Monthly Archives: February 2017

Not tipping the velvet

I am not referring to Sarah Water’s novel but the so called voluntary extra on some services.

I’ve made a pledge not to tip.

I note I nearly added ‘any more’ so you wouldn’t think badly of me and would know that I have shown gratitude and manners and had contributed to the supposedly tiny earnings of waiters and others.

See? Because it’s about guilt.

On several levels.

And that is not my only objection.


Tipping has put me off taking the services of industries who expect it. No I don’t get into taxis. I have as few haircuts as I can. And I don’t eat out so much – and I’ll choose a pub where oddly it’s normal not to tip. But in a café or restaurant it is expected, for offering the same!

I note in America that people can feel fearful. People have even been chased and shouted at because of not tipping, or even not tipping enough, and published stories add to that fear, such as in this BBC article. The one at the start speaks ill of the girlfriend and the waiter.

I don’t think it’s just the US where we worry about tips. Non or low tipping customers think: Will they say anything? Will I feel I can come back? Will I get a worse service next time? Do they try and sense the tippers, and treat us accordingly?

Because our service should never be dependent on us paying more for it.

And why does a hairdresser think it’s acceptable to be tipped but not other retail? Hairdressers are an example against one of the usual reasons for tipping – that staff aren’t paid enough.

One fork of that argument is that taxis and hairdressers actually charge rather highly. £35-50 – for work taking under an hour – is usual for the most basic hair services; a quick dry trim might only take 10 mins and thus still add up to the same hourly rate.

That’s up to 7 times the minimum wage, and not for the highest end of salons. And don’t forget the self employed (let alone unemployed) who don’t see even the £7 per hour stipulated in Britain.

And hairdressers want to charge at their discretion as you sit in the chair – one even says they can add 50% – and then expect a little extra….?! And I’ve heard them say – if you have more than 2 inches off it’s a restyle and will cost twice as much!

Taxis seem to start at £4 – even as I climb in – and I can travel up to £250 miles by prebooked train or budget coach on what they would charge for 5-10 miles at evening rate.

So why do they need fares rounding up? Especially as taxi drivers can be ungracious. We will return to the service actually given in a moment.

The other of my original forks was for service staff – the hotel porter, the waiters. They often just get minimum wage and sometimes less, and it’s hoped that tips make their earnings up to something liveable off.

But is that our worry, as customers? By all means campaign for fair wages, but why should we have to fill in where employers are failing, and are using social controls to manipulate the public into making up their shortfall?

National insurance, sick pay – all the duty of the employee – not the diner!


Here is my bottom line:

charge what you need and pay your staff enough.


The tipping industries are hardly cheap for customers, even before the “gratuities”!

There is also some more sinister bottom lines regarding tips:

Tipping is tied into capitalism. It says: hard work is rewarded (is hard the same as good?) and that value can only be shown through money.

It is also feudal and controlling. I watched a few films recently and saw how tipping by the rich made the servile classes do their bidding. It meant – I can buy you to do whatever I want. It said – you will do what is unreasonable and even immoral. I can buy superior and preferential treatment.

It suggests that tippees are a class below.

Now they are subverting that and become the ones whom we the clients feel beholden to.

But in other cultures, tipping is insulting. I think it is for both parties.

Tipping doesn’t actually improve the service; the staff don’t know what they’ll get anyway – by the time the tip comes, the service has been done. A survey found that the tip made very little difference to the quality of service.

Tipping is also divisive among friends. As I slide some coins onto a plate – feeling resentful as I’d already paid more than I’d budgeted – I wonder if my companion thinks I’ve not done enough. The last trip to a cafe ended in a discussion about tipping as we divided our bill. One meal ended with a friend calculating my exact tip and that has stayed with me some years, making me wonder about eating with that group again.

So what is meant to be a nice experience ends in a row, or at least unsaid judgement.

And as I sit in a salon, arrive at a hotel, eat my meal, ride in a cab, I’m wondering: will there be some kind of discord at the end of this? Often these are leisure and pleasurable things but I’m not feeling that. I may fall out with the service provider but also any companions.

And that is wrong.

I don’t also like the 10%+ service charge added at meals because the full price should be in the food bill – you are not charged more for a great retail experience or proofreading. And asking for the ‘discretionary’ amount to come off the bill often feels awkward.

Many places have done less than you expect, not more. The last time I ate out, my food took an hour to arrive. Staff are frequently slow to acknowledge or offhand or rush you.

Don’t cinema staff, shop workers, ushers all work to give us a good experience too?

It’s not even true that it’s small vs big businesses, for many places hoping for tips are big chains. And again, customers shouldn’t be paying their legal requirements for them.

A tip may be offered for exceptional service – no that doesn’t mean that taxi driver who helps you our of your wheelchair with your kids. That’s normal service, and people with special needs shouldn’t pay more. Kind words – especially written – should go as far. I was going to say, to a manager, but again, hierarchies come in, and it’s about garnering favour of superiors.

It’s pointed out by tip banning restaurateurs that a successful meal is due to more than just the person who serves you, and so letting the waiters take it all isn’t fair on the rest of the team, and that does include managers.

We should give good service due to pride in our work and caring about what we do. A tip shouldn’t buy us.

Tipping becomes about corruption – I’ll serve you only if you cross my palm. I’ll buy your service, whatever I ask and however I treat you.

I note several campaigns to end tips. That BBC article above includes several studies (the £25,000,000,000 tip industry being the most striking) and a link to this succinct comedian Adam Conover’s stance on Why Tipping Should be Banned

It’s one I’m now joining.

I suggest finally that big chains and those already charging highly are being greedy, but small cafes could just add 25p to each item. No the big spenders and large groups shouldn’t have to pay even more. But I bet this small increase would help with the deficit of losing tips.

Those who’ve already banned tipping and pay staff properly are the places I am attracted to visiting.






1 Comment

Filed under society