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A good tip is to have plenty of loose change; How much do you tip, who and when are questions often raised by English travellers abroad - especially when visiting America. Travel Editor Lisa Piddington investigates.

A friend in New York had finished dining, paid for his meal and was about to leave the restaurant.

As he walked through the door the waiter grabbed him and said: "You forgot my tip". To which my friend replied: "Wear a coat in the rain".

As you can imagine the waiter was not too impressed, telling his customer never to return to that particular eaterie again, but the example highlights the difficulties of the English traveller abroad and the etiquette of tipping.

Who do you tip and, more importantly, how much do you give are questions that have concerned customers all over the world ever since the very first service transaction took place.

Apparently, the word tip is rumoured to be an acronym for To Insure Promptness and folklore has it that the practice began, if you can believe it, generations ago in England when an employee put a moneybox on a table with those words on the side of it.

In this country, in particularly, leaving a gratuity is regarded as a thank-you for good service and is not yet considered mandatory, leaving it up to you as the customer to decide how one should value the quality of the service.

However, I know many people who refuse to tip waiters, taxi drivers and hotel staff as they believe they are only doing their job and should always be working to a high standard.

But as anyone who travels around the world will know, to many - especially in the US - those little extras are seen as a boost to their wages and are often taken for granted, regardless of the quality of service offered.

In fact, according to Steven Shaw's New York Restaurant and Food Guide, a number of waiters' salaries, and restaurant prices, are predicted on certain tipping assumptions. He writes: "In New York there are certain rules. If you deviate from these then you need good reason. You should only use your tip as a protest in extreme circumstances."

In England, we tend to work on a general rule that ten per cent is fair enough - regardless of the standard of service we have received. Travelling across the States, though, and you will be expected to dig a little deeper, offering somewhere between 15 and 20 per cent, higher than most other countries around the world.

But then service across the Atlantic is rated more or less like this: 20 per cent for excellent service, 15 per cent for very good service and ten per cent for adequate - may be that says something about the standard of service we generally receive in this country. It is also the recommended practice to offer your gratuity based on the before-tax price.

Wherever you are travelling, however, it is wise to make sure you have enough change with you all the time as it can be embarrassing to be digging around in pocket after pocket to discover you only have large notes that you are reluctant to part with.

Then again, even the great Groucho Marx managed to escape tipping in his native America. In the film A Night At the Opera came the lines:

Groucho: Do they allow tipping on the boat?

Steward: Oh, yes sir!

Groucho: Have you got two fives?

Steward: Yes, sir!

Groucho: Well, then you won't need the ten cents I was gonna give ya.


Taxi drivers: A $2-$3 tip is usually satisfactory; more if he helps you with your bags and/or takes special steps to get you to your destination on time.

Airport/train porter: The standard is $1 a bag; more if your luggage is very heavy.

Hotel porter: Again, $1 a bag is standard. Tip when he shows you to your room and again if he assists you upon checkout. Tip more if he provides any additional service.

Doorman: Typically, a $1 tip for hailing a taxi is appropriate. However, you may want to tip more for special service, such as carrying your bags or shielding you with an umbrella.

Concierge: Tip for special services such as making restaurant or theatre reservations, arranging sightseeing tours, etc. The amount of the tip is generally dependent on the type and complexity of services provided - $2 to $10 is a standard range. You may decide to tip for each service, or in one sum upon departure.

Hotel maid: Maids are often forgotten when it comes to tipping because they typically do their work when you are not around. For stays of more than one night, $1 a night is standard. The tip should be left in the hotel room in a marked envelope.

Waiters: 15-20 per cent of your pre-tax bill is considered standard. The same applies for room service waiters. Some restaurants will automatically add a 15 per cent gratuity to your bill - look for it before tipping. If the 15 per cent is added, you need only tip up to another five per cent for superlative service.

From the American Society of Travel Agents.


Who are the best tippers, men or women? And why?

"Men - the women usually expect that they will sort it out"- Nugget Point Resort, Queenstown, South Island, New Zealand.

"Men - because they are usually holding the wallets" - Banyan Tree Maldives, North Male Atoll, Maldives.

"I would say men because they are gallant and tend to pay the bill, so they get more opportunities to tip" - Chateau Grand Barrail, Burgandy, France.

"Women - they are more carefree with their money" - Inn at Irving Place, New York.

"Definitely men. They are easily influenced by an attractive waitress and invariably pay by company credit card" - McCausland Hotel, Belfast.

"Usually the male partner handles tipping, although often the woman takes care of the bill" - Grasmere Lodge, Canterbury, South Island, New Zealand.
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Title Annotation:National
Author:Piddington, Lisa
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 15, 1999
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