One of the things I’ve noticed during my stay in London is how nice it is not to have a “discretionary but-not-really tipping system because if you don’t tip the restaurant workers won’t make enough money” scheme that we have in the States. During my vacation, I didn’t tip for take-out food and the most I tipped was £4 on a £31 tab for a sit-down restaurant (after checking with my English friend on what is appropriate).
It was such a nice change to not feel as if I HAVE to tip, and instead, save the good tips for the great service. It’s also wonderful to know that U.K. restaurant workers must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage of £6.19/hour, whereas in the United States restaurant workers do not have to be paid the minimum wage and therefore tips are expected to be part of their overall compensation.
We all pay for restaurant workers’ service. As a consumer, I would much rather pay a higher price for food/services (and know that the price I pay accurately reflects the cost of paying the people who serve these foods) vs. participating in a tipping culture where tipping for all intents and purposes is not discretionary.
Ah, but you say that a strong tipping system such as the United States prompts great customer service. I do see that servers in the U.S. tend to be a little more responsive, but I would disagree that tipping really enforces good service here. It is because that tipping has become expected – and there really is very little correlation between tipping and great service if 20% is now the “default” tip. So why don’t we just cut to the chase, bump up people’s salaries, bump up the prices that consumers have to pay, and stop the tipping madness?