Tipping in the UK

Old Oct 2nd, 2014, 01:14 PM
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This is always an interesting question for me. I do not understand why Dickie's parents had uneasy and awkward experiences regarding tipping in the US, since there is a widespread understanding that you tip 15-20% in restaurants. There is no real decision involved.

On the other hand, I feel uneasy and awkward about tipping in the UK because I keep hearing and reading different opinions about how much and when to tip, so I am never sure I am doing the right thing. The article linked in the original post is a case in point. It describes misunderstandings among the Brits themselves about the difference between a tip and a service charge. It also says that a 10% tip is widely agreed upon in restaurants.

From the article:

"Most of us know it is appropriate to tip a waiter 10% or more at a restaurant but it’s not always clear where to tip elsewhere – or how much."

This conflicts with opinions I have heard here on Fodors and in this very thread. The article goes on to say one should tip 10% on metered, licensed cabs and it advises tips in hotels to porters, doormen and housekeeping.

This is a British publication. But British opinions certainly differ, or so I read on these threads. So I am not nearly as secure about how to follow local custom as I would like to be.
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Old Oct 2nd, 2014, 01:32 PM
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Nikki

I explained why my parents refuse to tip, it follows through from all the comments from the other Brits on the thread.

I hardly ever tip in Britain, anywhere.

Here in Scotland, it is just not the norm at all.

Taxis, yes we would "keep the change" if the charge came to £9.

If some restauarants in London, and that is the area where the it is most apparent, add service charges then I pay it, under protest and I tell them.
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Old Oct 2nd, 2014, 01:42 PM
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"I do not understand why Dickie's parents had uneasy and awkward experiences regarding tipping in the US"
I do ! You have to make sure you have enough $1 or $5 bills to last you through the day and you never stop tipping - the housekeeper, the receptionist, the man who hails a taxi for you, the taxi driver, the beautician, the podologist, the hairdresser, the waiter, the maître d'h and so on.
It is begging on a national scale To European eyes, it's awful to have to rely on tips to make a living, it is worse than in some third world countries
Then on top of it there is the sales tax .......... and you never know how much you are going to spend on any given day
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Old Oct 2nd, 2014, 03:07 PM
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Tipping and sales tax are definitely irritations for my Italian husband when we're in the US. The tipping he leaves to me. The sales tax he grumbles about, and I must say he's got a good point. Different items are taxed or not taxed in different places, not only at the state level but also at the city level. When you see a t-shirt for $9.99, you never know what it really costs. In Europe, the VAT is always included in the displayed price of retail sales.
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Old Oct 2nd, 2014, 03:13 PM
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rubicand….. why oh why did you go to Sardi's….. it's reputation for just what you described is well known. (At least among us New Yawkers…) They should have tipped you for walking in the door.
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Old Oct 2nd, 2014, 07:16 PM
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I think the bottom line is that people are most comfortable doing what they are used to doing. When we are out of our comfort zone we are more afraid of doing the wrong thing, at least I am.

I really want to follow local customs. It just isn't always clear to me what the local customs are. I am more comfortable if there is a solid rule that I can follow, and I hear too many mixed signals about tipping in the UK to be sure I am doing the right thing.
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Old Oct 2nd, 2014, 11:39 PM
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Nikki, I'm with you that the rules are not very clear in the UK. That is down to the fact it is really four countries and one of them has a major international city where the rules are distorted by the non-locals.

In England, say please and thankyou like mum taught you. Actually this goes a long way to making it all work.

On tips, Basically, never, ever more than 10%, always after the service not before.
Only to restaurants, taxis and hairdressers and normally just round up to the nearest 1 or 5 pounds (dependant on size of total bill), only exceptional actions require 10% (these people are not beggers). Service charge cancels tip.

Never wave your money about unless you are in a strip joint (yes sir we've all seen one of those before and "normally younger and bigger" as they said on the West Wing once).

Certainly don't wave cash around in central London as you may end up in a waving contest with some serious dosh.
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Old Oct 3rd, 2014, 12:10 AM
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I think Nikki is spot on.
While the US has established a more or less solid tipping culture (15-20%), most other countries have not. But some have even an established "non-tipping culture".
But even when insecure about the tipping culture (well, you could look it up in any travel guide or ask your hotel concierge), falling back to your home tipping culture is not the default solution that will get you the "best service".
In fact, your idea of "best service" may be miles away from what the locals expect.

