Thursday, 1 October 2009

Something extra

A new law applies in England today, stopping employers from filching tips to pay their staff. From now on, the bosses can't touch them. Quite right too, but why do we need this demeaning practice at all?

In the 21st century, restaurant staff, hotel staff, cabbies, hairdressers and the like should be earning a decent wage and shouldn't have to fawn over customers for a few extra quid (or worse, just expect to get it anyway).

I always give tips, unless there's a very good reason not to, as I assume the person is probably shockingly underpaid and in urgent need of any additional cash I can put their way. But it's an unreliable income, as many people withhold tips for trivial reasons, or refuse to tip on principle.

And it's a bloody nuisance having to think ahead about possible tipping situations and make sure I have a supply of appropriate notes or coins. It's acutely embarrassing when a tip is expected but I simply don't have the readies.

Servers, chambermaids or whoever shouldn't have to be artificially polite and grovelling because they're desperate to pay the gas bill. They should be able to relax and just do the job as they see fit, knowing their pay packet will cover their needs.

Tipping always feels like some absurd colonial hangover, like giving beads to the natives or rice to refugees. It's not in any way an exchange between equals, it's always a patronising favour.

Oh, and if you still add the tip to the restaurant bill - don't! The server might never see a penny of it. Always leave it on the table or give it to the server directly.

16 comments:

Leah said...

Tipping is a funny thing. I do it always, and often enormously, but I agree with you. Good wages shouldn't be replaced by the caprice of the user. Most wait staff get below minimum because of the tip thing. It's unconscionable really.

The only person I really want to tip anyway, besides my beloved hair cutter, is a waiter. Now tips are expected everywhere--even the guy at the car wash who doesn't do anything but stare blankly at you and tell you to put the car in neutral.

Nick said...

Leah - So wait staff in the States still get below the minimum wage and are expected to make up the difference with tips? Exactly what England has just outlawed....

And tips are expected at the carwash when you do everything yourself? That's crazy, I've never heard of that here.

Wisewebwoman said...

About time Nick, it is so demeaning to have to grovel, as you say, for a living wage. I tip generously but hate the noblesse oblige aspect of it all and I never penalize wait staff for a lousy meal from the underpaid chef.
XO
WWW
PS and oh I hate the envelope in hotel rooms for the anonymous chamber maid. "Hello, I'm Greta. If you're happy with your room, please show me appreciation."

Nick said...

www - Noblesse oblige, that's exactly it. "Have a few groats, my good man." I've never seen one of those chambermaid envelopes, but I always tip chambermaids generously, I shudder to think how little they earn. Nowadays they're even set performance targets, I hear, so many rooms to be done every hour. Incredible.

Ramana Rajgopaul said...

I had a rule about tipping when I used to frequent restaurants hotels etc. If there was a service charge added on to the bill, I would not tip. Otherwise, I would. The latter, on the assumption that the service deserved a tip. I have also had occasions when I did not tip and made it clear to the management as to why I did not.

Liz said...

In Corsica we had absolutely no change and Husband wanted to add the tip to the bill. The only word he could think of was gratuit. The waiter who spoke little English was puzzled. We now think gratuit means free.

Nick said...

Ramana - Yes, if there's a service charge I certainly wouldn't tip as well. Though unfortunately the service charge probably goes straight to the management.

Liz - I just looked this up. The French for tip is pourboire, and gratuit does indeed mean free. I can see why they were puzzled - perhaps they thought you were asking for a free meal!

Los Angelista said...

I always tip 20% unless service was horrid. But I'd prefer if folks just got paid a living wage.

And so true, it's hard to tip when you have no cash. This past weekend we were checking into a hotel and needed to tip the bell hop but discovered we had NO cash. Oh it was horrible. I wanted to die. It's much harder in a cashless society to remember to keep some dollars in your wallet for tips.

Megan said...

I'm not sure, but I think that even if you leave a separate tip for your server, they are still required to turn it in to the 'pool' - if memory serves, that rule was instituted because the busboys were not always getting a share. And also, of course, so that all tips are reported to the tax man...

Nick said...

LA Liz - When we first went to the States and Canada, it took us a while to cotton on that tips there were a lot higher than the British 10%. We were very embarrassed to realise how little we'd been tipping people!

Megan - I'm not sure if tips in Britain are pooled or not, I always assume they aren't (unless there's a tip bowl). And I doubt if many servers declare their tips to the tax office!

Baino said...

Nick as you know. Australians don't tip well. Here, award and penalty rates apply, most wait and bar staff are foreigners or students or casual workers doing a second job. Particularly in the touristy areas. I tip if the service is excellent which it rarely is and if the food is wonderful which it often is. It does worry me that if you leave a tip on the table, it will be pocketed by the backpacker serving and none will find it's way to the dish pig doing the washing up.

Pay staff a fair wage and there will be no need to tip. God knows restaurants charge enough for their meals. My philosophy is to factor the tip into the price of the meal. If I pay $30 for a simple fish meal and pay extra for veggies, buggered if I'm going to tip service! To me 'tipping' is archaic in today's society. My niece who manages a bar in Melbourne would disagree but she's paid well . .tips are a bonus shared on cocktails at the end of the night. She has more disposable income than I do. Frankly, I'm very much against it. Nobody tips me if I do my job well.
Having said all that. If a patron leaves a tip its 'understood' that it will be shared amongst staff, not pilfered by management.

Nick said...

Baino - Good point (which Megan also made) about the guys behind the scenes who ought to share the tips as well. But that's another inbuilt unfairness - only the visible staff get tips. I'm glad it's understood that tips will be shared among staff, but does everyone stick to that?

Grannymar said...

I stopped tipping when I discovered that my pension was being used by employers to pay wages. It is up to the employer to pay an adequate wage. If I want to tip someone for their service I will hand the money to them.

Nick said...

Grannymar - Hopefully the new law has put an end to that racket, though no doubt the restaurateurs will find a new wages racket to put in its place.

kylie said...

oh dear.....
i have never thought about all the ins & outs of tipping. this comment page makes it look like a minefield

off i go to think

Nick said...

Kylie - Now there's a good, honest comment. How refreshing! I think the complicated ins and outs of tipping are another good reason for scrapping it in favour of decent wages....