/ 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.


I hate both tipping and negotiating a discount. Let’s remove the embarrassment and uncertainty – either pay the price advertised or go elsewhere. Keep it simple.

Pay staff properly so that they are not dependent on tips. If food or service is not up to standard then make a complaint, or ask for a partial refund, or don’t go there again.

Great idea in theory, wavechange, but the reality is that paying all staff well just isn’t going to happen – especially in today’s financial climate when it’s easy to find good staff.

I think we’re missing the point here. the point about tipping is to say a thank you to a job well done. I absolutely agree that, if you haven’t had good service, food or atmosphere, you shouldn’t pay the tip. It is discretionary, so you can chose to take it off. A bit embarrassing, but ultimately the only way to properly feedback to the restaurant that its service needs to improve.

But I’ve worked as a waitress in the past for many years, and always made an effort to be friendly and polite, no matter how much I didn’t want to be there. If your service can help make people’s nights out better then they should want to tip you.

I don’t like the culture of adding it on – I prefer it when it’s left to the customer. But what I hate even more is restaurants who use tips to pay for all manner of things like credit card and bank charges and payroll costs (see this Convo for more: https://conversation.which.co.uk/money/ditch-restaurant-service-charge-pay-cash-tip-instead/). Whenever I can I pay tips in cash for that reason.

You have seen the restaurant business from both sides, Hannah. I haven’t. Most customers are probably unaware of the fact that all the tip does not get to the people who provide the good service.

But what is so special about restaurants, taxis, etc. where we are expected to tip? Most employees don’t get tipped, however good they are at their jobs.

If I like the service I receive from any organisation I am likely to use it again and recommend it to friends. If not I will go somewhere else and might even warn others.

I appreciate that staff working in restaurants are often poorly paid but I’m not sure that it is kind to expect them to rely on tips, especially since these can be siphoned off by those in charge.

I don’t think we should tip. When I lived in Japan it was blissful to not have to worry about calculating a tip at the end of the meal, and all the staff were polite because… well… because they are paid to be. I’ve worked in rubbish, low-paid service industry jobs before and wouldn’t expect some sort of bonus at the end of the day just because I hadn’t snarled at anyone. Being polite should be part of the service, not a bonus that you pay extra for.

I completely understand why waitresses and waiters would be annoyed if you don’t tip, but that’s because of the weird culture we have now. If we banned tipping (or just changed people’s attitudes so they didn’t feel like they had to do it) then wages would go up for waiting staff (they’d have to, otherwise staff would leave), and we wouldn’t have the problem of tipping. We’d also redress the balance between, waiting staff and people who work in other service industry jobs who don’t get tipped.

Peter says:
18 June 2011

I agree totally……….we should not tip.
Staff are paid to do the job efficiently and there is no reason to pay a tip for simply “doing the job”. To add a tip automatically is scandalous.
Many staff in “non-service” industries do not receive tips yet perform their duties well and politely and receive their remuneration in return.
To give tips to some service industry employees is effectively to discriminate against all those in other industries………..who may well be equally lowly paid.
Unfortunately, we are moving towards the disgusting culture of the USA where tips are expected, no matter what the quality of food or service and the often sub-standard staff are happy to go out of their way to make the customer feel uncomfortable if no tip is given………totally unacceptable,in my view.

I only tip if I like the service – If it is indifferent – I don’t tip and remove the “discretionary” amount from the bill. If it is bad – I complain. If the food is also bad – I refuse to pay. I’ve done this all my life. It is why it is called a service charge.

I have always been aware the “tip” is usually shared – and it always seemed fair to me – The food preparation is over half the pleasure in a meal – The quality of waiting is the other part.

I used to go out prepared to pay for a service.- My poor pension rather precludes the idea of a meal out. One meal out is probably costs three or more times my weekly food “allowance”. I used to enjoy tipping to show my appreciation of the service given.

