Thursday, June 12, 2008

More on tipping...

I had a couple of disgruntled emails following my post about tipping etiquette. They were from Americans and basically came done to: 'Are you seriously trying to tell me that British people don't know how to tip?'

You know what? That's exactly what I'm trying to tell you.

England is a straightforward place. If you go to a restaurant and order a £10 steak and chips, the bill you get at the end of your meal will be for £10.

You can leave a tenner on the table and walk out without thinking twice about it. If the service was good - or the waitress was cute - you might live a quid as a tip (a mere 10%.) But it's NOT expected of you.

Generally - and I worked in catering for two years, so don't argue with me on this - you don't get tipped if you wait tables. Brits don't tip - not because we're cheap. Just because it's not expected of us.

This is why the concept of 'tipping' in America (which is basically more like a 15% waiter / waitress tax) is so alien to us. Unless we know better, we Brits generally think the price we get on our bill is all we're expected to pay. That's not our fault, it's just how it is in England (and why bartenders and waitresses in New York rudely tell British tourists 'you do know you're expected to tip in this country, don't you?')

The hidden costs aren't just limited to food. In New York and New Jersey, no price sticker is what it seems. If you go to a 'Dollar Store' and buy a screwdriver for (supposedly) $1, you'll be understandably surprised when the price at the register rings up at $1.07.

Sales tax - it gets added on to all non-food sales here in New Jersey.

To Brits, that's frustrating. We pay 'sales tax' as well - a whopping 17.5%! But in England, the tax is included on the sticker price, so you know what you have to pay when you pick it up (instead of trying to keep a mental tally of what products will have tax added to them.)

It's just a very simple philosophy - in Britain, you pay what's quoted on the label.

But cultural differences (and hidden costs aside) that £10 steak and chips I mentioned earlier... Even with a 15% tip, it would probably only cost $11.50 over here in America.


Expatmum said...

I posted on this recently too. What I find amusing is how Americans are almost afraid NOT to tip, no matter how bad the service or cold the food. I have even been followed out of a restaurant to ask what the problem was when I left a less than 15% tip!

Suki said...

Oh wow. What's the problem with putting all costs on the bill? I just don't get the fine print(or lack thereof) that says "Local Taxes Extra". Feels like a license to charge whatever, especially for non-natives.

Going off at a tangent, though, I was mall-hopping(again) yesterday, and guess what I found. The Dollar Store. In Kolkata. Where items cost Rs 99+12.5% = Rs 112. More than 2.5 dollars given the current rates. For things that should really cost closer to Rs 50, given what I could judge from the looks of it.
As a friend said - "Of all the things NOT worth globalizing!"

Meghan said...

There are worse things than people not tipping for a server. It's someone tipping 38 pennies knowing you have to split it at the end of the night to give the kitchen staff, busser, host, bartender their share of it.Been there.

end rant.

Kitty said...

Weighing in from England to confirm all Roland says. You pay what it says on the menu, and the waiting staff are paid by the establishment. Although of course one often does tip, it's nothing like it is in the States.