Tipping: Reward or Punishment?

Do you really need to be doing this?I was recently attracted to an article about Australia and how it is the normal bill of fare to pay for your meal before it is served. Since I have never been there, does that mean a diner leaves a tip after all is said and done, or do restaurants in Australia just pay the service staff higher wages thus eliminating the need for tipping?

Australians argue that we are the “tipping society.” Supposedly Australian service and hospitality industries pay sufficient wages so that tipping has not become part of their culture.

Using the Australia no tipping example as food for thought, the other night when I was out to dinner, the service wasn’t considered terrible by any means, but the server consistently forgot everything, or so it seemed. For instance, she forgot the bread, refilled the water-glass which was really iced-tea, and served the wrong vegetables to my dinner companion. She seemed preoccupied, but still managed to be attentive enough; more so as the end of the meal approached. That’s most likely because she was anticipating a tip; something no matter how poor service is – with the exception of very few times in my life – would I ever not leave a tip.

Some people consider tipping a reward for good service and not tipping a server is therefore a punishment for bad service. I think tipping is just a part of the American culture, and we are taught from our childhood to tip and tip and tip. We tip at restaurants, we tip parking attendants, we tip hairdressers, we tip bellhops, and the list goes on and on, but are we really tipping for good service? I know I still tip the car attendant the same amount if it takes three minutes or ten minutes to retrieve my car. I still tip my hairdresser the same whether I like the way she blew out my hair or if I’m dashing home after the appointment to redo it myself.

So what are the norms in other countries? In Japan the general rule is no tipping, however there are exceptions. When a business is owned and operated by a western business person, the staff is generally perceived as being underpaid and tipping is their source of income. Standard tipping practices on the average of 10 percent hold out for Argentina, Brazil and Canada.

In the United States, most restaurants will argue that the low wages paid to the serve staff is what keeps the prices of dining at their establishments reasonable. Restaurants will also argue that good servers are worthy of good tips, but this doesn’t preclude the often mandatory service charge included in some bills. At the golf club, a new tariff has been added which designates an extra quarterly charge allegedly to be given to the employees instead of voluntarily tipping at the restaurant or bar.

Somewhere tipping seems to have become mandatory, but are servers still motivated to give that “wow” service when the tip is already included in their Friday paycheck? It’s a mystery!

photo credit: quinn.anya

One Response to “Tipping: Reward or Punishment?”

  1. Laura said:

    Dec 01, 11 at 1:32 am

    As an Australian it’s not common at a restaurant to pay before you get sit down, only in fast food type places like the US. However it is true that we don’t tip as common practice, our minimum wage is much high, about the $18 an hour mark for waiters etc.

    I do tip, but only if the service is above an beyond, or the food amazing, the higher class of the restaurant the more expectations to tip, but you normally have more reasons to tip at this establishments.

    That all being said, the service I get in the USA is far far better, and I account that to tipping, no matter the type of restaurant or shop (chain or independent) I’ve never received customer service like I have in the USA.