THE question of whether and how much to tip is always a tricky one.
In Australia the minimum wage is $18.93 an hour — almost double the dismal US rate.
Guaranteed a basic wage of just US$7.25 ($10.23) an hour, American hospitality staff need tips to earn a living, says Dr Lauren Rosewarne: a University of Melbourne senior social scientist and specialist in ethics.
“Australia has a far better minimum wage than the US, and patrons shouldn’t feel the same burden of making up the difference in hourly rates through tipping,” Dr Rosewarne said.
Thanks to globalisation and the increasing movement of people, Australians are increasingly exposed to tipping, with jars commonly occupying counters in cafes and restaurants.
However, Australia had no expectations around tipping, Dr Rosewarne said,
“I’m neutral about tip jars to a point. When there are two jars for example, with one labelled Friends and the other Seinfeld, suggesting we tip to show our choice … this is one too many decisions for my day, and I’ll be turned off.”
She said deliberate tipping had its place. “If service is excellent — when someone goes beyond the call of duty — we should absolutely feel encouraged to reward service: a 10-20 per cent tip would seem appropriate in such situations.
“Hospitality workers, even when paid fairly, aren’t raking in a fortune, and thus patrons should be encouraged to recognise excellence.”
Dr Angela Knox, an associate professor of human resource management and industrial relations at the University of Sydney Business School, said people should not worry that tipping would push Australian wages down like in the US.
Wages were set by the award system and enterprise bargaining agreements, Dr Knox said.
She said tipping was “very important”.
“It’s important for the workers in the hospitality industry, because they are among the lowest-paid workers in the country,” she said.
Tipping let the sector maintain a higher quality workforce, Dr Knox said. A fine dining restaurant worker could earn $150, even $200 a shift in tips, while a corner cafe worker could gain $30 or $40 a week on top of the basic wage, she said.
“And that all helps. When you are the lowest-paid workers, everything helps.”
Dr Knox said that without tipping, much high-quality labour would vanish. She said patrons should stump up extra under special conditions — when service went above and beyond expectations.
TIPS ON TIPPING
• Never feel pressured into tipping in Australia.
• Remember that Australia has a good minimum wage.
• Tip when the service is excellent.
• Aim at between 10 and 20 per cent.
Originally published as Should you tip for good service?