a little east of reality

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


The latest poll on MSN today news:

(The final results were similar, about 80,000 to 3,000.)

We don't have a tipping culture in Australia, and quite frankly I can't believe that anyone would be so stupid as to suggest that we introduce one. I am often horrified by stories on Waiter Rant that imply that people who don't tip (in the US) are scummy tightwads who don't deserve decent service. But at least in the States there's a reason for this attitude. Wait staff are paid ridiculously low wages and the cost of giving them a proper living is foisted onto the customer via tips. No matter how unreasonable that is (expenses, including a fair wage for your staff, should be charged up front, on the menu, in the cost of the food), at least you know the situation and understand why 20% is being added automatically to your bill.

In Australia that idea is ludicrous. The hourly award wage for a basic waiter is over $13/hr. And that’s a fulltime wage. Casual workers earn even more per hour.

Last year my friend Sky had an American couple staying with her. She and her husband took them out to a restaurant. At the end of the meal her guests were a little shocked that they planned to leave no tip. One exclaimed, “but they need it!” Sky being the bold sorter of misconceptions, called the waitress over and asked her politely to reveal her hour wage, then asked:
Sky: So, you don’t rely on tips for your pay, do you?
Waitress: No, not at all. I mean, it’s nice to get one, because it’s like a bonus, but we don’t need them to survive or anything.
We tip for exceptional service – what a tip was originally intended to be before unscrupulous US restaurant owners decided to shaft their own workers and make them reliant on customers’ goodwill (and spare cash). As a voluntary extra, I enjoy tipping. It feels good to reward someone for great service. As a compulsory payment that is expected even if the service is crap, I hate tipping. It’s like paying tax on your meal.

No compulsory tipping, Australia!!