When I jetted off on my first trip to the USA I frowned upon the thought of having to tip anybody who provided a service, whether it be opening the taxi door, making my hotel bed, or serving the evening meal. I was unaware, of course, that the waiter (for example) who served me my meal and topped up my wine was likely to be paid less than the minimum federal wage, which may be as low as $2 an hour.
Imagine working for $2 an hour and missing out on tips.
At first, I begrudgingly paid the customary gratuity but by my third visit to the USA my tips were generous and willingly paid. And the reason I handed over the cash was not because I felt sorry for someone earning $2 an hour but because they were providing me with exceptional service and in my opinion deserved the reward.
Back home in Australia, waiting staff are paid a wage regardless, the costs of which are passed on to the customer for the goods and services purchased. The service, in comparison to that provided in the USA, can be rather poor. Some rude, incompetent buffoons masquerading as waiters (who earn $25 an hour) I’ve had the misfortune to encounter locally I could happily have shaken to death or attacked murderously with my steak knife. I and other customers mean nothing to them. They’re going to get paid whether they provide a good service or not. Give me American waiting staff any day; ones who jump with a smile at the snap of a finger.
In a perfect world the custom of tipping would be a win-win-win situation for employers, employees and customers. But this isn’t a perfect world. It’s the real world and in a number of cases the only winners are the employers and the customers. As much as I find tipping can be the small price of a rewarding experience it doesn’t sit we’ll with me that employees are being screwed by employers and customers for the princely sum of $2 an hour.
Many visitors to the USA don’t like paying tips and will often avoid doing so. How humiliating it must be to work for $2 an hour cleaning rooms, making beds or clearing breakfast tables. Tick this is a big win to the consumer. They’ve received a service for free.
Whilst I’m happy to oblige to American customs when I’m in America, I hope this is one custom that doesn’t find its way to Australia.
Under an extreme right-wing government I think it eventually will.