Thursday, June 20, 2019

Rhys on Tips and Tipping

Thoughts on Service and Tipping

We are in the middle of an extended European trip and I’ve come to realize that anything we budget for travel gets multiplied by the amount of money we have to tip. We tip the taxi driver and while we are tipping him the bell boy has whisked our bags into a hotel and wants a tip to release them again to another bell boy who will carry them upstairs and want another tip.
I was horrified to read the amount we are supposed to tip on our upcoming river cruise. Twenty dollars a day EACH? You are serious? So actually the advertised cruise price is $300 more because I am paying part of your staff’s salary.  The same is true for waiters in the US. They are paid a ridiculously small amount because the restaurant owners know it will be made up with tips. Thus one feels obliged to tip, even if the service is so-so.

How I love it in France where tipping in restaurants is a thing of the past. Just rounding up a Euro or two is sufficient, also in Germany. But isn’t the whole purpose of tipping a reward for good service? Am I supposed to tip the surly waiter who, when asked by my husband what beers they carried, replied, “You can read the list on the back of the menu.” And it was a good restaurant, at an outdoor table, with just a candle at our table, making it impossible to read anything.

Another gripe I have is waiters treating me as if I’m one of their buddies. We once went to a very expensive restaurant for our anniversary—you know, the type where you have to book way in advance? We were placed at at table directly under the air-conditioning. We complained and were told this was the only table available and other diners had said they were too hot. Also the waitress referred to us as “You guys.” I don’t know about you, but when I go somewhere special I want to be treated as if I’m somewhere special.  I am not YOU GUYS. I am ma’am.
 A few weeks ago I was at Amazon headquarters and taken to a lovely restaurant by my editor and author team. We were greeted as if they’d been looking forward to seeing us. We were escorted to our table in the window.  We were talked through the menu, questions on preparation were answered.  Each dish arrived at the same time for all four of us, the maître de came to explain what we were eating. When we prepared to leave someone was standing with our coats ready for us to put on, AND our car was waiting outside the front door. NOW, that is service!  It made us feel special and appreciated and that is what one wants, isn’t it?
When my son was in drama school in New York he was also a waiter at a restaurant on Time Square. I went to eat there one night and watched him working a table. He was attentive, witty, funny. He made each dish sound fantastic and he recommended pairings of alcohol with each course. I’ m sure he made them spend more than they intended to, but they were having a really good time. He had turned it into an experience. Toward the end of the meal they looked across to me, having been told that I was his mother. “We love your son,” they said.  Since he was a musical theater major he would also serenade people on their anniversaries and special occasions. They loved that too.
So what about you? What are your feelings on tipping? Do you wish it was completely abolished and we paid a little extra up front?


  1. While I understand the philosophy behind tipping, I am not a fan of the practice. Nor am I a fan of “buddy-buddy” servers. And the tipping expectations on your cruise are downright appalling. Yes, a tip for good service is fair, but that amount seems rather excessive. Who decides these things, anyway??

  2. Rhys, I am so with you! I hate tipping. You are expected to tip your barber, the car wash people, the hotel staff, the wait staff, etc., etc., etc. And that includes leaving tips at Starbucks or other similar places where you stand around and wait for them to call your name or number for your order. Sorry, but that's called doing your job. I don't get tipped for doing my job.

    And now the recipes you get from restaurants that give you suggested tipping amounts start at 20% and go up from there. Anything less is considered an insult.

    (Please don't get me started on the restaurant I visited recently that added a surcharge to their menu prices. I asked about it and was told it was option, but it was so the owner could continue to keep the quality up. Translation, their expenses had gone up, and this was a way to cover the increase without raising the prices on their menu and they were hoping their customers wouldn't notice.)

    The price on the menu (or wall or whatever) should be the price you are expected to pay. If someone truly goes out of their way and you want to tip on top of that for great service, then by all means tip. However, the fact that everyone expects a tip for doing their job needs to end. I realize prices will go up for us as the owners have to pay real wages, but they should be paying those already. I would much prefer to know what I will have to pay from the start instead of worrying that I have missed someone I should be tipping along the way.

  3. Restaurants that have a fixed, automatic tip for large parties - don't get me started. Mom was one of seven, if we ever went out for a meal, we were always a large party, my step-father refused to cooperate. And who decides how many is considered a large party, is the amount the same throughout the industry?
    Since I am usually solo when I go out for a meal, the tip is influenced by the server asking if I would like more water or ginger ale. If they don't ask, it's a little less.
    I've never been on a cruise, a suggested tip would be okay as long as it's a SUGGESTION.
    There is an old family owned place downtown, just breakfast and lunch. I bet 80% of the clients are regulars. Still surprises me when a server is buddy-buddy until I remember where I am. Then it's nice, like they are sort of watching out for the "older, single" members of their extended family.

