Why cash is still king when say­ing ‘thanks’ for good ser­vice

Irish Independent - - Lifestyle - Katy McGuin­ness

In April, barely a month into lock­down, the Cen­tral Bank re­ported that ATM with­drawals were down by 40pc; it’s safe to as­sume that the trend will have con­tin­ued. And while ex­perts agree that the risk of con­tract­ing Covid-19 from han­dling money is low, many pre­fer not to take it.

Those of us work­ing from home, get­ting our gro­ceries de­liv­ered, go­ing to the shops only when ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary and us­ing con­tact­less pay­ment wher­ever pos­si­ble may find that the notes in our wal­lets are the same ones that we took out of the wall back at the be­gin­ning of March, be­fore the sky fell in.

So, as well as the other seis­mic changes that the pan­demic has and con­tin­ues to wreak upon us, it has fast-for­warded us into be­ing a largely cash­less so­ci­ety.

We pay for park­ing and taxis via an app, and tolls via a tag. Some re­tail­ers, cof­fee shops and cafés now re­quire all trans­ac­tions to be con­tact­less and have no fa­cil­ity to take cash, while many oth­ers ex­press a pref­er­ence for pay­ment by card. For most of us, pay­ing by card is con­ve­nient; we con­sider it old­fash­ioned to deal in cash and write cheques.

But where does that leave the prac­tice of tip­ping? Un­til there is a cul­tural shift to­wards in­cor­po­rat­ing a ser­vice charge into restau­rant and sa­lon prices (which means that those prices will have to go up), and pay­ing the peo­ple who work in those places a higher wage — some­thing that ex­ists in other coun­tries but is not nec­es­sar­ily some­thing that em­ploy­ees here want — tip­ping is go­ing nowhere. (In New York, restau­ra­teur Danny Meyer, once at the fore­front of the anti-tip­ping move­ment, has re­cently rein­tro­duced tip­ping in his restau­rants.)

Dur­ing lock­down, we did not find our­selves in many tip­ping sit­u­a­tions, other than for meal de­liv­ery. We weren’t eat­ing in restau­rants or go­ing to the hair­dresser, so we weren’t tip­ping. But now that we are ven­tur­ing out again, we need to think about how we han­dle tip­ping dur­ing a pan­demic.

Most restau­rants offer cus­tomers the op­por­tu­nity to add a tip to their bill at the end of a meal, and hair­dressers do the same. It seems sim­ple and straight­for­ward, a way of get­ting the €10 or 15pc to the per­son who looked af­ter you as an ac­knowl­edge­ment of good ser­vice.

But there are a num­ber of is­sues in­volved that make a tip given in this way any­thing other than straight­for­ward.

For one thing, there’s the ques­tion of whether the es­tab­lish­ment ac­tu­ally hands the tips over to the staff for whom they were in­tended. We have all heard sto­ries about well-known restau­rants in Ire­land where the in­tegrity of the sys­tem of dis­tri­bu­tion of tips leaves much to be de­sired, but un­for­tu­nately, it’s very dif­fi­cult for a cus­tomer to make a judge­ment on whether any par­tic­u­lar es­tab­lish­ment has a fair and trans­par­ent sys­tem to dis­trib­ute card tips fairly.

The other is­sue with card tips is the tax im­pli­ca­tions for both the em­ployer and em­ployee. Some restau­ra­teurs who paid out card tips to staff as if they were cash in the past were hit with tax and PRSI bills

The other is­sue with bank card tips is the tax im­pli­ca­tions for both the em­ployer and em­ployee

be­cause those tips are sup­posed to be treated as wages.

If you — like me — have ever worked in hos­pi­tal­ity, you are prob­a­bly a good tip­per and carry cash for that pur­pose. But the first time I went to a restau­rant post­lock­down I was so over-ex­cited and out of prac­tice that I broke my own rule by for­get­ting to carry cash and hav­ing to add the tip on the card, as there was no cash ma­chine nearby.

Af­ter this in­ci­dent I tweeted to ask what those in the in­dus­try thought about tip­ping in the time of Covid and the re­sound­ing re­sponse was that cash (though still sus­cep­ti­ble to in­equitable dis­tri­bu­tion by un­eth­i­cal busi­ness own­ers and man­agers) was the — by far — pre­ferred method. And if you don’t have cash on you, you can ask for cash back at the time that you pay the bill, which you can then leave as a tip.

So inas­much as ev­ery­thing has changed, ev­ery­thing re­mains the same. Cash is still king.

Tip­ping tip: If you don’t have cash on you, you can ask for cash back at the time that you pay the bill, which you can then leave as a tip

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