I’m with Richard on this one, I’m not on a pension though 🙂

Quite un-british to complain though, I for one love to see them squirm when they find out that their terrible service and food bluff have been called 🙂

Ardnahoe says:
17 June 2011

I only tip very rarely (whether in Britain or elsewhere in Europe), and only when EXCEPTIONAL, beyond the call-of-duty, service is provided. In a pub/restaurant for a meal, I’m buying the food and it’s delivery to the table. The costs of doing so are down to the owner and his staff. The tendency to include a 10% or whatever mark-up is difficult, but it’s usually mentioned on the menu. If you don’t like that, go somewhere else to eat.

Ditto taxis. If I’m just driven – no tip. If the driver gets out of the car to help with my luggage I’d probably not look for the change.

Spike says:
17 June 2011

I have no problem tipping good service – if there is a service charge I will still tip all be it a small amount. I dont like percentages as this does not measure up – for example the standard UK 10% is fine for meals up to say £100 to £200 but I recently had to pay a meal bill of nearly £1000 – to add an extra £100 in tips would be disproportionate even though the service was exemplory. I left a £20 tip whihc I felt to be a fair amount to be split two way (always leave cash if I can!).
I visit the US often and do realy baulk at the almost demand of 20%! But I got talkin to a waitress who in my mind was ‘difficult and surly’ and she explained that she hated serving Europeans as we did not tip properly – I did explain that with her manner what did she expect – but she explained that she is taxed by the IRS by till receipts and if someone does not leave a tip or it is low she is considered to have actually earned the 20% by the IRS and consequently taxed on the amount – So all is not clear and fair.
My advice dont tip with service charge included and only tip whay YOU think the service is worth and that could be nothing!

Wardley lass says:
17 June 2011

Had a recent cruise holiday where the company (Italian) not only put a 15% charge on every purchase made on board (they said it was for just bar purchases but it wasn’t), they then tried to add a compulsory service charge of $9 a day per person. (or 5E, dep on where the ship was) Needless to say they didn’t get it. Especially as neither the food nor the entertainment was of a standard we are used to.

Deeday says:
17 June 2011

As a regular visitors to France, we find the service in restaurantrs and cafe’s, generally very good.
Maybe it’s because we try to order in French, and being polite to the server, does get the same response.
As a rule of thumb, with a bill of around 45/55 Euros, we tip 5 Euros. In a cafe for a couple of coffees the
odd change, but at least 30/40 cents.
I should clarify, this question of waiter attitude, does exclude Paris, where both customer’s and waiter’s
generally deserve each other!

Kenny says:
17 June 2011

I would have a lot of respect for an establishment that advertised that all of their prices ‘included’ a 10% tip shared amongst the staff so that the price you see is the price you pay. They could also include a proviso that if you were disappointed with the service you could ask for this 10% to be refunded. The system at the moment means that people who are against tipping or are just being cheap are being subsidised by those who feel they have to tip.

Waiters and waitresses aren’t the only people who provide a service but feel underpaid. Should we tip shop staff, train ticket salespeaople, post office clerks and teachers as well?

knowsie says:
17 June 2011

One disadvantage of service charges included on bills is that 20% VAT is deducted from the tip!

We always tip in cash – the government can claim Income Tax on it but they don’t get the VAT!

For ever pound you tip, 80 pence is left after tax. Pay VAT on it as well and only 66 pence is left!

Good point – I presume restaurants are willing to take that hit if it means they’re almost certainly guaranteed to get the ‘tip’.

Darl says:
19 June 2011

@knowsie. One disadvantage of service charges included on bills is that 20% VAT is deducted from the tip!

Not sure if this refers to compulsory or voluntary service charges.

But there is a scam here. Look at the way a voluntary service charges is added – on the total bill which includes VAT. But if the voluntary service charge is given to the staff as the customer expects, there is no VAT to be paid. But you are payng 20% on top of your 12.5% vol.service charge.

This either means the proprietor is not going to give the charge to the staff and thus he incurs and charges VATor you gave 20% more than you intended!