  4. That cruise tip amount seems way out of hand. I'd rather not tip at all. Pay these people better and raise the prices. That would be fine.

    1. Before my first (and so far only) cross country railroad trip, an experienced rider advised the same amount per day for the car steward, but to be made at the end of the trip in one lump. Great politely personable steward, always had coffee ready in the car first thing in the morning... worth the tip!

  5. I don't mind tipping at a restaurant, but I tip according to what I want not some random percentage that I see advertised. You know those signs that say "18% gratuity included". Stuff like that.

    No. You don't get to determine what I tip. I do. It's my money not yours.

    I don't like the expectation to tip at places like Dunkin' Donuts where I stand in line waiting for them to wait on me and then take forever to make my order and get it wrong at times. That's rather annoying. Let DD pay their employees, don't expect me to do it for you.

    I don't eat at fancy restaurants so I don't feel the need to be treated special when I go out to eat. I like being greeted like I'm Norm from "Cheers" when I walk into the 99 or Rose & Vicki's.

    I suppose if they eliminated tipping by raising prices a bit that would be fine. But I have a feeling that the workers would soon find themselves making far less money that way.

  6. We took a 2.5 week tour of Ireland last year, with a tip for our patient and intrepid tour guide comparable to your cruise tip. She had a family to support and a daughter headed for university.

  7. Pay staff a living wage. Period. And no, I see no reason to tip staff standing behind a counter and filling my order. But, I would still tip for exceptional, attentive service above and beyond the call of duty. The whole system of tips to make up wages is arcane.

  8. Rhys, what a glamorous vacation you are having! And what drives me crazy are hotel fees, the extras that the hotels tack on like your 30 bucks a day. They are sometimes called a resort fees or extras fees and they surprise you with them when they present your bill. Gah. There are also things to watch out for called destination fees, which is just an amount they tack on to the bill because they can. And they will tell you it is for advertising. If you see that, just refuse to pay it and they will take it right off your bill.
    Those are the extra payments that make me the most annoyed, because they go to management, not to the employees. The employees are paid so little, and the system is not of their design, so I will confess I kind of enjoy giving people tips. It’s not very much, and I am lucky, and they are helping me. Even the “one bellhop that takes your bags out of the car and the next one that takes them upstairs” system, although annoying, is the hotel’s idea, not the bell hops right?
    I am leaving a tip for the cleaning people every day in a hotel is also fun, because they never see you do it, and it is a special treat.
    Bad restaurant service, yeah, that is incredibly frustrating too. But I always decide the person is having a bad day.
    Rhys, that description of Amazon is jaw-dropping! Jaw-dropping! You are in another galaxy… And hooray!
    Have fun and safe travels—SO glam!

    1. Hank, yes, leaving tips is fun. Had not thought of tipping this way before, but that is why I give gifts -- because it is fun, there is joy in giving to others, whatever the value of the gift! Thanks for this view.

  9. I don't have a problem with the concept of tipping. I see it as something extra for good service. I do like the little machines now that calculate the tip, only because I suck at math.

    I got a giggle when Panera started suggesting a tip for the "bakery team." The Girl shared tips when she worked at Starbucks. I'll pitch my loose change into those kind of jars because I don't like carrying coins.

    The five dollars a night that's become standard for housekeeping at hotels? Okay, fine. And I'll tip the guy who takes my bags up to my room, or helps unload my car, because he really has saved me some grief.

    But the tipping expectations on that cruise? That's insane.

    1. We had new appliances delivered a few weeks ago, on a beastly hot day, but two polite and engaging young men who took super good care to haul our kitchen stuff into the house, keeping the floors clean and unmarred. I handed them each a twenty, and thanked them. The builder, who was standing there watching, said to the departing delivery guys, "Good thing the homeowner is here, and not just the builder, right?" I guess contractors don't normally tip. Later, the builder said to me, "Karen, you're a nice white lady." (The delivery guys happened to be black, but that had nothing to do with it.) He's a longtime friend, but that was not his finest hour, in my opinion.

    2. Ugh, yeah, not so great, I agree.

  10. I do wish restaurants, etc., would raise their prices and wages and eliminate tipping. I was picking up my cat from the groomer yesterday, and a woman waiting for her dog asked how much the rest of us tipped there. I paid $116 for my cat’s grooming; I never even meet the groomer(s). I have never tipped there, nor had anyone else. There is no tip jar, nor place on the receipt for a tip. But now I wonder. On the other hand, I generously tip my hairdresser, bring her Starbucks, and lend her books of poetry.

