The tipping point on tipping. What’s yours?

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?

tipping image

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?


12 Comments Add yours

  1. Daughter #1 says:

    Yes, down with tipping!! And while you’re add it, include the tax in the price!!!! You aren’t fooling anyone by leaving it out, and it’s frigging annoying trying to figure out the true cost of things.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gery Lemon says:

      I thought you might have an opinion, #1. 😊


  2. When i entered the tipping world, it was 10%. Over time, as meal prices (and other places of tipping when up) so did tipping (12%, 15%, 20%). It’s now pretty common to list 25%. Can 30% be far behind?

    Starbucks has a tip option. Tim Horton’s and MacDonald do not. Why do Starbucks staff get a tip and not the others? There are many examples of low wage staff who are not even provided with the opportunity to get a tip. It’s hard to leave it at Tim Hortons and MacDonald’s as it’s not part of the culture. Why do end restaurants expect a higher tip value than ordinary restaurants?

    From my perspective, I seldom go above 15% unless I felt sorry for the server such as when being tasked with too many tables and not enough time.

    An interesting topic Gerry.

    Thanks. Harold


    1. Gery Lemon says:

      Thanks, Harold. Interesting. I can imagine that if 25 or 30% become the norm, there’s a generation of us who won’t go anywhere…except Australia.


  3. Lloyd says:

    Great article. Hard to apply broad guidelines to such a subjective topic where personal guilt and budget frequently plays battle with perceived societal obligations, where non/low tippers are labeled as cheap or uncaring, and high tippers as social patrons of caring and quality service. Paying surplus should simply be a variable ‘guilt free’ indicator of receipt of personal value, today one amount, tomorrow another. Otherwise the tip will soon exceed the cost of the product/service, obligation will replace earned reward, and service becomes just another mandatory line item before the GST/PST line items….


    1. Gery Lemon says:

      Thanks, Lloyd. I agree, it should be a variable guilt free indicator. One commenter on my When I’m 64 Facebook page says it’s 20% or nothing…so for some people it seems there are hard and fast rules. I must be living in the past, because 20% seems a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Marilyn says:

    Interesting. I don’t tip those who own their own business as they can set their own rates as opposed to their staff.


    1. Gery Lemon says:

      That sure makes sense to me.


  5. canucksam says:

    Having just come back from a week-long wedding in Germany, I feel I am not tipping as well as I did before, here at home in Toronto. Maybe our ‘living wage’ can’t come soon enough for the people serving me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gery Lemon says:

      Very likely. Except maybe to those whose service reaps 20% and beyond.?


  6. Muriel says:

    Your old-style math skills are impressive!

    I always tip 15% at a restaurant, even if the service was poor, and tip up to 20% if I’m really happy with the service. I tip my hairdresser 15% every time. I only ever get it cut, never coloured or any other treatment, and I am done in 20 minutes. I will either leave a large tip at Christmas or take her wine or something.
    That’s my two-bits’ worth!


    1. Gery Lemon says:

      I’ll tip you 20% for those two bits. 🙂 Thanks, Muriel. Interesting to see how people treat tipping.


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