Friday, March 20, 2009

Tip Of The Iceberg

Having lived in the US for a while, I got familiarized with the rigid tipping culture of the Americans. While the concept of tipping exists to the rest of the world, the US just had to take it a hundred notches up -- almost causing people to miss the entire point. I have nothing against rewarding good service. I acknowledge that waiting tables and certain customer-oriented jobs can be jobs imported directly from hell. But the thing is, it's still a job. Some people are good at it, some are not, some enjoy it, some don't. That's the reality of work. If it's fun, then it probably won't be called a job.

I have no qualms at all having to pay for service charge in a restaurant. I mean, that's essentially what we're paying for anyway -- service during dinner or lunch -- if not, then we eat at home. And neither do I have problems shelling out for tips. But here's the thing -- if I leave a tip, it's because I want to leave it and not because I have to. If the 15% tip is mandatory in the US, then bloody put it on the check! If I think my waiter deserves more than that, then I'll leave him or her some extra cash in the cardholder. No big deal! But I don't like it when waiters sneer at me because I only left a 15% tip simply because they're expecting more.

I hate tipping especially because it forces the patron to put a price tag on the server. And as a result, servers tend to profile customers according to how they tip. Surely there are many creative ways to come up with these certain profiles. Though some profiles end up spot on, I'm sure some of it were done unfairly.

In most countries that I've been to (including those I've lived in), service charge is written up on the bill -- and no tips are expected from me. That's because the food and the services are duly paid for. If I particularly like my waiter, then I will leave him a little extra to show my appreciation. But because he is receiving a regular salary, whatever I leave is only a bonus for him. Whether or not he can make this month's rent doesn't depend on how much I leave him (just his financial management methods).

Here's the best part. I can probably swallow having to tip waiters 15% for their service, but why do I need to tip the coat girl for taking my coat? Isn't that her job? Why do I need to tip the doorman for opening the door for me? Again, isn't that his job? Why do I need to tip the bellhop for taking my suitcases to my room? What else was he expected to do? I mean, if I asked one of those people to do something out of their job description like asking the doorman to help me with my bags, then yeah, I'd tip him in a heartbeat. But for simply opening the door for me?


At the risk of being called a snob or elitist, this I will say -- I do have much respect for people who work in service-oriented industries such as hotels, restaurants, and the like simply because it's something that I know I will not be good at. To smile through gritted teeth while a customer raises hell over something no one can control, that's some skill right there. I just don't have the patience. But here's the thing, I also have to deal with clients and assholes in my line of work. I don't expect a tip whenever I answer a client's query. Neither do I expect a tip for fulfilling research assignments given to me. And I don't expect any tips whenever I make a client happy for resolving a data problem. Why?

Because it's my job to do those things!

I was hired to execute particular tasks -- just like in most (if not all) jobs. If lucky, we get a bonus at the end of the year. That is probably the most comparable thing we receive to a tip. But these bonuses are rarely guaranteed. That's why it's called a bonus -- it's something paid above what is due. Once bonuses start being required and mandatory, then it should no longer be called bonuses anymore, eh?

It's the same with tips. What's the point of tipping if it's mandatory? Why can't restaurants just charge for their service directly and place it on the bill? That way, there will be less arguments and less dissatisfied people. Waiters will get their money and patrons will be quantified and judged less.

I tip my hairdresser and my manicurists whenever I utilize their services. I don't have to, but I do so because they know how to make me happy. When I'm not, then I don't tip them or maybe I'll tip them less. What I ultimately loathe is paying for a full 15% tip even when I'm not happy with the service -- if not, my food will have spittle on it or my hair will magically turn purple.

Despite all this, I still think that when in Rome, we do as the Romans do. I had to succumb to the tipping culture in the US while I was living there simply because there was nothing else that can be done. I usually tip 15%, but I do the occasional 20% when a server goes the extra mile. For instance, I tend to give a bigger tip to delivery guys during a snow storm or to a nail technician during a public holiday. Or when a cab driver takes to my destination much earlier than expected.

I'm not a monster, I'm not stingy and I'm not ungrateful. I'm a fair person. I give credit where credit is due. I recognize hard work and outstanding service. I'm not in the hospitality or food/beverage industry but I definitely know how it is to face clients and customers. I can appreciate what patience and willpower not to strangle anyone when dealing with a particularly difficult one. But at the end of the day, we all do it for a paycheck. It's a job. The money that people part with for tips is hard-earned money (well, for many people at least) so we can't blame people if they choose to give it to those who truly deserve it.


Blogger Electric Bearbearina said...

I can't agree with you more!
I thought that the reason the whole "tipping" thing works is because servers strive to serve you better to receive a tip. Crap service, then no tip. That makes prefect sense. But when you make tip mandatory then the servers have absolutely no reason to provide exceptional service. They'll be getting a tip whether they treat you well or not. And what's completely infuriating is that they can treat you like an ass, spit in your food and they still have the right BY LAW to receive a tip! How stupid is that???

3:31 PM  
Blogger thisisme said...

I think I need to borrow you for my next team performance appraisals. I get so frustrated when people expect extra for doing the basics in their job description.

I'm lucky, I live in a country where tipping isn't mandatory. That is why I do it when I get good service.

5:43 PM  
Blogger Libby said...

i agree...but a big problem here i've seen is where servers etc have to 'pool' their tips, & then it gets split evenly between what kind of bs is that?? i don't know if that's still done a lot, but, honestly! i want to tip the person that deserves it, not everyone!!

4:22 AM  
Blogger Jennifer McKenzie said...

The worst part is that the government got in on it and decided to start taxing 10% of a server's total sales for that shift. So that means if they get stiffed (and some of us do) we LOSE money.
It's interesting how it's become a necessary part of eating out, going to a hotel or getting a haircut. Putting a price on things has become less clear in some industries.

8:45 AM  
Blogger Crushed said...

I used to wait tables at a hotel as a late teen.

Ten percent was kind of seen as what was expected, but it could vary widely.

Usually though they'd just say 'Keep the change'

Though some would purposely give you a tip if it been a big bill. I think fifty quid was the biggest single tip I ever had.

9:31 PM  
Blogger nasia said...

Wow! you said it!

10:41 PM  
Blogger Gorgeous Nerd said...

I agree that the system is broken, but there's more to it in the US; I know at least that restaurants are allowed to pay servers well below minimum wage in some places because they're supposed to be making it up in tips. My friends and I always tip well, even if we get bad service, because the wait staff makes most of their living off of it.

Really, I think the solution is to pay the wait staff a wage they can support themselves and their families on and get rid of the whole tip concept altogether, but that'd be too progressive, I think.

6:08 PM  
Blogger Princess Stefania said...

Why can't restaurants just charge for their service directly and place it on the bill? My thought exactly. It would make things so much simpler.

2:50 PM  
Blogger Utopia said...

sooooo true. in india tipping isn't manadatory at all. as students we could never afford to leave a tip and we kept all the change for ourselves. now i am generous but only when i feel like.

4:43 PM  
Blogger Chaitali said...

Completely agree with this. I don't think one should feel forced to do something that is to be done voluntarily, then the whole purpose is defeated.

5:21 PM  
Anonymous nivi said...

Cant agree with you more Princess. Sometimes you are pressured to do so and also if you are among a group, it almost becomes an issue of pride.

Well however I have made 1 cent tips to waiters here who have been positively horrid!

12:40 PM  
Blogger an experience...nothing short of it said...

my thoughts exactly. just like we aren't tipped for our jobs, we don't have to tip anyone just because they do their job.

9:24 PM  

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