Saturday, 22 August 2009

My Tip For You

Beware of discretionary tips added to the bill.

From previous dining experiences, I had known my friend did not believe in tipping. She is Australian and informs me that there is no tipping in Australia. I’m American and I tell her I grew up tipping. Here in Ireland, it is a mixed bag: some tip, some don’t tip and some hardly tip. I think it is safe to say Ireland is not a country of regular tipping, but more and more, tipping is a part of dining and other Irish service industries.

This week we’re in England—I’m not entirely sure of the tipping practice here. For me, tipping is personal, so unless it is prohibited, offensive, or goes again a custom, I apply my personal routine tipping everywhere I go.

We found ourselves dining in our hotel’s (Crowne Plaza in Birmingham) restaurant. We had already discussed the high prices of a meal (Carvery buffet = £20.95!). When the bill arrived my no-tipping friend pointed out the addition of a 10% charge on our bill for four people. It was labelled: Discretionary service charge. There are so many things wrong with this picture.
1. If it is discretionary, then shouldn’t the diner use his/her own discretion?
2. Why is it added to the bill, if it is left to the diner’s discretion?
3. Just how many times have I paid that 10% without noticing?

Thanks to our no-tipping friend, we inquired further: Where does the 10% go? I was impressed with the hotel host’s honesty. But hugely bothered by the answer.

The amount of 5% is returned to wait staff at the end of the month, whereas the other 5% goes to the hotel. *gasp* Shame on the hotel! My already expensive meal is now 5% more! (and that carvery? It’s really £22.35).

It didn’t take much for the hotel host to realise he had unrest on his hands. He immediately said if we did not want to pay it, we were not obliged and he proceeded to refund the 10%. We, in turn, handed the cash to our server and told her to share as she liked with the kitchen staff, or not.
After several theories, we chose to believe the hotel management is charging 5% to the wait staff to help enforce tipping by adding the discretionary tip on the tab. Just plain wrong!?
Now this didn’t change our no-tipper’s position (or did it strengthen it?), but thanks to her awareness, it sure woke us tippers up.

She and I continued to debate the merits of tipping—but really it became an inquisition as to how I choose to tip. As her position is not to tip, the opposing position to tip is prone for more clarification and criticism from a no tipper. Sensing his wife was feeling boxed in, DH pointed out that to not tip goes against the norm, so why the pressure on the tipper? Nevertheless, it was selection process of tipping that was under study.

I tip if a service is personal, ie., deals with my food or body.

Contrary to some tippers, I do not tip based on the server’s wage. My hair stylist—who I tip-- I’m pretty sure he makes more in one year than I did in my last two years combined. After putting myself through university, I have appreciation for low and high wages. I strongly feel people make choices. You choose to work at that level; only you can control what you achieve; if you want more, find a way (it’s there) and achieve more!

I tip if I think the service went above and beyond what was needed; often tipping might be based on my requests, but no necessarily always. (ie., cab driver rushing)

I tip more at the holidays, the season of giving. (ie, postman, garbage man)

I tip by way of gifts. (teacher’s gifts, thank you gifts, bottle of wine)

If I can't afford the tip, I don’t take of the service. For me, tipping is all part of the package. This also explains why I’ve only had my hair cut twice this year! I won’t take a taxi if I don’t have a tip.

I do not tip if the service was poor for one reason or another. My tip is a reflection of my happiness. And I will always tell my servicer why I was not happy with hopes that service improves. (Some ritual tippers tip irregardless of performance and this is bad, bad, bad, I say!)

This still leaves the question: how do I decide which service gets tips?

As we’re at the Festival of Quilts this week, our debate naturally fell to our crafty nature...who tips their long arm quilter?

For the record, I have never had a quilt of mine longarm quilted. (However, I am a manager of a magazine that does contract for longarm quilting. The prices paid are based on a rate chart supplied by the quilter. Tipping did not enter my budget or thinking—should it?

Tell us, do you tip your longarm quilter?


rachel griffith said...

oh good gravy...that's messed up.

p.s. i got my new irish quilting magazine!!!
thanks SO much.

Caryn said...

I do not tip my longarmer mainly because every longarmer I've used is in business for themselves. I've always heard that even in a tip based industry (like hairdressing - I used to be a hairdresser) tipping the owner is not required. If the owner of a hair salon cuts my hair, or the owner of a spa does my massage i will sometimes tip but not usually as much. If I were to use a longarmer that worked in a quilt store and was not receiving the whole payment for services, I would tip him or her.