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C. Paul Luongo's Published Columns

Friday, September 08, 2006


By C. Paul Luongo

Tipping habits differ widely between cultures. Any traveler knows that the U.S. is the most tip-happy country in the world!

In Europe, they tip 10% to taxi drivers and 10-12% to waiters unless there is a service charge in which case you don’t tip. (Some people leave some loose change in that case).

In the U.S. 15-20% is the acceptable gratuity in restaurants depending on the quality of the service.

Bartenders, Doormen, Restaurant Musicians, Swimming Pool Attendants (even if they don’t pull you out of the water) receive tips.

But why not Plumbers, Bus Drivers or Teachers?

It makes sense to tip those we expect to serve us again and tipping generously at a restaurant you use weekly provides a possible guarantee of good service and a table away from the kitchen on your next visit.

But why do people tip taxi drivers they’re not going to see again or leave gratuities in restaurants in cities they rarely visit?

Somewhere, people are tipping drivers and waiters in a city they will never visit again but you will benefit from their generosity as someone will benefit from yours.

Tipping is more prevalent in countries with a culture of individualism than those with a more collective spirit.

Service providers like tipping, of course, because they can offer lower prices and pay their employees less.

Most of us wish they would incorporate service into their prices and pay their staff higher wages and eliminate their customers’ uncertainty about whom and how much to tip.

A recent survey found that 34% of Americans wish they were not expected to tip!

Until it is outlawed, however, most of us will continue to tip, never quite sure whether we are tipping the right people or offering too much or too little.

Most people will continue doing it unless they cannot face the embarrassment or antagonistic atmosphere that follows a failure to tip or because it seems mean to deny people who earn less money than others.

I will continue to tip, generously when provided with excellent service and be sparing of generosity when service is substandard or non-existent.

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