DaveSuffolk says:
17 June 2011

There should be no place for tipping in the modern world, it is a hangover of the class system where rich people dispensed bounty to workers who were not paid a living wage. The only reason it survives today is because workers and employers don’t want to lose a source of additional income. I run a small business helping people with their computers and I get my hair cut at the local hairdressers. In the same week she cut my hair and I fixed her computer. I was expected to tip and she wasn’t, where is the logic or fairness in that?

beethovensonata says:
20 June 2011

Hear hear! I teach piano to my hairdressers son. I am expected to tip but do i get a tip for the piano lesson???? No way!

Well don’t give a tip.

PCManchester says:
17 June 2011

Maybe tipping should evolve to be like the performance-related bonuses that CEOs and bankers enjoy.
A service charge could be shared out in proportion to the number of areas that the customer “ticks” on the bill e.g. Waiter; Kitchen; Reception: Bar; Cleaners – or Charity! The message will get through to managements if certain areas are never ticked.
Money is a great motivator to improve performance, but the obligation to personally decide a tip (rather than a set service charge) should be removed wherever possible.

Bob C says:
17 June 2011

If the service was really good I will tip the individual in cash over and above any service charge. If I am assured by the waiter that the service charge is pooled for the staff to share out I don’t tip on top.
If service or the food is poor or bad I make sure my feelings are known and no service charge is paid. It does help being over sixty because you are almost expected to be grumpy!
The key is really to read the menu and any conditions on it before you order and then to read the bill when it finally arrives. A realistic choice can then be made.

Darl says:
19 June 2011

@BobC If service or the food is poor or bad I make sure my feelings are known and no service charge is paid.

In consumer rights terms this is wrong. The menu price is the contract price. If the food is bad the contract has not been met at the price agreed.
So it is the menu price that should be reduced. If this is not done you have paid the full price for something you think is bad and not of the quality expected.

The voluntary service charge is a entirely separate thing. Perhaps you would not pay that either if food is bad or poor.

philip staves says:
17 June 2011

My son in law {italian] never tips in restaurants. If he is very satisfied he might leave a couple of euros or small change if paying by cash.

Think again.

Who makes sure your meal arrives hot, when you want it, and hasn’t been dropped on the floor, or worse, in the kitchen. If its not cooked to perfection, who’se going to get that put right without question?

The guy you tip.

That is why food and service is so much better in the US. Because thier wages are minimal and waiters rely on your tip, so want to make sure you know you’re getting the best service.

Doesn’t work in the UK, because they get paid far more than the bare minium, or have silly rules like the tip goes on the bill or in the jug to share with everyone even those who don’t care about their customers.

Ever wondered why that guy on the other table is getting better service for his party than you? Because he let it be known, he wants great service, and he’s going tip for it.

Governments don’t like tipping becasue they cannot tax it. With might like to wash life clean with our morals, like minimum wages. But morals and tasxes don’t make life go round. They both stop life happening.

Elizabeth McAndrew says:
18 June 2011

As we are paying about 400% more than the actual cost of the food for a meal in most restaurants I think we should expect to take it for granted that it is cooked to perfection and warm enough to eat. As for service charges I don’t believe in them and avoid places who include that in their charges. I always leave 10% for normal service and 15% tips for above average, IN CASH to make sure the owner does not have the opportunity to keep them.
I don’t believe in sharing tips. The person who gives the good service should have the tip.

Oh and US waiters always forgive mingy Brits. They understand we are ignorant of the ways and whyfores of tipping. Or they just love our accents!

ph says:
18 June 2011

I would have to disagree that service (and food) is better in the USA. I don’t have any particular complaints myself (I wouldn’t say it’s any better or worse than Europe in general), but know a few people who’ve been literally hounded into paying a tip in the USA, even when the service has been bad – the waiting staff just expected the tip to be paid, whatever the level of service (and that was on top of a service charge!). Yes, in the USA you may well get better service if they know that you’re going to tip better, but I object to having to “bribe” the waiter to give me a decent service – good service should be part of the whole “package” of going to eat in a particular restaurant, so if the service is good, then I would want to go again.

For me, I’d have to agree that Japan is best – it has the best service I’ve experienced in anywhere in the world, and no tipping! You can really relax and enjoy your meal without having to worry about how much you need to pay for a tip.