  11. I wish I knew more on the economics of ‘service’! However would that help me tip more or feel less annoyed when faced with poor service that still demands a tip. Will my criticism of the service mean that person might lose their job? These are the questions that I wrestle with. So, yes I tip and unless it’s very poor service I err on the generous side. I also try to tip with cash. Can’t always in a restaurant but for my nail tech etc. I make sure I’m carrying cash. Traveling with a friend to a wedding in Kenya and then on to a safari brought home the tipping dilemma. I had brought money in small US bills specifically for tips Audi knew this was a welcome and more value currency in Africa. She was horrified, “why are you tipping them?” She asked me. Even after my explanation of the living standard etc. I don’t think I moved her and she could afford to tip, but was happy that I tipped for her too. The Amazon experience is wonderful Rhys, and I hope you enjoy your vacation and look at the tips as giving joy to another.

  12. I'm with you, Rhys! I want to control the amount I tip. I also think it should be illegal for restaurants to pay servers less than minimum wage and expect them to make up for it in tips.

  13. I tip well. I never worked in food service, but both of my sons were bus boys, waiters, pizza deliverers, etc. and the "pay" was a joke. It's hard work. I would love it if these workers were paid a respectable wage and tipping was not necessary, but it is.

    I do draw the line at tipping the person who hands over my pickup order and rings up the charge.

  14. My hairdresser has been making sense out of my crazy hair for almost 25 years, and she only raised her rates a couple years ago because I badgered the daylights out of her to do so. It is still such a low price to pay (and I only get my hair cut six times a year), so I usually tip her 25%.

    But food service is built so the servers absolutely need tips. The IRS is complicit. If minimum was is $X, the IRS assumes servers get a set amount of tips, whether they do or not. So the lower wage is almost mandatory. When I waited tables at a diner in high school, minimum wage was $1.30, but servers were paid 85 cents an hour. Since I was a kid I always got stuck with the worst tables, so Minnie and Gladys, the old-timers who lived off their wages and tips, could actually get paid enough to make it to the end of the week. I almost always tip 20% as a matter of course, knowing how this silly game is paid.

    Twenty dollars sounds fairly reasonable to me, especially on a cruise. They usually work pretty hard to earn it. We had a personal guide in Africa for 12 days for four of us, and he ended up with close to $400 a day. By the time we left we were so happy with his guiding and helping us learn so much about his country that we were all glad to help him and his family more. He had stopped to talk to a group of Masai kids standing by the dusty road, holding an ostrich egg to sell. Kids doing this kind of thing are killed every day because they are just not seen in the dust clouds, and it's illegal to sell ostrich eggs (or to take them out of the country). Zepha told the kids to instead study hard, learn other languages, and to aspire to be a guide. It's one of the single best occupations in that country, even better than doctors there.

    The other "tipping" aspect of some tours, including ours in Tanzania, is the practice of the guide steering the guests to artisans for souvenirs. The guide takes a cut of however much the tourists purchase. I don't think this is widely understood. But it was another factor in our willingness to tip Zepha, because we bought nearly no souvenirs. Our companions, who had brought an extra suitcase, had no such issue!

  15. I tip well in this country, knowing that I'm not going to change the system. And if I were changing said system, I'd start way at the top, if you get my drift.

    I love it in France where I don't have to concern myself with a tip and am left alone to eat my dinner without someone coming by every few minutes to see if "everything is all right." Or snatching my plate away as I'm chewing the last bite.

    When we were in Canada a few weeks ago, we left the usual $5 for the cleaner, and when we returned that evening, we found a note saying "Thank you for the teep." I think we left her ten the next night!

    The hairdresser is a conundrum, but I've solved it with mine. He prefers cash to a credit card because of the the surcharge. And he owns the salon, a very small one. So I only tip if I'm using a card but usually manage to have cash on hand. I do tip the person who does my color, because she could do some considerable damage if I p*ss her off.

    And I do toss loose change in the tip jar at those walk-up places, because I hate having it rolling around in the bottom of my purse.

    For years we had the same guy delivering our papers, to the side door, tucked inside the storm door in bad weather. He got a handsome monetary gift at Christmas and 20 bucks a few times a year if I was up early and caught him. Now we have someone new. If he delivers the paper at all, it is somewhere in a snowdrift, and it regularly is missing entire sections. His favorite is not bringing the NYT on Sunday at all. We've called and called and called. Nothing works. If ever I catch him, I'm slashing his tires.

