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 Perspectives of the Tipper and the Tippee

by Allan Wich, January 2008
  • tip:  a small sum of money given to someone for performing a service; a gratuity
  • gra-tu-i-ty: a gift of money over and above payment due for service, as to a waiter or bellhop

Tipping, is it necessary? Is it expected? Whatever happened to just good ole service without expecting the greenback?

All good questions and seem to spawn a myriad of debates on behalf of the tipper or the tippee.  Who’s perspective warrants more weight? Well lets see:  maybe the tipper, since the gratuity is one directional; I mean, lets face it, it’s not a reward just for performing at status quo.

Staying at a Hotel, Motel or Bed and Breakfast and facing the daunting decision at the end of your stay as to whether or not to leave a tip to any one or ones?  Well, believe it or not, the choice is yours.  First, use your own criteria to determine if in your mind one was warranted and second, can and will you reward their efforts?  No one is keeping score, just you, you and you.

The only exception that I find ethically challenging is when a food establishment calculates the possibility of tips into one’s salary package.  Yes, the wait staff usually knows this in advance, but there is always the unknown attitude of the guest regardless of how one might perform.  Ok, so before you say it, yes, take that into consideration before you accept the job.  That’s an ok point of view but what if that was par for your place of employment; the possibility of financial rewards being dangled out there by the management but influences above and beyond your control determine whether or not you will actually receive such gratuities, even after you had earned them…not so great huh?

A tip by definition is a gift reflecting ones appreciation for a job completed over and above benchmark expectation and should not be considered as obligatory or mandatory at any establishment, especially if you are dining out with a party of six or more.  The wait staff would be serving you individually anyway, so the truth here is that the restaurant is forcing you into a position of paying a ‘gift’ where one may not be earned because the wait staff might not have as much opportunity to reach their benchmark quota of tables increasing their field of opportunity for additional gratuities; all because the management calculate tips into salary packages.  Not sure I like that business plan; insult your customer while you are serving them in hopes of their return and some referral, kind of like biting the hand that feeds you.  In my opinion, this type of business plan can cause a long term, less that optimal result for the establishment.  If you have to toot your own horn, is it worth tooting?  In these particular situations the wait and service staff may find themselves mere ponds in a game to capture membership mindset.  On the flip: if you go out for a meal, treat you’re severs with dignity and respect, they are there to serve you but are not your servants. 

Having been a Housman for a few years at the beginning of my working career, I can attest first hand to some of the conditions those in housekeeping are ‘exposed’ to: from naked guests calling the front desk to have more towels delivered to their room, to a myriad of spent products left behind from guest’s nocturnal achievements.

Maybe the next time we leave a tip, especially to those in the housekeeping venue that seem to be bypassed more than other service related employees, leave what you feel is a conscious amount based upon your appreciation of their efforts, and what your wallet will bare.  If tips are calculated into your room rate then this is a mute point unless you feel like contributing.  If you decide to leave gratuities, I would encourage you to pass them on directly to those whom provided service and shake their hand and let them know you appreciated their efforts; it is in those personal exchanges where relationships are built.  Brand identification is not just one directional, gestures from guests to the establishment also help define brand and mark.

Maybe the next time we receive a tip, appreciate the air in which it was given and feel good about our efforts whether or not they were, in our own opinion, “extra and over the top” or just our personal acumen.  If you did not receive one when you felt it was duly earned, you have three choices: (1) chase down the guest and ask ‘so what’s up’ (2) be proud of the work that you did and know that with similar efforts rewards are to come, and (3) accept the situation, understand there might be circumstances at work you are unaware of and appreciate the opportunity to have been of service in the first place.  Humility will go along way in our profession and will prepare a proper environment for our healthy longevity.

Allan Wich is a memeber of the hospitality group within Ankrom Moisan Associated Architects in Portland  Oregon. Allan can be reached at

Allan Wich 

Also See: The Gratuity Revolution / John R Hendrie / August 2005
Diners and Restaurateurs Endorse Zagat's Bill of Rights for Restaurant Customers - Tips to Help Consumers Secure Their Rights in Restaurants / May 2000
Tipping - Still a Mystery to Many Consumers / April 2004
Dining Patron Refuses to Leave Mandatory Tip Due to Poor Food, Service; Restaurateur Calls the Cops and Patron Charged with Theft of Service / September 2004
Tipped Employees Still Miss the Halcyon Days of the Late 1990s; Competent Service the No. 1 Predictor of What a Gratuity Will Be / December 2003

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