Wednesday, 1 September 2010

To Tip Or Not To Tip. That is the question

Yesterday, as a last treat before school time for the mini me's, we decided to take them to one of those child friendly restaurants that sell Italian fast food in a shed like establishment. They love the place, especially the buffet style which allows them to pick for an hour at whatever they like.

In general the service is pretty good. With the buffet style, the service doesn't need to be great. It just needs to be adequate. You do most of the service yourself. You only need the waiting staff to bring you your drinks (free top ups as well) and the bill at the end.

Usually when we visit this restaurant, this offer isn't available so the waiting staff actually have to work that little bit harder, taking orders, bringing the food at the right time (we often ask for the children's mains at the same time as the adult starters) and of course catching up with drinks refills and any further orders.

My question is this. Does one staff member deserve a tip/more of a tip than the other?

I am a great believer that if someone in one of the service industries does provide a good service then they should be tipped. But is there a sliding scale of value? And who works in a service industry that deserves to be tipped? Do you tip a taxi driver? What about a bus driver? Why would there be a difference? What are the qualities that induce an additional payment beyond what is being charged?

And what are the factors that make you decide how much to tip? I usually calculate about 10% mainly because the maths is easy. But is that appropriate for everything. I get my haircut at the same place each time and always give the staff a pound tip. When their price went up by 50p I still carried on giving the same tip (still more than 10% by the way).

And what about in a pub. I used to work behind a bar when I was studying and we were told that when a tip was offered it was customary to accept 20 pence. This was regardless of whether you were serving one man having a quiet pint or a large group of stags/hens making a complete nuisance of themselves.

Of course with the latest technology, you can leave a tip electronically, but I still have a distrust. I am sure the technology works. I'm just not convinced that the management of some establishments pass on the tips to the staff that earned them.

Yesterday I felt a little awkward as I entered the restaurant without any change and new that if I was going to leave a tip, it would have to be electronically. Ironically, we had the worst service we've ever had in that particular place and felt that leaving a tip wasn't appropriate any way. I still felt a pang of guilt though.

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