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UAE residents now 'reluctant' to give tips.

Summary: Service workers now receive small or no tips at all from customers.

Ismail Sebugwaawo

When it comes to giving tips, UAE residents were not misers until a few months back. Several local surveys have revealed that the residents have a culture of handing out a tip to their favourite barber, car washer, delivery boys, and others. However, many people now think twice before deciding on how much tip they should give to service workers.

Two years back, a survey conducted by a Dubai-based online platform had revealed that almost half of the respondents used to tip "every time" or "most of the time."

According to the survey, the quality of service matters, as more than 50 per cent of the respondents gave tips only when the staff did a good job, and the amount depends on how happy they are.

But the increase in prices of products and services because of the introduction of the Value Added Tax (VAT) in the UAE seems to be affecting this generous culture of tipping. Service workers now receive small or no tips at all from customers.

Whereas some customers might seem reluctant about tipping, according to service workers, others have completely abandoned the generous gesture of giving out tips for their good services. Some customers said they felt like they had already been charged highly for products or services as the little money they usually spent on tipping is now paid in taxes.

Sinani Ayub Waguma, 30, who works as a server at a major food-chain restaurant in Abu Dhabi, said that when he joined the restaurant five years ago, they used to get good tips.

"It's our policy at the restaurant to treat our customers like kings by providing them with fantastic and first-class services so they come back again, and of course we waiters get good tips in return," he said.

But as of late, especially after the introduction of VAT, he added, things have changed and the culture of tipping seems to be deteriorating.

"I used to enjoy my job as a server because almost five out of 10 customers you have served, would tip you," said Waguma, a Ugandan national.

"But after the introduction of taxes, many customers feel that they spend more on the food, and tipping has become lesser and lesser, despite providing similar or even better services to them." In many parts of the world, a 10 per cent tip on a restaurant bill is seen as pretty standard to a waiter in the UAE.

Bangladeshi national Shajahkhan, 35, a barber at a salon in Mussafah Shabia, said:

"I have been working in this salon for six years and customers used to tip us almost every time they came to get a haircut. But these days it's hard to get a Dh5 tip from most of the customers."

He added: "We don't get high pay here but we have been relying so much on tips from customers to add to our salary."

He said the cost of cutting hair and shaving a beard is now between Dh25 and Dh30. "We used to get tips of Dh5 to Dh10 from each customer, but now many don't hand out tips," said the barber.

Mohammed Kamar, 32, a Pakistani worker at a car washing centre in Musaffah, said:

"I used to get tips between Dh30 and Dh50 daily after cleaning their cars as a gesture of appreciation. Now I hardly get Dh20 in tips a day."

Asiya Rafiq, 32, an educator for people with special needs in Abu Dhabi, said:

"Tipping expectations are tied to minimum wage levels. For example, waiters, barbers, workers in housekeeping, toilet cleaners, and other service providers can earn twice or three times more from tips than wages.

"So I always ensure that I give the workers 20 per cent of the total amount I have paid for any service." As the service industry is not paying high despite a recent increase in the cost of services, tipping some 10-15 per cent would be highly appreciated by the poor workers, she added.

"People should always keep the culture of tipping even when things have slightly gone up because I believe the more you give out to others, the more you get in return," she said.

Ismail Sebugwaawo

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Publication:Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Oct 6, 2018
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