It’s ar­chaic, un­fair to ev­ery­one in­volved and stress­ful. When it comes to trav­el­ling abroad, have you reached the tip­ping point too?

The Daily Telegraph - Travel - - FRONT PAGE -

Have you ever found your­self clam­my­handed as you awk­wardly leave a restau­rant abroad, un­sure of whether you’ve tipped an in­sult­ingly low sum or a fool­ishly high amount? Or re­alised to your hor­ror that the bell­boy at an Amer­i­can ho­tel will ex­pect a crisp dol­lar bill, and you have noth­ing smaller than the $50 bills you ex­changed at the air­port? Whether you’re step­ping into an Amer­i­can ho­tel room af­ter an 11-hour flight, or leav­ing a restau­rant af­ter a ro­man­tic night out, the prac­tice of tip­ping reg­u­larly in­tro­duces a sour, stress­ful note into what should be a care­free mo­ment.

Tip­ping eti­quette might seem like a tiny thing to get in a tizz about, but psy­chol­o­gists now recog­nise “tip­ping anx­i­ety” as an in­creas­ingly com­mon form of so­cial anx­i­ety. It throws up all sorts of ques­tions that you re­ally don’t want to mull over as you con­tent­edly suck on a wafer-thin mint: will the staff think we didn’t en­joy our meal if we leave any­thing less ef­fu­sive than 20 per cent of the bill? Who am I to de­cide if the server should be pun­ished or re­warded for do­ing their job? Per­haps she’s just hav­ing a bad day! Will my com­pan­ions think I’m a mug or a miser ac­cord­ing to how much I tip? Is the server re­liant on gen­er­ous tips; oh

God, what a sad thought? Who has more power in the re­la­tion­ship be­tween server and cus­tomer, and would I rather be the pow­er­mon­ger or the power-free party in this whole sorry ex­change? How would some­one slick and serene han­dle this sit­u­a­tion?

A re­cent sur­vey by Dy­namic Cur­rency Con­ver­sion (DCC) Fo­rum found that a third of Bri­tish hol­i­day­mak­ers ac­tively avoid des­ti­na­tions where there is a pre­vail­ing tip­ping cul­ture, in or­der to sidestep the stress of it all. In des­ti­na­tions such as Ja­pan, Hong Kong and Sin­ga­pore, for ex­am­ple, tip­ping is not ex­pected and could even cause of­fence, al­though for­eign trav­ellers prob­a­bly get a pass.

While avoid­ing des­ti­na­tions en­tirely seems ex­treme, I can sym­pa­thise. I re­cently spent a week work­ing alone in San Fran­cisco, and as an awk­ward per­son at the best of times, mak­ing sure I had enough dol­lar bills to tip bell­boys, bar­men and house­keep­ing staff was an ad­di­tional has­sle I re­ally could have done with­out. In Amer­ica, tip­ping cul­ture is an obli­ga­tion mas­querad­ing as an op­tion, and if there’s one thing I de­test, it’s the il­lu­sion of choice where we don’t have any. So it was a re­lief to dis­cover that I was in one of San Fran­cisco’s grow­ing num­ber of no-tip­ping restau­rants, Ses­sions at the Pre­sidio. It felt like a hol­i­day from the stress of Amer­ica’s tip­ping cul­ture.

Three years ago, New York restau­ra­teur Danny Meyer made the news by an­nounc­ing that he would be elim­i­nat­ing tip­ping at all 13 of his restau­rants. This “hos­pi­tal­ity in­cluded” ap­proach was hailed as a pos­i­tive ef­fort to erad­i­cate the un­fair pay dis­par­ity be­tween front and back of house, and of­fer em­ploy­ees a more re­li­able in­come, less vul­ner­a­ble to the whims of cus­tomers on any given night. Meyer is a big cheese in the hos­pi­tal­ity world, and his de­ci­sion to in­crease salaries and wrap gra­tu­ities into the prices on the menu (which went up by 25 per cent) had a big im­pact across Amer­ica, with ho­tels and restau­rants fol­low­ing suit.

The pol­icy might have been in­tro­duced with hos­pi­tal­ity staff in mind, but it was a hit with din­ers and ho­tel guests, who ap­pre­ci­ated the fact that pay­ing the bill no longer in­volved anx­i­ety.

This guess­work costs us more than frayed nerves. A study by com­parethe­mar­ found most Bri­tons over­tip on hol­i­day; on av­er­age, we over­tip by £78 a day, out of sheer awk­ward­ness. Eigh­teen per cent of us have found that con­fu­sion over

Will my com­pan­ions think I’m a mug or a miser ac­cord­ing to how much I give?

tip­ping eti­quette had a neg­a­tive im­pact on their trip.

The prac­tice of tip­ping isn’t just ar­chaic (in­creas­ingly so in a cash-free, card-re­liant so­ci­ety), awk­ward and ex­pen­sive. It’s un­fair to both par­ties; the staff who aren’t be­ing paid a con­sis­tent, liv­ing wage, and the cus­tomer, doomed to over­tip out of guilt and con­fu­sion. There is enough con­fu­sion in my life, with­out hav­ing it as a side dish ev­ery time I eat out when I’m abroad. So if you’re a fel­low mem­ber of the anx­ious tip­pers club, it’s worth seek­ing out and sup­port­ing this grow­ing num­ber of tip­in­cluded restau­rants and ho­tels. Our sup­port is a tip I’m happy to leave.

How much should we leave? Any tips?

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