Australians aren’t automatic tippers.
I was reminded of this while enroute to Australia earlier in the summer when I shared a cab with a couple heading home to Brisbane.
“I’ll get it,” said the man as the cab pulled up to the international terminal.
The fare was about 15 times the cost had we taken public transit. “Let’s split it,” I said. “You get the tip.”
I saw the tip he placed in the driver’s hand and doubled it when he left the cab. Such is the tipping culture of my country. But it’s sure easy to settle into that of Australia.
My daughter and I spent a couple glorious hours at a spa in a century-old hotel in New South Wales. All blurry and blissed, hair looking like Sunday morning, I searched for the ‘tip’ option on the card payment machine. There was none. No tip and no expectation of a tip, just the straight up cost – taxes included – of the treatment. A couple of celebration dinners with great food, excellent wine and pretty good service, and no tip option on the payment machine. It just didn’t feel right.
Tipping has long been a discussion point between my Australian son-in-law and me. He believes in tipping for excellent service, anything less is just people doing their jobs. His argument: pay people a living wage, and tipping is unnecessary.
Can’t disagree with that. It seems to work in Australia, but I don’t know how it can be accomplished in North America. In my province of British Columbia, the minimum wage is working its way up to what can foreseeably be a living level. Still, I suspect what makes a wage livable and how long it can be sustained will ever be a moving target.
What Australia’s tipping culture does for me – and I do tip from time to time – is eliminate much of the awkwardness of who to tip and how much to tip them.
My hairdresser and the woman who does my brows are self employed, their profits theirs alone. I value their skill and familiarity, and tip them. But what’s the right amount? 10 percent? 15? More?
I’m not often faced with the dilemma of calculating tips at swanky restaurants, but I gather 20 per cent is an acceptable starting point. But what’s the right tip for a mid-range restaurant where you enjoy pasta and a bottle of red every so often? And what if the server is run off his feet, and the kitchen understaffed? Do you tip less or recognize the server, who relies on tips, is doing his best? The unfriendly cab driver that gets you to your destination promptly, does he get a tip?
Tipping is confounding territory. I think there are rules, but most of us haven’t read the rule book.
What’s your tipping point?
How much do you tip? And whom?
Did you notice the reference to pretty good service at those celebration dinners in Australia? It was just that. Pretty good. Food and drinks were served efficiently and the servers were friendly. But they weren’t paying attention to table dynamics, whether we were engrossed in conversation and it was too soon to deliver the next course, or whether we were ready for another drink top up. They weren’t working for tips.
My son-in-law considers Australian service to be generally good, but Canadian service? He says it’s amazing.
So how to tip for that?