 July 2011

The Japanese do indeed regard it as an insult to tip but they do recognise that in UK, for eg, it is customary to do so. I have taken Japanese tour parties out on a couple of occasions and both times their UK-based Japanese tour leader has spent the last half hour of the run home discussing my tip. I know this from the constant repetition of ‘Chris-san’ and the word ‘tip’ in her spiel.

But imagine my astonishment when, after the clients have bowed and waved me goodbye, she has split MY tip down the middle and walked off with half!

Clearly she has learned to swallow this insult in good old British fashion.

Please don’t assume that just because one restaurant owner keeps the money it will be the same across the industry, it is not. Always ask your waiter. When you pay for a meal, you pay for good food at a nice table and someone to wash up for you. You do not pay for your coat taken, a paper bought for you, someone to notice it is your birthday (and make a fuss or know to be discreet), someone to entertain your kids, sweep up the raisins you allowed them to launch all over the floor, someone to understand your needs ie business meeting, romantic meal, anniversary, birthday, funeral, graduation etc etc and then help you to have an appropriately fantastic experience. You pay for a meal, what waiters provide is memories (or at least I try to), and a relaxing stress free experience. This is what you tip for. So please don’t generalise all waiters and make your decision on this. Yes I get paid rubbish but watching my customers have a great night and being a part of that in whatever way is fit makes it all worth it for me. We are not all the same.

What do you think about cruise lines automatically charging for tips? P&O has now added automatic daily tipping to its cruises. I’m sure many of you won’t be happy with that: https://conversation.which.co.uk/transport-travel/pocruises-gratuity-tip-service-charge/