With some generalization, I think that Americans seem to (like to) interact with "their waiter for the evening" much more (customization of meals, recitals of the "specials" and options of side dishes, frequent checks if "everything was still allright") than it is the norm or habit in other cultures.

Personally, I sometimes feel almost exhausted when I am finally done with the ordering procedure in the US - and I feel that I should get a 10% tip for navigating through the trillions of options that seem to be necessary to order a steak with fries and salad. ;-)
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Old Oct 3rd, 2014, 03:52 AM
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"it's reputation for just what you described is well known. (At least among us New Yawkers)"

That's the problem Grandma. We're from the UK and were wandering down Broadway and saw it on W44th. Remembering the name from that song, we booked for that evening. If it's that bad all the time, how does it stay open, or is it mugs like us who keep it going?

It was very poor. My steak was awful and one of our party ordered strawberries as dessert and they were still frozen!
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Old Oct 3rd, 2014, 03:58 AM
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what country freezes their strawberries, madness
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Old Oct 3rd, 2014, 04:19 AM
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Many places cater for the tourist trade and know that they won't return.

Angus Steak House, anyone?
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Old Oct 3rd, 2014, 04:29 AM
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"contest with some serious dosh."

I thought I had done alright in life.

Until I was nearly run over in Knightbridge last year, by a Bugatti painted in mirror silver - it had a Saudi number plate.
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Old Oct 3rd, 2014, 06:52 AM
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Cowboy1968, one of my pet peeves during my last stay in the UK (99-2006)was breakfast. It came one way, the way they decided to cook it.

Typical dialogue with the server would be:

Server: 'What would you like to have?'
Me: 'I'd like your full breakfast'
Server: 'OK' and if I wasn't quick enough to say something like, 'hang on, I'm not finished ordering', the server was gone.

In a hotel or city restaurant where they are used to visitors from other countries that doesn't always happen but in a less tourist frequented area it is the norm.

I like my eggs over easy; my bacon crisp; whole wheat toast not served cold and unbuttered in a little toast caddy. Obviously, the server cannot know that unless I'm asked or tell them voluntarily. But the idea apparently is that everyone who orders a 'full breakfast' wants everything the same way as the cook decides to cook them that morning. Generally, for eggs, that means done sunny side up until the yokes are hard.

What I learned to do was not order the 'full breakfast' but instead to list each item. 'I'd like 2 eggs over easy, a rasher of crisp bacon, no beans, some fried tomato not burned and 2 full slices of buttered while warm whole wheat toast.' Invariably, I'd have to explain some of that to the server.

The funniest incident was in a small hotel in the Scottish Highlands when a young server (maybe 16, working a weekend job)responded to my request for 'brown toast' (a slip from whole wheat to the term used in Canada). She replied, 'all toast is brown' while looking at me like I was an alien from another planet.

She was right of course but it makes Canadians laugh to hear that story. In Canada they refer to white bread and brown bread so 'toast' is white but 'brown toast' is brown bread toasted.

But I agree Cowboy1968, that the choices can be overwhelming sometimes in a N. American restaurant. Normally, if you don't specifiy how you want your egss you will be asked. If you make the mistake of saying, 'well how can you do them?' you might well get the response, 'sunny side up; over easy; scrambled; poached; soft boiled; hard boiled.' If you ask what kind of toast they have you might get the response, 'white; whole wheat; marble rye; sourdough; dark rye; pumpernikel; or our signature doorstopper toast.'

The difference is as you say, in N. America people expect to interact with the server and expect to order exactly what they want, the way they want it. A menu is simply a 'guide' to what the chef/cook has on hand to work with.

I might happily just order 'the 10oz. New York cut steak with fries and salad'. All I would really have to add is the salad dressing I wanted and how I wanted the steak cooked. (Something also hard apparently for some restaurant cooks in the UK to understand. What is a medium rare steak.)

But I have a friend who in order to order that would need to know, is the steak fresh or has it been frozen; how is the steak cooked, on a grill over charcoal or how; where is the beef from (geographically); how are the fries cut (julienne, thick cut, etc.; what is in the salad including, what kind of lettuce is used; what dressing do they have to offer; if there is a house dressing what is in it.

Given that he may inquire about 2 or 3 different basic choices on the menu, it can take a server (pity the server who doesn't know the answers) several minutes to go through the items and get to an order from him. That server earns his/her tip believe me.

