You Know What Grinds My Gears? Tipping Culture

I’m going to throw my two cents in as a tip here, and say that tipping culture is bullshit.

By ‘tipping culture’ I mean that well-known system in such countries as the United States and Canada wherein it is the norm for the customer to pay a gratuity on top of the bill. The ‘tip by default’ model, so to speak.

Somewhere around 15% is standard, and the customer is more than welcome to pay more if the service is exceptional. But don’t even think about walking out of a bar or restaurant without leaving a tip, lest you be prodded through the streets like a crestfallen Cersei Lannister, servitors chanting “SHAME” as they hurl shit your way.

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This is one of a few gripes I have with tipping culture: namely, the ongoing charade that it’s voluntary; that I actually have a say in the matter. Because I don’t really, do I? No one does.

Granted, the service is notably better in these countries than in places like Australia. Waiters in America smile more. They crack jokes, remember your drink order and make sure your glass is never empty. You can tell they’re genuinely working for that extra little somethin’ on the side.

But imagine if you had a choice. Imagine arriving at a restaurant, and before you take your seat the concierge offers you two different service packages. The first is the ‘basic package’: your waiter will merely bring you your food, take your drink orders, clear your plates etc. They’ll do their job – nothing more, nothing less – and you’ll pay the standard bill.

Or, you can pay 15% more and get the ‘premium package’: the same food, the same drinks, the same experience, for the most part – but the waiter will crack a few jokes and keep checking in on you, topping up your water glass after every sip and fawning over you to an extent that occasionally verges on uncomfortable.

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Give me the dunce any day of the week: the no frills version, the bare minimum. I’ll take the soulless grunt that doesn’t even ask how my meal was, much less for a tip, because throwing someone an extra 20 for being chatty just doesn’t seem like it should be a thing. I mean yeah, ideally they won’t be a fucking arsehole, but I expect this of people everyday for free.

I know how the argument goes: “Hospitality wages are a pittance in the States; it’s basically slave labour; wait staff rely on tips to get by.” Okay, but here’s the thing: an employee’s poor wages are the responsibility of the employer. The onus is on them to pay their staff better. Instead, I’m being forced to foot the bill and pick up their slack: paying a surcharge that we call a ‘tip’ simply to make it easier to swallow.

If the actual prices of food and drink were less, only to be balanced out once the tip is added on, then fair enough. But as far as I can tell this isn’t the case – and even if it was, why are you only sneakily adding this 15% surcharge at the end, you underhanded scoundrels? Why not just charge me more for my meal upfront and pay your staff properly?!

Which brings me to Australia. As we all know, tipping’s not really a ~thing~ here. If the service is really top notch then yeah, okay, someone might get to keep the change. But if you’re being paid close to $25 an hour to pour me a $7 schooner of VB and you’re still putting your hand out for a tip, you’re kidding yourself.

Moreover, if you’re one of those people who brings up the bill at the end, takes my card and looks me in the eye while asking how much I’d like to tip, if anything: get fucked. Don’t try to strongarm people into tipping by calling them out and making them feel awkward. I’m aware that giving an additional tip is an option: if it hasn’t already occurred to me to do it, then there’s a good chance I don’t feel it’s justified.

This is the big problem with tipping culture: the tip is either mandatory, or else wrenched from the customer’s hand through social pressure and extortion. But being hospitable in the hospitality industry doesn’t entitle you to a pat on the back; being friendly to customers shouldn’t mean that those customers automatically owe you a payout.

It’s called a gratuity because it’s meant to be given as a gift of appreciation, you idiots. When you force someone to tip it loses all meaning.

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