Even Americans are getting sick of having to tip

In some places (notably the US), it can get very nasty if you don’t tip, even if your reason is sound. A few times in the past, I’ve experienced that excruciating moment when, upon hearing my Australian accent, a waiter has explained to me as if I were a child how they’re paid such a poor wage that they depend on tips and 25 per cent would be appreciated, thank you.


They are paid poorly. It’s as humiliating for them as it is embarrassing for me that they need to give this speech at all.

But nothing much has changed for worker conditions in decades (the minimum wage hasn’t been budgeted in the US since 2009) and tipping is the structure of that economy. I don’t think anyone begrudges the worker the tip; what people are questioning is the economic model.

It’s one that’s prevalent in the hospitality industry, from restaurants to cruise lines. Effectively, the restaurant diner has become an unwilling co-employer, without receiving any profits from the business.

Working conditions aside, what annoyed Americans in the survey were the creeping gratuities on just about everything these days – the automatic costs added to restaurant bills, cruises and tours, without the guest having the opportunity to decide whether the service is worth it.

Irritations include tips added to an online food order before it reaches your plate. Tips automatically added by card machines for takeaways, when the service is only putting something in a bag. Tip jars at cafes – and dentists (yes, it’s happening). The event of mandatory tipping of doormen, mailmen and hairdressers as an annual gift is common in the US. People have tip fatigue.


Australians have simply refused to go along with a lot of this – and we haven’t needed to, as our economy is structured differently, and our minimum wage is decent. But when we travel, mandatory tips can be a rude shock, especially when calculated daily in US dollars or euros on escorted tours. Even when it’s service compris [included] as in France, servers often expect more.

It’s less about the amount, as much as that’s painful when we travel, and more about the idea that a tip has become mandatory.

I’m not suggesting you withhold a tip in wealthy countries where it’s the major source of income for the server, and certainly not in poorer countries where it’s their lifeblood.

But let’s call tips what they are – not gratuities, but service levies.