Comparing Tipping to Paying Taxes? Get Real…

“T ipping is a custom that can be hard to comprehend and understand. Even a lot of people in America are opposed to it. But being opposed to something isn’t enough to ignore it… You can be opposed to taxes, but you still have to pay.”

This portion of a paragraph is from this article written by Ko Im for Yahoo! Travel in which an anonymous tour guide reveals his “pet peeves” about how the tourists he has served annoyed him.

“In the travel industry, tipping is the lubricant that keeps the machine rolling”, the paragraph continues. “You see cheap tours, excursions, and fares — what you don’t see is that many companies make their bottom line by assuming that tips will cover their employees’ wages. It’s a system that certainly has it’s ugly side but I would argue that tipping works on the ground level. If you’re willing to tip, you get your drinks and meals faster, and you get better service in the process. I’ve spent a lot of time in other countries, and typically those without a tipping culture tend to offer worse service.”

The first thought which came to my mind is the initiative announced where envelopes will be placed in 160,000 rooms at up to 1,000 hotel properties in the United States and Canada operating under the various brands of Marriott International in order to further encourage tipping members of the housekeeping staff. I certainly do not support that initiative.

The second thought was that — last I knew — paying taxes is compulsory; whereas tipping is not. Comparing tipping to paying taxes is ludicrous, in my opinion; as when a gratuity is mandatory, it is no longer a gratuity — it becomes a service charge. How would you feel if hotel properties starting requiring “mandatory tips” whenever you stay as a guest? I would feel the same way about them as I do about resort fees.

Despite acknowledging otherwise, what that tour operator who worked full-time in the District of Columbia may not realize is that tipping is not only not required in all cultures around the world; but some people actually consider it an insult.

Furthermore — to counter the last three sentences which concludes the aforementioned paragraph — I have also spent a lot of time in other countries; and I do not agree that better service comes with tipping. In fact, I have just concluded an unintentional trip around the world which involved nine countries within greater than two weeks. There have been times where I have left a tip and received poor service anyway; as well as times where I received great service without being required to leave a tip.

In other words, I would expect a statement promoting tipping from someone who would benefit from gratuities.

Through personal experience over the years, I have found that treating service providers with respect and dignity is appreciated enough to the point where better service is usually a result. The gratuity is simply the icing on the cake, so to speak.

Tips and gratuities have been a contentious topic for many years amongst frequent fliers — to the point where there has been discussion about whether or not the practice of tipping should be abolished altogether. After all, travelers encounter multiple situations — probably more than anyone else when such experiences as dining, tours and lodging in a single trip are factored into the equation — where a gratuity is either recommended or expected. The expectation of tipping on your part can get tiring quite fast.

How about when you are required to pay a service charge and are also expected to tip members of the service staff?

As I wrote in this article on April 26, 2013, I will tip when I darn well feel like it:

I understand the argument that service personnel — mainly in the United States — depend on gratuities due to low and even sub-standard compensation paid to them by their employers. They do deserve to earn a living and be compensated for their work. If those service personnel choose a job or profession which is reliant upon gratuities, then they need to perform their role as best as they possibly can — and unfortunately expect the occasional deadbeat to not leave a well-deserved tip. Others may argue that service personnel earn more than people think as a result of gratuities — but I am not about to tackle that debate here at this time.

The point I am attempting to make is that a tip should be deserved, not expected; earned, not required. If you are a service provider, did you offer a service of value to your customer — and did you do it exceptionally well? If so, that is how you will get a tip out of me. If not — well — that is up to me to decide. Not you.

Also — as I mentioned in this article from April 22, 2014 — I have always been against what I perceive as deceptive advertising. I want to know the total cost of what I am paying when I book an airfare — or a hotel room or rental car, for that matter; and I have always believed that the full price should be what is advertised. I do not agree that this should be applied to tips for hotel staff; but a guest might be more inclined to willingly tip hotel staff if not bombarded with other expenses — whether or not they are expected — which are not included in the advertised room rate.

As for tours, I rarely participate in them. I like to determine how much time I spend at any given location. There have been times where we spent too much time at a location where I had no interest in staying — usually a gift shop — and there have been other times where I wanted to stay longer and better experience a particular location. I also do not like feeling like I am being herded like cattle.

If tipping is to continue to exist, it should be because the customer wants to give the service provider something extra in appreciation for what he or she received — not as a fulfillment of an expectation or as a “lubricant that keeps the machine rolling.”

Service providers would ultimately like to have ideally well-behaved customers who tip well. I do have to wonder, however: would a service provider be more satisfied with a difficult customer who tips well; or an easy customer who does not tip at all? That could be worthy of an experiment to be conducted one day…

…but in the meantime, here is an example of a tour operator who does not deserve a gratuity at all — let alone get paid for the job she performed here…

  1. Yes! They should take away his paycheck and make his readers tip him, see how long that “experimental” attitude lasts.

    I do think that some jobs require better tips than others; something they’re doing communally anyway, such as DJing, or dog walking, (I’d even include bartenders here unless they treat you special)… Nice but not needed… Waitress or bellhop or anything that took extra physical or organizing effort to fit you in their usually exhausting workload is a must. Throw pennies at them if you can’t afford a full dollar because 50+ calls a day adds up. At the very least, a nice comment to management. It doesn’t pay the bills but would at least make them feel appreciated… and place them in a position to ask for a promotion.

    But assholes would rather tip $100 to show off at a restaurant than give $1 to the cleaning ladies who wiped their shit off their hotel room. The problem with tipping isn’t that it doesn’t work, its that there are too many motives behind it, and a ton of misconceptions.

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