I don’t think there is a subject that is more likely to cause confusion amongst the travelling public than this.
First let me introduce you to The Hook. I discovered him… through someone elses blog roll (for the life me I can’t remember … possibly via mj monaghan or maybe … ah can’t remember). Anyway, his face is probably the one you see first when you arrive at a hotel, and then quite likely also the last face you see… Pretty important guy: first impressions count. Forget the fancy reputation and expensive ad campaign. If the welcome is off, your whole stay will be off.
So, it’s Christmas, northern hemisphere and if you are far enough north, that probably entails freezing temperatures, snow and bitter wind that cuts to the core. The Hook has to work. Which leads us to Tipping.
In some parts of the world, service staff * are paid a decent and minimum wage. What’s more, it’s set in law and has to be paid. It’s certainly not the highest wage per hour and there are usually additional sums to compensate for working less than social hours. When I first started working, my best pay packets were always for weeks that had late starts and weekend hours. Tips were always an added bonus.
Other parts of the world, pay an absolute minimum wage and let the market decide your true worth. If you’re having a bad day, your tips will reflect that. Unfortunately you could be having a great day, and if the customer is having a bad day, and your tips will still reflect it.
Yet another tipping regime is where the service charge is added to your bill and you have to pay no matter how deserving or otherwise the service was.
There are arguments for and against all three of these methods. Paying a decent wage can encourage those who are not necessarily service orientated. There is nothing worse than being attended to by someone who obviously wants to be somewhere else! I don’t mind if a service charge is added, I just hope that the right people get it.
When I worked onboard, all of our service staff were on a low monthly salary that was supplemented by tips. The crew worked incredibly hard.
So back to The Hook, he’s freezing his nuts off and all the gratitude he gets from some of my fellow countrymen – a little. Well while I feel for The Hook, I understand where they coming from. Tipping is not an Australian ‘thing’ at all. It’s not a Finnish thing either. The general attitude is that service has to be really good to warrant a tip.
How do we get around this great cultural divide? Perhaps we encourage higher wages for service staff. Well, if that happens the first thing to increase will be the price of your meal. Then the diners stop coming. Then you have shut shop. Okay, not a good solution. Note: eating out in USA is incredibly cheap. When The Engineer was living in Florida, we would eat out at least once a week. Here in Finland, we’d bankrupt ourselves very quickly.
Perhaps in Australia and Finland we drop the minimum wage. Right, like that will happen. NOT. The closest to dropping the wage would be a freeze. Forever.
No, after much consideration I have the answer. Education. On approach. Picture this if you will (imagine a nice Texan drawl at the same time). Well, good afternoon folks, we’re on our final approach to the fine city of (insert city of choice here) where it is a balmy 32 degrees, now that’s zero for you folks that like things all celsius. The traffic controllers tell us we’ll be rolling up to gate B37 on time and your bags will be coming out on belt number 7. If this is your first trip to our fine city, just a little reminder that we like to tip people here. That’s right, we like to show our appreciation for good service with a gratuity. If every country had that sort of message, all the confusion would be gone!
* There are so many different terms and titles out there, this one is as good as any. Others that spring to mind include: gratuitous positions, non-managerial staff, line staff, front-of-house etc.