Saturday, 20 November 2010

Does over-generous tipping signify a need to be liked?

(I'd be very interested indeed to hear of other opinions on this issue.)

I've always been one to over-tip in restaurants, taxis etc - and I've wondered many times if the reason originates from a subconscious desire to be approved of, and specifically, for being gay, even if the waiter, taxi-driver etc gets no 'clue' that I am such. - Or is that too simplistic?
I regularly give tips of around 20%, but if the original charge is a relatively small amount I may give 50% or even more. Although at the time it makes me feel better, I then get to wondering if it's having the opposite of the desired effect; for example, are they going back and laughing at me with their co-workers for being such a 'soft-touch'?
I'm not proud of what I do but it's a kind of compulsion. Perhaps it's a compensating for low self-esteem? When I regularly used to go to restaurants with a group of gay friends they would look aghast at the amount of money I'd leave, and they'd try to get me to take some of it back, saying that they would never leave so much.
The etiquette of leaving tips in British restaurants is a mess anyway. No one knows what the correct way to act is, where you can never be sure that the money you pay on top of a bill will go to the waiter or to the business, and whether a so-called 'service-charge' (usually 10%, but sometimes 15%) has already been added to the menu prices when you get the bill, whether you think it's deserved or not (an infernal cheek, if you ask me!). In cases where I want to register my disapproval of a particularly poor quality of service, I just give them a mere 10%. (Hah! That'll teach them a lesson!). But the whole thing needs seriously sorting out. It's even been found that in some places the staff are watched on CCTV to make sure that they declare any cash picked up, which, if they are allowed to keep, is then deducted from their wages!; which rather takes away the whole point of giving a tip in the first place.

This issue connects to my previous blog about Lionel Bart who, also gay, was likewise profligate in his generosity - perhaps for the same reason as me; though of course, mine, in its relative modesty, can hardly begin to compare in scale with his!

I'd really like to know how others react to giving tips generally and how much they usually do give; always on the assumption, of course, that it's going to end up in the pocket of the person whom you want it to.


  1. If people don't like you because you are gay, they are still not going to like you if you are gay and a big tipper. Tips should be based on the quality of service .

  2. Yes, Bo. I know that your wise words are correct. Nevertheless there is still a need there which cries out to be satisfied even if the act is irrational and self0defeating. I suppose the crux of it is the necessity for 'self-control'.

  3. I absolutely hate to tip but Pete is completely the reverse and always leaves a 10% or so tip behind, anywhere we've been served with food.

    I think the reason I feel embarrassed about tipping is that I don't see myself as being fundamentally different from the guy who served me. I wouldn't expect her/him to tip me if I performed some similar service for them.

    I suspect that in Britain in many establishments it's going out of favour anyway and may well become a generational issue. Since we now have a minimum wage and commonly people leave one employment in favour of another if they don't like it, I reckon there's much less practical necessity than there used to be or may be in other countries.

    And I believe our friends in the US have a rather more religious zeal about their tipping, don't they?

  4. Your post resurrected a long dead memory about when I first learned about tipping. I must have been 4 years old, and we were at some restaurant. I remember walking by a table and finding a dollar bill on it (someone previous customer's tip). I grabbed the money and ran up to my mother all excited and said, "Look! I found money!" She made me put it back and tried to explain to me a little about tips. I remember the other folks in the restaurant looking at me with knowing smiles. LOL

    Greg and I don't go out much, but when we do we tend to be generous with the tips (20-25%). However, like you, poor service is reflected in our tips. There have been occasions where we have given 5% and even 0%.

    I cannot imagine a waitress laughing at a big tip. What I do imagine is a waitress concentrating on your appearance so she can recognize you the next time you come in and give you great service again in hopes of getting another big tip. Isn't that how it is supposed to work. Of course, that only works if you are somewhat regular with your visits.

    Here's another memory. A bad one. One time, when we lived in Chicagoland back in the 90s, our waitress stopped coming half way through the meal. We ran out of water and coffee and our dirty dishes remained. We waited and waited. Finally we went up to the hostess stand to ask for a bill so we could pay and leave.

    As we paid the bill we could look into the kitchen and we saw the waitress there seated, in tears with other staff all around her. She was in hysterics, nearly screaming, and then we heard her use this word: faggots. Was she referring to us? I always assumed so. It seemed she was having a complete meltdown for having to serve a couple of gay men.

    In the gratuity space on the bill I wrote in big letters, "Z - E - R - O !!! WORST SERVICE EVER !!!" It gave us the tiniest bit a satisfaction. Nowadays I'd get the manager and demand an apology and a free meal, but back then Greg and I were shocked and embarrassed and just wanted to get the hell out of there.

    Oh geez, this comment is waaay too long. Please forgive me.

  5. Not too long at all, Larry, though your telling of the Chicago incident wiped the smile of my face at a stroke. What a ghastly experience!; not much better than being physically assaulted. Don't blame you for wanting to exit swiftly, exactly how I would have felt.
    I feel reassured (and a bit surprised) to hear that you and Greg are also generous tippers; not because I wouldn't have expected you to be but rather that I thought being so generous as you are would have been frowned on in American society at least, if not more, than it is here.

    Micky, I do hope you're right and this whole tipping business is on the way out. It's long since ceased to be the special reward for exceptionally good service it was plainly intended for, and things have come to a pretty pass when tips are, in effect, DEMANDED and only declined to be given by the paying customer when service is outrageously bad - and even then its non-payment is usually resented! But the situation in the U.K. is really hopeless. No one knows what to do any more. Paying a restaurant bill has become a sort of 'ritual dance' in trying to avoid embarrassment. For me the thought of the ordeal of paying the bill hangs over the meal itself like an unwanted presence. I hate it! Only wish I could be as sanguine as you about the whole subject, but it comes down to the fear of offending others, which goes hand-in-hand with the need to be liked.

  6. Tipping isn't popular in Vietnam but I think generous tipping is a compliment to the service you've got.

  7. Yes, Vuong. That should be the way it works. But what at one time was a special reward for services beyond the basic has now become expected no matter what the service is like, even if it's poor; and is resented when not given. If we all could get back to the original idea we'd know where we were, but it's got a bit late now; well, certainly in the 'West' it has.

  8. Hi there Ray, I try to tip 20-25% as long as the person was helpful and courteous. I don't do that to get approval; to be honest I really don't care what most people think about. The reason I give those generous tips has to do with being lower middle class/upper lower class for most of my life and knowing how taxing most of those jobs are. You couldn't pay me enough to work with the public. Most people who receive tips have to work directly with the public. To me that means they more than earn that tip, as long as they meet my two previous criteria.

  9. Thanks for the comment, Kyle. It sounds like you are fairly certain that the tip you give will end up in the pocket of the person you wish it to. That's something we can't be sure of here in the U.K. where the whole practice has got so convoluted and open to abuse no one really knows where we are. Even if one asks the waiter or waitress sometimes they are told what to say.
    I'm not surprised to hear that you're a generous tipper; it goes with the rest of your considerate personality. If I was being of service to you(!) I'd feel additionally privileged to receive a monetary bonus. (Oh hell, should the last sentence be re-phrased? No, I think I'll leave it as it is.) But I wish I had your ability of shrugging shoulders at what people think. The need to feel liked, or at least not to cause offence, has controlled my entire life.