Tipping is one of the most confusing parts about traveling. Who do you tip and why? Well, that depends what country you’re in. In some countries you tip a lot and in others you don’t tip at all. In Vietnam tipping is actually illegal. North America, on the other hand, has some of the highest tipping in the world.
In the U.S., the person who pumps your gas gets $1-2, taxi cab drivers receive 10-15% and restaurant waiters and waitresses receive a whopping 15% to 20% extra on top of the bill?
What about the person who sells you a movie ticket, a bus driver or a hotel clerk? Well, they receive zero, zip, zilch. It really doesn’t make any sense does it? Who decided that? Tipping waiters as a custom in the US didn’t start until the late 1800s when rich Americans visiting Europe brought the idea of tipping home with them.
Today, tipping your waiter or waitress in the US isn’t optional. If you get average service, most people tip about 15% and up to 20% if they had a great experience. And if they had poor experience, they might go as low as 10%. Some very unhappy customers might not leave anything at all, but this is extremely rude and could even get you arrested in some unusual cases.
Is tipping according to how much you enjoyed your experience fair? Some things are completely out of the control of your waiter or waitress. It might be busy, so your food is cold. Or the chef might be having an off day, and your food is undercooked, but somehow this is the waiter’s fault, and customers in the US will make the waiter suffer with lower tips if they’re unhappy.
This might be ok if a tip was just an extra bonus that the waiter received, but it’s not a bonus, it’s how they support their families. The minimum wage by law in the US is $7.25, but waiters can legally be paid as low as $2, because they are expected to receive tips. Some people say that the custom of tipping in the US is just a legal loophole that allows restaurant owners to pay low wages and make their food prices appear lower.
Recently, a New York City restaurant called Sushi Yasuda is in the news for not allowing tipping in their restaurant. They tell all their customers that they are following the Japanese custom of no tipping, and providing a fair wage to all their waiters and waitresses.
According to research from the Harvard Business School, the level of tipping in a country correlates strongly with the level of corruption in that country. While some people might say that tipping is a reward for good service, others say it is a bribe to receive good service in the future. What do you think about tipping? Is it fair? How much do people tip in your country? Let us know in the comments.