Tipping – who, what, when, where and WHY?

“Oh God. This is so awkward. I don’t know what to do. Is this too much? Too little? I mean the food was great but the service was shoddy. If I don’t leave anything will they sneeze in my food next time?”

I hate tipping.

Not so much because of the actual money, though that is a factor, but just because I don’t get it. At least, in Ireland I don’t. We only had one little Celtic Tiger in the middle of a series of recessions, we’re not used to having money to tip with in the first place! It’s not the done thing; we just saw people in American sitcoms doing it and decided, for some unknown reason to copy them. FYI – waiters in Ireland get paid the minimum wage which is E8.65 or roughly US$11/hour.

Here in Abu Dhabi where bar staff and taxi men can work up to 17 hour days, my middle-class guilt means I usually don’t mind throwing in an extra few dirham.

But in principle, I’m still against it.

First of all, who gets tipped, and where? How come I have to tip the waitress who serves me in a restaurant but not the shop assistant who brings me 15 dresses? Why does the bartender that serves my drinks and clears my glasses get a tip but the guy in McDonalds who serves my food and clears my trays doesn’t? Why haven’t I gotten any “tips” other than dodgy fake perfumes, candles and love letters from six year olds for educating the future of the Middle East?

In order to be more fair to everyone, I think not tipping is the answer. After all- these people are being paid to do a job, by their employers. If they’re not being paid fairly, that’s an issue they need to look at and discuss with their bosses – why should I subsidise him in paying his staff? I thought I was already doing that anyway by frequenting his (or her) establishment.

And do you tip no matter what? That seems to be the case in the US (yank friends, feel free to correct me!) but I thoroughly resent handing over more of my hard-earned cash if the food wasn’t that good, the service was sloppy or if it has been 3.5 weeks since payday. On the other hand, I quite like leaving a little extra if the server has been particularly friendly and/or efficient. It just doesn’t make sense to me that it should be automatic.


Who do you tip, where and why?

  1. It should of course not be automatic! It should be a reward for good service. So often, at least in Ireland, the food is so overpriced anyways that throwing even more money away just feels wrong. I suspect that there are places in America in which the waiting staff are paid less than the minimum wage and expected to make the rest up from tips. At least, I know that they have a very low minimum wages (I think it varies from state to state). But why increase the minimum wage if everyone just leaves tips?

  2. Actually, in just about EVERY state in the USA, the waiters are paid a third or less of minimum wage, so I always tip an automatic 15% unless the service is horrible. Having been a waiter in the States, I see things a little differently, but these rules ONLY apply to the States. 1. Waiters actually have to pay for your food tax in a restaurant (at least in the state I worked in). If you don’t tip a waiter, not only are they not making minimum wage, they’re PAYING for you to eat there. 2. The people who should tip the most never do. And by that, I mean parents with young children. Because they aren’t at home, they often let their kids trash the floor and the seats, which the waiter gets to spend a precious 5 minutes cleaning, meaning they aren’t getting tips from other tables. They don’t tip because they have kids, so they are a double pain in the ass.
    3. You actually CAN be fucked with by the staff. I never did anything horrible, but it has been known to happen…

    I always argue with my husband, who says waiters shouldn’t be given a full wage because if they did they would be complacent and not work hard enough, but I think it’s rubbish. I would have been grateful to earn a real wage, and I would have worked harder to get tip money as icing on the cake.

    Overseas I tip those who earn it by great service or those (in poorer countries) who are busting their ass for a few dollars–like taxi drivers who wait around for you, kids running your bags and things like that. In general, I think people who work in the service industry have to deal with something none of the rest of us do–they have to deal with people day in and out who think they should be kissing major ass at all times. No dentist, doctor, or government worker has to deal with that!

    • OracularSpectacular says:

      Now you see that, I get!

      To give you the Irish point of view, almost all waiters earn the minimum wage of E8.65/hour – that’s over US$11! So while I would generally leave a tip of some kind, 15-20% seems like a lot when they are earning a fair wage. Also, eating out in Ireland is super duper expensive anyway, so unless the service was top notch, you’re really going to have to work for me to part with more on top of my bill.

      I’ve got vodka to drink and shoes to buy after all!

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