Tipping culture: put some coins in the tray people!

Mark my words, us Brits could all learn a thing or two from those Yanks about tipping
Publish date:
August 16, 2012
money, tipping

Was I nice, courteous and friendly? Than leave me at least 10% please

My 65 year-old mum is a waitress at a chain restaurant steak house, and she’s brimming with stories about shoddy tips, like the time she served a table of 20 people and they left her £2. Or when she waited on some youths (or to paraphrase my mum, ‘vile young chavs’) and they left her a condom as a tip. Trust me boys, she’s not going to get any use out of that anytime soon, but good to know you’re practising safe sex. Consequently, she chased after the youths and chucked the johnny at them.

And this one, well, this one I just like. A man and his family tried to do a runner without paying their bill, but he’d made the schoolboy error of leaving his car keys behind on the table, which my mum discovered. And then she hid. Not only was the culprit forced to return, humbly pay his bill, but my mum withheld the now ‘lost keys’ for an hour or two as his penance.

But all these tales of my mum ‘getting stiffed’ as they call it in the waitressing game, inspired me to write this piece about tipping. Do you tip and if so how much? Do you tip bar staff, as is considered a totally normal practice Stateside? How about your manicurist or the lady who waxes your bikini line?

Fill that tip tray, and never, ever leave coppers (not the police, but 1p and 2ps)

See this is where I become unstuck and my brain goes beserk as soon as I start contemplating tipping. I used to tip my bikini waxer as it’s never going to be an easy job giving me a brazilian (I have a proper Jewfro – up and downstairs). But then I talked myself out of tipping her for the following reasons: She works for herself and comes to my office building, therefore all the money she earns is hers. Also, she became a friend, and I felt weird tipping a friend. So call me a tightarse, but I stopped tipping her.

Something else I totally obsess about is tipping my hairdressers. I pay £70 for a haircut by one of the top guys at my salon. Now if I tip him at least £5, then I have to tip whoever washes my hair, say what? £2? £3? If it’s a really lovely shampoo with a nice head massage and they don’t get water in my ears, and they manage to not stroke me out due to an uncomfortable chair, I’ll give them more. But what about if someone else blow-dries my hair, or another junior washes the colour out of my hair?

Have I brought enough change with? And the guy cutting my hair inevitably earns more than the juniors, so isn’t the tip more worthwhile going to the lowly paid amongst them? But they’re not cutting my hair, and I’m a hard customer to get right. I literally drive myself to the point of a panic attack freaking out over something which should be so simple. I don’t want to be stingy, but if I’m not careful, my £70 hair cut soon reaches £90, and the stress of it all, well I’m lucky my bloody hair's not fallen out.

Yeah, that’s not me in the picture – my hips and stomach look nothing like that. My pockets though, they’re identical

Then from one extreme to another, my husband tips anyone who brings food to our house at least £2, and they only drove the food over, they didn’t even bloody cook it. So delivery guys do well off us. Waiters and waitresses too. But hairdressers? Right now I really need a haircut but I don’t think I can handle the stress of tipping that goes with it.

When people pay a tip via a credit card, the money goes on to the employees wage slip, however they are taxed on this. Apparently this is not the case for all restaurants though, as it's now becoming quite common tips paid via credit cards now go directly to the restaurant and not the wait staff (bad practice!) So, it's always best to leave a cash tip, when possible. If in doubt, ask your waitress!

Dear xojane readers: What are your tipping rules? And finally, if you’re ever in steak restaurant in North London anytime soon, and a little brunette lady serves you, be nice and give her a few quid, that might be my mum.

Follow Danielle on Twitter @danigraph