By Emyr Thomas
Tipping can be socially awkward, cause endless embarrassment and be highly inconsistent and irrational especially since it is based on the amount of a transaction instead of the quality of service.
It is imperative to remember that tipping is a gesture of appreciation for services rendered – if the service is impressive, then it deserves to be acknowledged and rewarded. More important, perhaps, is to remember to tip generously if you are a regular, as this will go a long way to ensure consistently good service and additional perks.
Deciding whether or not to tip is the easy part; the real problem lies in deciding how much to tip. Tipping is inherently linked to social custom and, as such, can vary between different cultures and countries. An inadequate tip could be considered an infringement on etiquette or an insult to a lifetime’s work.
In a country where a tip is considered a supplement to an income and not a constituent part of a wage, do not be afraid to not leave a tip if the service was not up to scratch – an important lesson for obliging Brits, perhaps.
In restaurants - particularly the high-end establishments - 12.5% is usually already included on the bill, with anything between 10% and 15% being customary. In bars, it is normally at your discretion; although no tip is expected in a pub, cocktail bars will normally add 12.5% for table service.
For hairstylists, anything between 5% and 10%, given in cash, is acceptable. In London taxis, political and economical musings come at a price, with rounding up to the nearest whole pound or up to 10% of the fare being standard. For hotel staff, a couple of pound is acceptable for maid service and for assistance with luggage.
In the United States, many service sector employers pay their workers on the assumption that tips will contribute to an acceptable wage, therefore the custom of tipping is of paramount importance. Tipping is a big issue in the US in general, especially during the holiday season, with almost everyone receiving a monetary tip, including personal trainers, dry cleaners and teachers!
In restaurants, between 15% and 20% is expected, which is higher than most places, but this is more likely to go directly to the staff. Continuing with this trend, around 15% is considered standard in bars and pubs, with at least $1 per transaction. If using a taxi in New York, be prepared to add between 10% and 15% to the final bill, but don’t be afraid to dispute ill-judged journeys, as you shouldn’t have to pay for a driver’s error.
If you have a haircut, you might have to forgo the blow dry, as you’ll need an extra 15% or 20% to pay for the tip. For hotel staff, a couple of dollars is acceptable for maid service and bellboys.
Parisians will tell you that there is no standard for tipping in Paris, and that the French will only tip if they deem a service to be worthy. Service is normally ‘compris’ (already included) in restaurants, but excellent service can be rewarded with a further 5% left in cash.
Tips are not normally given to taxi drivers, but generally used to make giving change easier. With hairstylists, a 5 Euro tip is standard, whether the haircut costs 20 or 80 Euros.
For hotel staff, it is completely at your discretion, with a few Euros being more than sufficient. When it comes to bars, it is not customary to tip in Paris, unless, as one friend put it, you are feeling particularly guilty.
Emyr Thomas is the founder of Bon Vivant, a concierge and lifestyle management company in London.
The tipping series continues next week…
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