OPIN­ION

How much, to whom and when? It all de­pends on where you are, the oc­ca­sion and per­sonal in­cli­na­tion...

Business Traveller - - CONTENTS - DEREK PICOT A HOTE­LIER FOR MORE THAN 30 YEARS AND AU­THOR OF HO­TEL RESER­VA­TIONS

When, whom and how much? – the con­tro­ver­sies of tip­ping; and in­vest­ing in prop­erty via crowd­fund­ing

As we left the small bistro in St Tropez, my wife asked: “Did you leave a tip?” “No need!” I ex­cit­edly ex­plained. “Ser­vice com­pris!” “Well, you should have...” And that sums up the eter­nal dilemma of whether or not to leave a lit­tle ex­tra – ser­vice com­pris or not.

I blame the Amer­i­cans. Ev­ery busi­ness trav­eller will tell you many restau­rants in New York add a “guide to tip­ping” with the “check” (bill) that starts at 18 per cent, and then has the temer­ity to sug­gest amounts up to 25 per cent.

Where did all this largesse start? It seems to have be­gun with the Tu­dors. When a trav­eller de­parted from a pri­vate home, it was cus­tom­ary for a gen­tle­man to leave a “vail” for the vas­sals who had looked af­ter him. Tips then fol­lowed on through the cof­fee houses of the 17th and 18th cen­turies and, be­fore we knew it, the trend spread to ev­ery caterer in the na­tion. The Bri­tish have been tip­ping ever since.

TO TIP OR NOT TO TIP?

So should one feel obliged to tip? Cer­tainly not – but I still feel cheap if I leave a ho­tel with­out adding some­thing ex­tra. On top of that, there is the anx­i­ety of not know­ing who, ex­actly, I should tip. Usu­ally my list in­cludes the wait­ers, concierge porters and door­men at the ho­tel. But I am un­sure about room at­ten­dants, main­te­nance staff, re­cep­tion­ists and the fit­ness cen­tre.

To make the sit­u­a­tion more com­plex, busi­ness trav­ellers will know that there are some coun­tries where tips are not the cus­tom. Ja­pan is the main ex­am­ple – tip­ping is un­known there. In China it’s also not com­mon. Nor in ru­ral Aus­tralia or New Zea­land is it the norm, though in the big cities restau­rant bills can be rounded up.

France has one so­lu­tion: there is a tax­able 15 per cent charge added to ev­ery bill, which is the gra­tu­ity that is passed on to staff in the form of an ad­di­tional wage. Un­for­tu­nately, in most restau­rants there is no in­cen­tive to ac­tu­ally make this clear to din­ers, and ser­vice staff will be de­lighted if some­thing ex­tra is left on the plate.

In my ex­pe­ri­ence I have found the ex­pec­ta­tion of a tip more wide­spread the nearer to the equa­tor you travel. The only ex­cep­tion I dis­cov­ered was dur­ing a trip to Zam­bia. On the desk in my room was a let­ter from the gen­eral man­ager ex­plain­ing that over-gen­er­ous tip­ping had cre­ated a dis­tor­tion of earn­ings in the lo­cal vil­lage where most of his labour was sourced. He sug­gested that, as a con­se­quence, no one wanted to work the land, and they all wanted to wait ta­bles. His so­lu­tion was to sug­gest that a gra­tu­ity should be left with the man­age­ment to pro­vide sup­port for a com­mu­nity pro­ject. This was a laud­able propo­si­tion.

In the United King­dom, af­ter sev­eral high-pro­file res­tau­ra­teurs were ex­posed for keep­ing back tips from staff, cus­tomers now have to con­sider how to tackle a till re­ceipt that de­tails a ser­vice charge de­scribed as “dis­cre­tionary ser­vice charge” (or, more con­fus­ingly for over­seas vis­i­tors, “disc ser­vice charge”). The man­age­ment is re­quired to pass on these funds col­lected for the staff. Cus­tomers may pay all, part or none of the ser­vice charge if they don’t wish to.

SER­VICE CHARGES BY STEALTH

Be­ware when you pay by card in the UK. A few es­tab­lish­ments present the bill with the ser­vice charge added in, then the card reader asks if you would like to add a “gra­tu­ity”. If you are not sure whether you have al­ready paid the ser­vice charge, ask; if you have, sim­ply de­cline the ex­tra gra­tu­ity.

And when should a tip be of­fered to get the best ser­vice? Ex­pe­ri­enced tip­pers in the US do­nate to the maître d’ on ar­rival, not at the end of the evening. How­ever, I find cus­tomers who ad­vance tip quite galling – all din­ers should be treated as equals.

So what is a good tip? If you have al­ready paid a ser­vice charge and you feel hon­our bound to add more, then a fur­ther 5 per cent is ad­e­quate. Where no charge has been ap­plied, I think 18 per cent in the US, and ten per cent for the rest of the world. A fiver in any cur­rency per bag car­ried, and some­thing sim­i­lar for the door­man. Concierges might de­serve more than a ten­ner for ex­tra ser­vice that calls for some ef­fort. Ev­ery­thing else is un­nec­es­sary, and at your own dis­cre­tion.

Per­son­ally, I can’t re­mem­ber the last time I was given a re­ally good tip. Cer­tainly not the one I got last month for the races at Don­caster. The horse was so late com­ing home that the jockey was wear­ing py­ja­mas.

One shouldn’t feel obliged to tip, but I still feel cheap if I leave a ho­tel with­out adding some­thing ex­tra

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