The classic example of course is Jack Nicholson trying to order wheat toast in a diner that has a 'No Substitution' policy. Hilarious.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wtfNE4z6a8
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Old Oct 3rd, 2014, 07:04 AM
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"Never wave your money about unless you are in a strip joint"


I was about to say that I had never been in a strip joint. But then I remembered the drag show I saw a couple of days before Christmas a few years ago with my daughter in Key West. There it was essential to have dollar bills to slip into the drag queens' (increasingly sweaty) cleavages. It was my then 27 year old daughter who figured this out and got change from the bartender.
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Old Oct 3rd, 2014, 07:12 AM
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>>what country freezes their strawberries, madness<<

bilbo, I distinctly remember going with a group of people in the last few weeks of my university career to a much-reputed country pub for an evening meal: smoked salmon, salad and strawberries for afters ( it cost 11s. 6d, which dates it rather). And the strawberries had obviously been frozen, and drenched with alcohol on thawing. Mind, it was one of those pubs run by a "character", so we didn't care.

>>She replied, 'all toast is brown' while looking at me like I was an alien from another planet. <<

You've been watching Victoria Wood's "dinnerladies". Or she's met the same waitress. (My mother was once amused by a waitress in Edinburgh who announced they were serving spaghetti bolomayonnaise).

The ultimate on tipping in the UK:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6aYLOf8CUQ
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Old Oct 3rd, 2014, 09:50 AM
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I really want to follow local customs. It just isn't always clear to me what the local customs are. I am more comfortable if there is a solid rule that I can follow, and I hear too many mixed signals about tipping in the UK to be sure I am doing the right thing.>>

nikki - what bilbo said. Basically, tipping in the UK is an art, not a science.

sojourn - if your biggest problem with service in the UK is that they don't ask how you want your full english breakfast cooked, then you really haven't got much to grumble about, have you?
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Old Oct 3rd, 2014, 10:02 AM
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>>There it was essential to have dollar bills to slip into the drag queens' (increasingly sweaty) cleavages.<<

I'm just trying to imagine the reaction from Lily Savage in her prime had anyone tried that on her.

Actually, waving a note in a very crowded bar is a recognised way of indicating that you are waiting to be served and not just propping up the bar like all the other inconsiderate people.
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Old Oct 3rd, 2014, 10:59 AM
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I didn't say it was the biggest problem annhig, I said it was a pet peeve. One of many annoying things I find common in the UK.

There is also the inability of so many restaurants to cook a steak medium rare. 90% of the time it comes well done, while the other 10% of the time it's as tough as shoe leather probably is.

Or there was the time I ordered 'Tuna salad' shown on the menu in a pub on Edinburgh's Royal Mile. What came was a half can of tunu (I knew it was a half can since it was a half circle with the imprint of the bottom of the can still visible)served on top of a couple of leaves of limp lettuce. That was indeed their idea of what 'tuna salad' was. It bore no resemblance whatsover to any of these:
https://www.google.ca/search?q=tuna+...wQsAQ#imgdii=_

Patricklondon, the 'brown toast' is a true story which I personally experienced about 10 years ago. Perhaps, I've told it enough times that it has filtered through to Victoria Wood and been plagerized by her. Or, as you say she has had the same experience. But would Victoria Wood being a Brit have asked for 'brown toast' do you think?

The video, while mildly amusing takes far too long to deliver what humour it does deliver. Even that is slow service it seems.

I once asked a hotel receptionist what the price for a room was per night. Her reply was '100 pounds (or whatever number) per person'. I then said to her, 'so what is the price of the room for 1 person?' She replied, 'It would be 200 pounds for a single person since the price of 100 pounds per person is for 2 people sharing.' Then I asked, 'and for 2 people?' She replied, '100 pounds per person as I said'. I said, 'so when I ask you what is the price of the ROOM per night, why don't you simply tell me 200 pounds? Do you think that 2 people sharing a room will come down in the morning and each pay you 100 pounds? Is that normal with most of your guests?'

You rent a ROOM in a hotel, not a bed per person. A bed in a room is what you rent in a hostel.

Then of course there is the whole driving on the wrong side of the road pet peeve. Why they can't learn to drive on the RIGHT side I'll never understand.
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Old Oct 3rd, 2014, 11:36 AM
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I wonder what that hotel receptionist's first words were after ST moved away?
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Old Oct 3rd, 2014, 11:45 AM
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Cold, surely you know the answer: she turned to her colleague and said: "You know, Mavis, if he had slipped me a four-times-folded twenty, he could have had the room to himself for £50."
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