To tip or not to tip, that is the question

28 October 2016

If you went abroad for your holidays this year, did you pick up on the different ‘tipping regime’ in that country? The tipping customs that we take for granted at home can be quite different in other countries and it makes you question who and why we tip in this country.

In Britain, it’s common to tip waiters, cab drivers, hotel doormen and bell boys and some people even tip the bin men at Christmas. You will have noticed, I’m sure, that even the fussiest of dustmen who disdain collecting certain types of rubbish, such as garden refuse, are only too happy to collect your coins and notes and will recycle them for you at the nearest pub within hours.

It’s also a UK tradition to give removal men a ‘drink’ or decent tips for helping you move. Personally, I think there should be a cooling-off period of at least six months before removal men get the tip just to give you time to check that your china is still in one piece.


We also tip hairdressers so, using that logic, why don’t we tip our dentists? “Thanks for sticking a needle into my jaw, drilling my teeth and making my face feel like a slab of frozen beef,” you would mumble. “Here’s a fiver. It’s been great.”

A London cabbie will bore you for hours about what’s wrong with the country and how he had that lovely Nigel Farage in the back of his cab the other day, and you’re expected to give him a decent tip. But then you could spend weeks on a drip with round-the-clock care at the hospital and all the staff get out of it is a box of Quality Street – and the surgeon is probably left with the boring toffee one. How is that even fair?

But it’s waiters that we’re most used to – and pressured into – tipping. There are almost 150,000 hotels, pubs and restaurants in Britain, employing about two million workers, although you can never find one in a Harvester. Those who we see front of house in the restaurant expect some sort of a tip.

Most of us will accept paying a bit extra for a really good eating experience – a recent survey by Open Table found almost nine in 10 (87%) of UK customers always leave a tip and the average tip is £4.18. But what no one likes is the sneaky way some chains (and it is mostly the chains) syphon off some or all of those tips to cover what they call ‘administration costs’.

Yeah, right, as MoneyMagpie readers chorus... “Administration costs, huh?” For example, Matt Owen says: “I want to leave the poor waiter a couple of quid, not buy the restaurant chain’s CEO a new yacht. That really p****s me off– the fact that I think I’m leaving the waiter and perhaps kitchen staffa bit of a tip and half of it’s going to the company. That’s like giving your nephew Lego and finding that his dad is playing with it in the garage... Oh, actually, yes, that does happen.”


Business Secretary Sajid Javid says he is definitely banning – or at least putting a cap on – this tip-raiding practice. Just plain ban it, I say, or (and here’s a crazy concept) simply pay waiting staffa living wage, add the extra on to all the prices and tell us all that we don’t have to tip because service comes as standard.

Actually, while he’s at it, I’d like the Secretary of State to ban another restaurant trick that really gets my goat, which is charging diners a ‘cover charge’. That’s basically charging me for having a tablecloth and a clean set of plates. Isn’t that a given?

By that token, supermarkets should charge us an entrance fee for having wiped the floor before opening in the morning and doctor’s surgeries should slap on a cover charge for allowing patients to read a 1997 Reader’s Digest in the waiting room.

So it looks like it’s another takeaway for me tonight!

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