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Comment: to tip or not to tip


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Imagine you are a customer in a popular restaurant. The waitress comes over and introduces herself, talks through the specials board and takes the order for your drinks. The drinks are served quickly, but she doesn’t come back to take your food order for a while. The woman is really busy - there’s only one other waitress working, and the restaurant is full. When she finally comes over to take the order, she is apologetic and rings your food through straight away. You have your children with you, who aren’t particularly impressed by the wait; they're tired after a long day and bored of colouring in. When the order arrives the chips have been missed off, but you don’t complain. After the gelato and coffees, the bill arrives. The question is: do you tip?

Now imagine yourself as the waitress. You are a part-time employee, trying to pay your way through university and you have been called in last-minute to fill a shift on your night off. The restaurant is full and you are responsible for half of it. A family with children come in, so you decide to get them drinks before you visit other tables and give the children something to colour in to keep them occupied. On you're way to take the family's order you are trapped by an elderly couple talking to you about their first date at the same restaurant, you’d love to stay and listen but you have to get back to that family. They aren’t impressed with the wait. Ten minutes after the meals have been served you remember that they asked for chips but that you hadn't brought them so you go and take them off the bill. After they've finished their coffees, you bring them the bill. The question is: do you expect a tip?Tipping

It is an age old question with many possible answers. If you’re dining out and your waitress is terrible, it’s not that she gets everything wrong (because that’s always correctable) she is just miserable and clearly doesn’t care. Do you still leave something? A gesture? The obvious answer is no, a tip usually connotes that the waitress has impressed the customer in some way, and signals that the customer has had a good time. On the other hand, there is an argument for the fact that as wages in the service industry are typically low, waitresses often rely on tips to boost their income. Though surely this is the company’s problem and not the customer’s?

If you are dining out and your waitress is lovely but she gets everything wrong - she misses off your partner’s meal entirely and it takes a while for the chefs to cook it when the problem is realised, you ask for a coke, she brings you a sprite - do you tip? This is less complicated than it appears. Yes, she might not have done the job she is being paid to do very well. But if each problem has been rectified and she has been genuinely caring towards you - she’s interacted well and you have, despite the mistakes, had a really good night - then the answer is yes, you should tip. Conversely, if the mistakes haven’t been apologised for, corrected or maybe even noticed, or the waitress hasn’t interacted with the table at all, then perhaps you shouldn’t leave anything more than the sum of your bill.

If you are dining out and your waitress gets everything right, goes above and beyond what is expected of her, and generally impresses you with her service, then of course you should tip. However there are some who would disagree with this. Is there a case for those who are less well off? Perhaps you save up all year to go out with your partner on your birthday - you can't afford to eat out any other day except this one - and then you are faced with a waitress who has delivered great service, but you simply don’t have the change to spare for a tip. Or maybe you are quite well off but you don’t have any change and you’re aware, as many are today, that some restaurants earn significant profits from credit card tips.

Johnny Depp allegedly once left a waiter a $4000 tip, whilst Madonna has apparently been known to leave nothing. The debate is endless. As a waitress I would disagree with statements that waitresses expect tips. On the contrary, I think if you have a bad experience at a restaurant you may be doing the place a favour by not tipping. Fellow waitresses (in my experience) take tips as a measure of how well you think they performed, and good service should be encouraged, shouldn’t it? Whichever side of the debate you sit on, I would suggest that both sides should remember that, at the end of the day, a tip is an optional gesture.


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