Mark Jones: Tipping has got out of hand – and we can blame the US for that

Something to Declare

Some things never get less stressful however much you travel. Tipping is one of them. I am English; hence the simple act of pulling out some change and handing it to a grateful hotel employee fills me with dread and horror.

But now my attitude to tipping is changing. Gone are the feelings of shame and confusion. Instead I'm getting cross. The US is the problem. Tipping has fallen for the supersizing epidemic. At a resort in South Carolina earlier this year, I could have dropped 20 or 30 bucks before I'd even got to the room. Someone opens your car door; someone else picks up your bags; a third opens the door to reception; a fourth shows you to the room; and a fifth brings in your bags. Five bucks every time.

Tipping is no longer about generosity. The economics of the US hospitality industry is cynically built on the tip; gratuities can make up at least 50 per cent of your server's wages.

Our European response is simple: when you add that 10-15 per cent to the bill, that should be that. "But then there's no incentive to give you outstanding service," a US hotel executive responded.

This is just not true. There's enough competition among hotels and restaurants to keep everyone trying hard. Under the American system, meanwhile, relations between guests and customers have become palpably worse post-crash. Once those beaming South Carolina welcomers, concierges and door openers figured out I wasn't going to stump up, the smiles disappeared and bleak looks chilled the air.

Maybe the world can agree on some International Gratuity Protocol. Or maybe everyone who waits on a table or carries a bag should be paid properly.

Mark Jones is editorial director of British Airways' 'High Life' and Best Western's 'Do Not Disturb' magazines

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