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Tipping Conundrums

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  • Tipping Conundrums

    Have you ever faced a situation where you weren't sure whether you should tip -- or how much? Share your thorniest tipping questions here and get advice from other travelers!

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    Sarah Schlichter
    Senior Editor
    Independent Traveler

  • #2
    Re: Tipping Conundrums

    Tipping in Europe is fairly rare, and, unless it's down as a service charge in a restaurant, is most likely a matter of rounding up to the nearest euro or pound. All people have to earn a living wage by law, so low tipping as a problem doesn't often arise.
    On our first visit to the USA, we were with a package deal....Virgin's first flight from Manchester to Orlando, in fact. The rep. asked us all to meet the next day, as tipping rules had to be explained. We all listened intently. and tried to stay within the USA rules. One we were taught was to always leave $2 in the ash tray in our room, for the chambermaid....daily!
    On returning home to the UK, we thought this was a kind idea, and took to putting £2 in coins on the table/ash tray. It has always been left there. We now put a £1 coin on the used tea tray, so that the maid knows it's for her.
    This tipping cult gives many problems to the cruise lines, as this is how the service staff are paid. Many new European cruisers do not know this fact, and will leave a little loose change at the end of their holiday....which means crew don't get much money that week. RCI lines have accepted the difference in the UK, and Indie, the ship which remains in the UK all year, has abandoned tips at the bar. Most lines working for UK pax either suggest tipping rates, or include them.
    I'm reasonably well travelled, and would prefer to over tip than under. If someone suspects I'm American, their expectation is higher; once they discover I'm British, there's a slight shrug and no pressure....
    On Sunday, a large group of us ate in a local was pub grub, only £10 for a roast meal. Each of us gave a £1 coin to the landlady, who put it in a beer mug for her salaried staff....just a little's illegal to make up wages with this money.
    I did read of a cafe in Miami much used by European tourists, where they have a different menu of 18% more, because the tips will be so sparse.
    Jo. sigpic


    • #3
      Re: Tipping Conundrums

      Okay, so must confess I was taken aback by Ms. Post’s suggestion that one should tip in all cases, even when you’ve received poor service. So, if I get rude, unresponsive, inattentive or downright incompetent service, I’m still supposed to tip 15%? Forget it. No offense, but sounds like Ms. Post has an acute case of “having-been-a-waitress-once-I-have-a-soft-spot-in-my-heart-for-waitstaff-everywhere-always-in-all-situations.”
      Nice sentiment, and I, too, was a waiter once, and I routinely tip 20% for good (not even fabulous) service. But I never tip even 15% for lousy service. Why should I? If someone performs poorly, why would you reinforce that poor performance? She suggests speaking to the manager instead. Fine, but I’ll do that in addition to not tipping well.

      The only exception to the above is if I receive poor service when it’s obvious that the restaurant is understaffed and the waiter is doing his/her best but coming up short. When it’s clearly not their fault, I cut slack. AND speak to the manager, where the true fault lies.

      Also, even though this site focuses quite a bit on international travel, with all due respect, Ms. Post reveals her lack of experience with tipping customs in other parts of the world. Her advice is solid for US-based travel (and some European travel as well), but falls short once you move beyond those regions.

      I travel extensively in Mexico, where 10% tipping on meals is the norm and much appreciated. Ditto in Ireland where I just went this past September. We discovered that there as well, a 10% tip is customary and always appreciated.

      Some years back, I traveled to Asia, and found tipping customs to be wildly different from our own. In Singapore, I went to pay the driver the equivalent of $4 on a $3.50 fare and he gave me my .50 back. When I held my hand out like, “no, it’s yours,” he tried to give it back to me again, looking very confused. When I insisted, he took it, but with a “okay-if-you-insist-you-crazy-American” look on his face.

      In Thailand, at the end of a two-day tour that was both excellent and laughably cheap ($38 with everything), I tried to give the tour guide a roughly $8-10 tip. He looked at me strangely and handed it back. I told him, “In the U.S., when someone in your position does a good job, it’s customary to offer a gratuity, and I just think you did a wonderful job.” He looked at me, backing away, like he was offended, and said, “Uh, no, we don’t do that here.” He wouldn’t take it.

      Also, in Thailand, three of us rented a tuk-tuk for a whole day once, on a day the government was running this special of .25 per hour per person (vs. 3-4 times that much normally, still cheap). The tradeoff was that the tuk-tuk took us to several businesses (tailors, gem stores, etc.) where they hoped we’d drop some cash (we did).

      You can do the math. At the end of this 7-hour day, we owed $5 (7 x .75) to our driver, who was the nicest, sweetest guy you’d ever want to meet. Together we chipped in another $10 (I mean, even then, $5 each for the whole day!) and gave it to him. He looked at it, tried to give it back, saying, “No, too much, too much!” We tried again, same response. Finally, we said, you have children yes? Yes. And a wife? Yes. Then, buy something nice for them. So, then he took it, but reluctantly.

      Okay, so yes, we tipped 200%, making us look like the stupid tourists Ms. Post refers to. But, let's be honest. If a foreign tourist offered an American cab driver a 200% tip, would the driver say, "No, too much, too much!" Not bloody likely. Sure, they might be surprised, but they'd happily take it. And all these examples just underscore that tipping customs differ widely in many parts of the world (due to widely different mindsets), and usually trend downward from what we’d consider “normal.”

      And maybe things have changed since then (10 years ago), as tourism has grown, but even if it has, I’d wager they haven’t gotten up to Western levels.

      Happy travels!

      Peter Bowerman
      Atlanta, GA


      • #4
        Re: Tipping Conundrums

        My thoughts exactly! I will tip "enough" to make a point! But tipping for bad service, that is just ridiculous. Sure I will say something, try to get it resolved with the hopes of nothing being put in my food. But face it, tipping is based on service. And bad service does not get tipped in MY book.
        Last edited by LadyLuvsTravl; 07-08-2011, 09:01 AM.
        “Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey.” - Fitzhugh Mullan