I have recently returned from a trip to Vancouver where I was tagging along with Father Miser who was there on business. I had the rare occasion to live the life of the rich without having to exhaust our finances. My days were spent trolling the hotel gym, pool and sauna, touring the city, writing in cafes and window shopping.
Evenings were spent indulging our gastronomic senses. Whether it be drinks and appetizers in an upscale bistro with work colleagues, a romantic dinner for two, or a nightcap at the award-winning Bacchus Restaurant and Lounge, we were living it up.
The experience itself was worth the cost, but what hurt was having to dish out the extra percentage on tips. Opinions differ when it comes to tipping, between individuals and nations. Some people dangle a good tip to encourage quality service, some say thank-you with a bit of extra, some hand one out automatically, and others use a bad tip to send a message.
Tipping can be a powerful tool but unfortunately it seems to be more or less expected nowadays. What’s more, service-providers often expect tips despite blatantly poor service. In my opinion, a tip should be given when someone goes above-and-beyond the basic duties of their job, whether server, taxi driver, hair-dresser or valet.
When living in Australia, where it is not customary to tip, I was introduced to the idea that good customer service is part of a person’s job, not only because of the tip being dangled as incentive. Most of my Australian friends would argue that it is not their responsibility to subsidize the server’s paycheck to the financial benefit of the restaurateur. If said restaurateur wants returning customers, he or she should pay the staff members accordingly to ensure quality service, instead of relying on tips. Now, the downfall to this logic is that if you happen to visit a restaurant where the owner does not care about return business, you may end up waiting 20 minutes before you see a menu or a glass of water. But in high-end restaurants, employees are paid to know the ins and outs of fine dining and these high standards are reflected in the way they treat their customers, regardless of tips.
The most effective tipping is in countries, like Australia, where the servers do not expect a tip. I once tipped a bartender in Sydney, Australia $8 for 2 drinks at the beginning of the evening. I did not have to fork out any more tips for the rest of the night but received the best service I have ever had, being bumped to the front of the line each time I walked up to the bar.
And then there are those tips that send a message. A friend of mine worked as a server and was totally jaded after years in the industry. He delivered mediocre service at best because he just didn’t care. One night someone left him a 3 cent tip on a $100 bill. That passive-aggressive message was clearly received: “I didn’t forget your tip. Your service was bad.” It was a bit of a wake-up call for my friend who realized that not everybody will robotically fork out the expected 10% or 15% tip simply because you expect it.
What do you think? Do you think tipping is necessary to ensure good service or do you believe the business owner should pay the staff in accordance to the service standard he or she wants offered to the customers?
Do you automatically tip 10% or 15% of the total bill? Or does your tip actually depend on the level of service you received?