I find the practice of tipping to be endlessly fascinating from a purely psychological perspective. We Americans tip, or refuse to tip, for a vast array of reasons.
- To reward great service
- Out of fear that if we don’t we will receive poor service on future visits
- Simply because we are expected to do so, because the culture expects us to, regardless of service
- Because we believe those serving us wouldn’t be able to earn a livable wage without the tips
- To alleviate the guilt we feel from being served
And sometimes we don’t leave a tip because:
- We felt like the service was exceptionally poor (though more often I would bet we still tip, we just tip less than 15-20%)
- We are informed by the management that a service charge is built into the bill and tipping is not accepted at the establishment (though even then we might still leave a little extra money)
- We are visiting a country where tipping is not practiced
Perhaps a country such as Japan where, according to several members of the Fodor’s community, tipping isn’t just frowned upon, it is taboo:
No tips. We are there now. The bellman at the Hyatt actually refused. People here believe in service and are very polite BTW. Really enjoying the hospitality! ~jacketwatch
No tips! It would completely embarrass the recipient, invoking Japan’s tradition of EXCHANGING gifts. ~kja
Over on the City-Data forums, k374 throws a new wrinkle into the tipping mix though when he describes how a small cruise vessel handles tipping, as well as his thoughts on the matter:
So.. I just completed a 4 day cruise in the Galapagos islands … Now at the very end of the cruise came the question of tips. Each person was given two envelopes, one for the Naturalist/Guide and the other for the ship crew (it was a 16 passenger yacht so pretty small).
There were a few Americans, myself included and several Europeans. We did get together to discuss how much to tip. Myself and the Americans stated that 10% of the cost of the cruise (around $60) divided between the two envelopes ($30 in each) was good to which the Europeans started arguing like crazy. Some didn’t want to tip at all saying all this tipping stuff was BS, others wanted to put $5 in each envelope (c’mon now!!)
Then they started saying that we Americans can go ahead and they will refuse to give more than $5 in each envelope.
Why are Europeans so against tipping? The crew of this boat and the guide worked VERY hard during the cruise and I feel really deserved the tips but where shortchanged by these people which is quite pathetic!
As you might imagine, this provokes an impassioned discussion on the subject.
Why do people always stereotype whatever they don’t know or don’t understand (and always in a harsh, critical way)?! ~Miaiam
Different cultures have different norms. No one is right or wrong, just different. ~mels
I’m American and I’ve always hated the concept of tipping unless the service was exceptional. I mean, you’ve already paid for it – why should you be expected to pay extra on top unless you really want to thank the exceptional service? In which case, they should be grateful for whatever you give them and not think “Less than 10%?! How stingy!” It’s the expectation which gets to me ~PA2UK
Interestingly, according to Kerry Segrave in “Tipping: An American Social History of Gratuities“, the practice of tipping likely originated in Europe and eventually made its way over to the U.S. And shortly after it did an Anti-Tipping Society of America was formed in an attempt to stamp out the practice.
So while Europeans presumably aren’t stingy by nature, they might very well be something worse – namely to blame for the entire psychological mess caused by the practice.
Both the Fodor’s and City-Data threads are worthy of a click through, but the City-Data discussion, with over 250 posts at the time of this writing is where the action is at. Read both threads in their entirety: Tipping in Japan and Are Europeans just stingy??