Mark Jones: Tipping has got out of hand – and we can blame the US for that
Something to Declare
Mark Jones started writing about travel for The Evening Standard in the 1990s and has been a regular contributor to the travel pages of The Independent since 2011. He edited the British Airways magazine High Life and now divides his time between that publication, the Best Western Magazine Do Not Disturb and writing. He is a past Travelex Magazine Writer of the Year (for Krakow) and in 2013 won the AITO Travel Writer of the Year award for a piece on the Galapagos. He divides his time between the Chiltern hills and the Andalucian mountains. Geographically, he specialises in – everywhere and nowhere.
Sunday 23 September 2012
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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