~ Five Surefire Suggestions for Tipping ~
Travel means tipping. And who we can be expected to tip can include a long list: the tour guide, the taxi driver, the wait staff, the bell hop, the concierge, the housekeeping staff, the maitre d’, the tour leader, the sky cap, the restroom attendant, the shuttle driver…
Talk about tipping and people have a point of view. Articles on the subject certainly invite controversy. Money and how it’s spent can be a touchy subject as we enter into the delicate and somewhat sticky territory of a person’s wallet, i.e., their finances. I’m not sure if there are many other travel-related topics that you’ll find more differing and strong opinions and advice on. It can almost be the elephant in the room, the awkward moment at the end of a tour, a taxi ride, a meal …
Tipping practices also overlap into cultural traditions and customs as well as personal preferences and attitudes. In some cultures, you’re insulting them if you don’t tip, in some you’re insulting them if you do! Even the manner in which a gratuity is offered can be considered offensive or gracious. My personal take is that it’s important, as a guest in another culture and/or country, to be aware of and sensitive to what is appropriate and to act accordingly.
Unfortunately, quite often tipping is not a subject that has been discussed, much less agreed upon, in advance by fellow travelers. This can result in a few awkward moments for all involved thus making a little research and agreement beforehand all the more important.
Let’s face it, regardless of guidelines and protocol, some people are just cheap tippers and some tend to go overboard. I’ve even seen people become secretive if not defensive about what they tip. Often the most demanding can be the cheapest and the unassuming the most generous…it’s a funny business! Some milk it for all it’s worth then virtually stiff the staff (to put it mildly, tacky) and then there’s the “it’s their job” or “I’ll never see them again” rationale which is equally distasteful (and really gets my knickers in a twist)! If you’ve ever worked in a service industry you certainly know whereof I speak!
So, how do we know what to tip? Confusion over tipping practices is quite common. Do you calculate a tip after you subtract taxes? Do you deduct alcohol? What does the “service charge” include? There are all kinds of “formulas”. Calculators and Apps are helpful, but the problem is that tipping is not one size fits all.
For example, one prevalent misconception is over the service charge or cover charge often added onto the check in European countries. It is often mistakenly believed that this is or includes a gratuity for the server – which is not necessarily the case. It may be a cover charge because you sat down and it may include bread and amenities. More often than not their gratuity would only be the cash you would leave as a tip although a small gratuity is adequate (another reason to always carry local currency).
Another common misconception is about promptness or what can be perceived as poor or slow service when, in fact, in many other countries and cultures, a more relaxed and leisurely service is the custom.
So, what’s a traveler to do? I’ve narrowed it down to five helpful suggestions…
~ Five $urefire $uggestions for Tipping~
1. Plan and budget for gratuities: The fact is that tips and tipping are part of your travel experience. Gratuities should be included in your planning and in your vacation travel budget.
2. Discuss tipping with your fellow travelers: Agree in advance on your gratuity ground rules. If you end up dining with new friends, don’t be shy about asking them to pitch in their fair share or agree to split the tab ahead of time. (I’ve been willing to be “the collector” many times. )
3. Know the appropriate tipping guidelines and customs for your destination(s): Know and understand the terminology you will see on your checks/statements. Be sure your sources are current. When in doubt ask the concierge at your accommodation. Treat every encounter on its on merit.
4. Make a point to have small change and bills on you at all times: There’s nothing worse than not having change or small bills on hand when you want to tip. Be sure to ask your travel partner(s) to do the same.
5. Gratuities on organized tours, cruises or all-inclusive destinations: Read their recommendations and guidelines carefully. In some cases (e.g. cruises) gratuities are added onto your final statement. Before you depart on your trip, read all of the materials so that you know what is/is not included and what is expected. Be sure to note if tips are shared by the entire staff or crew in case you want to recognize certain crew/staff members.
(Ex.: Large cruise lines add on gratuities that are shared by the entire staff, smaller river cruise lines have suggested guidelines that are outlined in advance. Tours will typically provide specific guidelines as well.)
Some excellent tipping guidelines:
Conde Nast Traveler -Etiquette 101- Tipping Guide
What are your opinions about tipping? I would love for you to share your viewpoints.
Photos/graphics: All but Air Mail Stamp courtesy of freedigitalphotography.net