Tipping is a topic I have been wanting to rant about for a while, however it seems as an Australian – a country which doesn’t tip – my words carry little weight. I have believed for a number of years now that tipping has been taken too far throughout the world, especially within the United States where a tip now seems to be expected throughout more industries than just service.
It’s incredibly difficult for even the most avid of travelers to know when it is appropriate to tip, and how much, and foreigners traveling throughout the United States are looked upon as incredibly cheap for not opening their wallets to almost every-one they encounter. I’ve been working as a cocktail server within the US for only 3 weeks now and already I catch myself not wanting to cater to foreigners who are unlikely to tip me – I am appalled I have picked up this attitude so quickly.
Before you yell and scream about my “Australian attitude”, I had my American husband – a professional waiter – write the blow post from his perspective. Please share your opinion on the topic in the comments below.
The Topsy Turvy Topic of Tipping
By Mike Jerrard
Whether it’s helping you with luggage or setting a dinner in front of you, it seems these days almost everyone is eligible for the acceptance of a tip. This seems to become even more evident when it comes to traveling, especially within the U.S.
There are countless articles on the web dealing with how and when you should dive into your wallet and show your gratitude for a service performed for you. These articles break down what has become acceptable or almost expected amounts for various industries of service.
It seems as though you need to almost immediately hit the money exchange kiosk upon arriving at any American airport when coming from abroad in order to be able to pay all those “tip-expecting” services you will encounter just trying to arrive at your hotel room after a sometimes long flight.
I ask though, has tipping become an out of control expectation that can turn your travels into a wallet depleting nightmare? It almost seems as though the famous bandit Jesse James himself lives on in America as its citizens say, “Welcome to America, now hand over your money.”
A tip, or gratuity by its fancier name, is defined as something given voluntarily or beyond obligation usually for some service, so why has tipping become an act which is now expected, and in some cases required, for so many services? With so many people now expecting a tip it is difficult knowing what is necessary in order to not be called a derogatory name as you move along on your travels through America.
By my words you must think I am a European, Canadian, or Australian, but in actuality I am a born and raised U.S. citizen, and even more surprisingly, have worked in the restaurant business as a waiter for more years than I would like to admit. As a waiter I have come to expect a 20% tip for the service I perform in whichever restaurant I find myself; a division of hospitality which probably started the whole tipping phenomenon.
I have even found myself feeling disgust when having to serve those with an international accent as I know my chances of getting that “expected” 20% tip dwindle drastically. Are my feelings understandable and warranted, or have I also fallen victim to forgetting the meaning of the term “gratuity” and become ungrateful for any gift being given for my service. An argument can be made for both sides in regards to whether tips should be mandatory or voluntary so let’s take a look at both.
Why you should tip:
- Many employees who generally expect tips usually earn a very low wage, sometimes well below the minimum wage ($4.75 for an American waiter vs $18-$25 for an Australian waiter);
- Most, if not all, waiters are required to tip out bussers, bartenders, and expos a set percentage of their sales for the night regardless of what tips they collected, so in essence your tip is going to many workers, not just your server.
- Some tipping professions require that you claim a certain percentage of your sales regardless of whether you actually were tipped that percentage on your sales.
- Many tipping professions are not stable 40 hour per week jobs with benefits such as insurance and paid leave and without the extra tips many employed as such would find themselves in poverty.
- If tipping went out of fashion and restaurants were forced to pay their staff more per hour, many would go out of business very quickly. Those who managed to survive would have to show a very large increase on their menu prices in order to continue surviving.
Why you shouldn’t need to tip:
- A tip is meant as something I can offer should I deem appropriate for exceptional service.
Many tips if paid in cash go unreported to the IRS for taxation purposes, and many tipping profession employees find themselves making more than college degree required occupations. Why do these tipped employees get a break?
- Tipping should be included in the price of any service even if it states “service charge” on the bill so I know what I expect to pay before deciding if I want that service.
If there are no written rules on tipping or signs posted showing what is expected I shouldn’t, as an international traveler, be looked upon as cheap or an a@%*hole.
So as you can see, there is no definitive answer as to whether you should or shouldn’t tip. Again, a gratuity is meant to be a choice offering for a service and not an obligation. With so many occupations now expecting tips;
Here is how I look at it:
If you choose to have a service performed such as going out to eat or having the bell hop help you with your bags, you should tip what is deemed appropriate for whatever country you are visiting. You are after all a visitor, and should respect the customs of the country you are visiting. If in question as to how much is acceptable, simply ask a front desk clerk or manager.
If, however, a service you do not desire is forced upon you, or you wish to do that service yourself, you should not be made to feel as though you are required to tip. If you would rather handle your own bags or perform other duties yourself, you should be free to do so without receiving displeasing looks from a business or its employees. If a tip is expected on travel activities such as parasailing, guided tours, and golf cart attendants (which it is), then it should be incorporated into the price of that activity so we as travelers can make an informed decision as to whether or not we wish to partake.
Lastly, as an American employee who myself has come to expect tips, I cannot forget that not every kind gesture or act of hospitality should warrant a cash deposit into my wallet. Sad will be the day when a stranger expects a tip for simply holding the door for you or helping you pick up an item you’ve dropped.
Advice for travelers:
The biggest piece of advice I can give any international traveler is to do your research. Research the etiquette in the country you are traveling to. The below info-graphic is a great place to start!
Have your say on the topic – leave us a comment!