  16. Given how poorly wait staff, drivers, cleaners, etc are paid in this country, I feel like tipping is essential. I can't singlehandedly raise the minimum wage, but I can make a difference. And I agree with Karen, 20/pp tipping on a cruise doesn't seem out of line. A cruise ship usually has nearly as many workers as it has passenger, and it's the team that makes the trip sing. The hard part is finding out belatedly. But it's pretty standard.

  17. Here is another gripe of mine about restaurants. It can happen anywhere. A waiter would whisper or "sneak from behind" and surprise me when they come to bring dishes or take away the plates. I have begun sitting with the wall behind me so I can always see the waiter. LOL. About tipping, if the service is really awful, the tip is very small. If it is very busy in the restaurant and I know the server is trying their best, then a good tip is reasonable. Once I did not tip the haircolorist. She forgot to pin back my hair and left me sitting in the chair. I was worried that my eyes would be affected and I ran to the powder room to rinse out my eyes. I did NOT leave a tip! The hair colorist did NOT act like a professional!

    I did not know that they tipped in Europe.


  18. Yes, it would be great if the system would change in this country (in the UK, gratuity is included more often than not) but until it does, I try to tip generously. Food service is hard and the servers depend on tips. Ditto hotel staff. If I forget to have a few dollars in hand for the maid every day, I feel horribly guilty.

  19. Tipping in American restaurants is complicated.
    Our daughter is in the hospitality business and has educated us on this. If you eat in a moderate (not fast food, not the Waldorf) place, the money you tip may be divided up between numerous people: server, food server, bar tender, bus person, etc. In some places these are %s and if there isn't enough to cover everyone (like the party that tips $10 on a $150 bill), the server is stiffed.
    It would be so much more equitable if everyone got a fair salary and tipping were included in the basic price.
    Would it make the food too expensive? For some people in some restaurants. But we can choose where to eat.
    The workers should be able to make a proper living.

    I'll step off the soap box now.

  20. I worked as a waitress and bartender all through college so I tend to overtip unless the service is abysmal. I did note while working that young women are generally the worst tippers and older men the best. Not all older men but most. It would be nice if the gratuity was just included in the bill with the option to add a little extra for exemplary service.

  21. I would prefer if there was no tipping because I'm not always sure about whether I should tip and my math skills are not that great. I do try to tip 20 % in restaurants and the hairdressers. Although I never went on a cruise, I went on many package tours where our travel agents told us what we should give the tour guide and bus driver. They did deserve it since the bus driver had to load the luggage most every day and washed the bus often. They usually helped us in or out of the bus. The tour guide handled everything and was on call for any problems.

    Another reason I wish that we just could pay the price without tipping is that I often wondered if we were paying for all the cheapskates. Seems the businesses and their help could get more since so many people don't tip or give very little.

  22. Waitpersons do a job that I could never ever do with any degree of grace, charm, or success. That is why I tip generously.

  23. A personal anecdote about cruises. Before our first one, my husband was taken aback at the amount per person per day requested to tip the cabin steward. By the end of the cruise, having first hand experience of all that they were doing for us, going out of their way to address requests and working so hard for long hours to ensure our voyage was special and comfortable....we wanted to express our personal gratitude for individual attention. We ended up putting extra cash in an envelope along with a note of thanks. We have never looked back. Tipping to me is a way to acknowledge a thank you for a personal connection of service. The fact that service employees are grossly underpaid goes without saying and needs to be remedied in terms of a living wage that people can count on. But even if this does by some miracle get fixed, I would still gladly add that little extra as a personal thank you when warranted.

  24. I'm with Hank about the extra hotel charges. What's with the $30 "resort fee." It isn't a resort; it's a hotel! As for tipping, I worked my way through college, and I know full well the difficulty of the jobs service people do. I happened to love being a waitress, but that was because I was young and energetic (and organized!). But it's a hard job. I can't change the system, all I can do is give a really solid tip. You never know who your service person is, and the tips may be the difference in giving them a better life through education, or just allow them a decent life. A side note: my hairdresser sent all of her clients an email saying that she would no longer accept tips. She said she thought charging the right amount for her time made for a more honest relationship. She's an amazing person in many ways, so I'm not surprised (she has a non-profit where once a month she gives haircuts to disadvantaged people, pairing with others who do all kinds of services for them. And BTW, she's already written one book about the hairdresser/client relationship and is working on a memoir about her sister). I have a friend who had a long career managing sixty and more people and she said the hardest job she ever did was one day as a waitress. At the end of the day she fled and never tipped less than 30% no matter what!