The USA tipping culture is becoming beyond a joke and the Americans are causing the problem!!
Let me start with the definition of gratuity.
The definition of gratuity is a sum of money given to someone who provides a good service or a favour as a way to show graciousness or thankfulness.
I have just returned from a three-week vacation in America. Yes, I stayed in luxury hotels and ate at high-end restaurants, but by the end of the vacation I worked out that I spent over a thousand dollars in tips over this period. This left a bitter taste in my mouth. I asked myself whether I should be obligated to pay a tip for the bare minimum, such as putting a towel on my sun lounger, giving me a drink at the bar, opening a car door or valet parking my car and tipping the waiter for a breakfast buffet that I was serving myself. In particular when paying five star prices for five star hotels and for luxury restaurants. At what stage does the five star standard and service stop being five star? When do you have to tip for absolutely everything!! The Americans make the situation worse by feeling obligated to tip for anything and everything, They tip even when the service is bad if the waiter forgot their order or was rude to them — they just keep tipping. What is the incentive for the staff member to do their job well when they know they will get tipped anyway? Yes, I understand that not all staff get paid great salaries in America although the minimum wage in New York is only a pound difference to the UK now. I just don’t think it should be forced upon anyone. Especially when you are paying $500 dollars a night to stay at a hotel or $200 dollars for dinner an additional 20-30% tip on top is ludicrous.
I do tip on vacations, but generally at the end of the week and not for absolutely everything. I also tip for good, not bad service and not on an obligatory basis which is normally between 10% to 12.5%
Let me tell you what happened to me on a recent trip to America and Cancun while staying at luxury 5 star hotels like the Ritz, Four Seasons and St Regis. I encountered the same problems at every hotel I stayed in.
As I arrive at my first hotel in America via taxi on a fixed rate fare after a long flight from the UK. I pay the driver with a five dollar tip and he aggressively replies the tip should be twenty percent, I reply “no” here is five dollars and he tells me to f’’’ off it should be twenty percent, I am in shock but this is not my first experience of an aggressive taxi driver in the US.
My car door is opened and I am welcomed to the hotel by the bellman. He puts out his hand for a tip as I smile and shake his hand gracefully and say thank you without giving a tip (he opened my door for Christ sake!!). At the same time someone else from the hotel is unloading my luggage out of the taxi while I am checking in to the hotel, he eventually arrives at the reception desk and tells me that he has unloaded the car and has given the bags over to someone else that will deliver them to my room. He also puts out his hand out and I give him ten dollars. I am then escorted to my room by the butler who shows me where the bathroom is and how to turn on the light switch. Which as we know is not that complicated, but a Butler is one of the luxury things a hotel offers where you are obligated to tip again. On his way to the door as he exits our room he asks is there anything else he can do for us with his hand out and I give yet another ten dollars. Someone else knocks at my door as my luggage is delivered to my room and another ten dollars leaves my wallet. This is a real irritant to me why can’t the guy who takes the luggage out the car deliver it to my room why am I expected to tip twice for one job — this is wrong.
The last expected tip of the day is from house keeping as they deliver a pull out bed for my daughter that was pre-ordered before I arrived. I hand over my last ten dollars then I lock my room and go to bed. I had spent fifty dollars in less than twenty minutes of arriving at the hotel and I know it will continue throughout my trip as I will be staying at 4 hotels during this trip so that is at least $250 bucks in tips just for check ins.
The next morning I arrive for breakfast – which was included in my room rate – to unhappy unmotivated staff at the breakfast room. My husband and I help ourselves to the buffet, which was good. When we get up to leave the waiter chases after us with the bill. I said that it was included in our rate, and he replies yes but not the tip. As I open the bill I see there is twenty-eight dollars gratuity added, I got no service, not even a smile, but he created such a scene. What could I do but sign? This became a daily occurrence at the breakfast as the service deteriorated daily.
Next was the sun loungers obviously. I am not taking cash to the pool daily as surely that is the point of staying at a luxury hotel, signing things to your room. More importantly isn’t 5 star about having things like this done for you automatically, like a towel being put on your bed?. The towel was laid on my bed the first day, which was great, I told the guy that we left our cash in the room and would tip at the end of the stay. Anyway the next day he stayed away from us. I was waving for someone else to come over and help and no one was reacting. I ended up having to find the manager on duty and explained that, as I did not tip the day before the staff were no longer doing their job. I also reminded him that I was paying to stay at a 5 star hotel so expected the 5 star services that should come with this. The service should be automatic not just with a tip.
He apologised and it did get better, but I felt it was being done resentfully. The same happened with house keeping as I did not tip on day one and it became a daily battle to get the basic things done like the sheets being changed and the floor hoovered.
Any way after a few days I was happy to leave this hotel and make my way on to another one where the same process happened again with check in. At this hotel I also paid an additional $250 a day for club lounge which included 4 servings of food a day as well as unlimited alcohol on demand and no checks to sign as it was mainly buffet.
I was hoping to save a few bucks here and on the first evening the waiters were great offering me drinks and many extras I did not tip on day one as again I tip at the end of the holiday and Only IF I receive good service. On the second day I could not get anyone’s attention to help me get a drink or anything they were looking after the Americans as $20 dollars was pushed in their hand. I was livid I was paying $700 dollars a night to be treated equally not to bribe my way to get service and drink, I got the club lounge manager and addressed this and said I want a smile and a welcome as I enter, I want to be asked if I would like a drink not just if money is pushed in their hands. She apologised and things go better but not fully. As I went along to other hotels on route this continually happened.
It even happened at the airport when I was checked in at the American Airlines desk with my luggage. When the guy gave me my tickets and I was about to leave, he said I checked the luggage in safely and you should get it ok when you arrive. Any appreciation would be taken kindly. I said pardon, he then repeated himself again. I was a little taken aback, but I got out ten dollars as I wanted to receive my luggage. I felt like I was almost being blackmailed and my luggage held to ransom.
The same happened at Disney World. I paid $900 dollars a day for a VIP fast track guide for two days and as I did not tip on the first day the attitude of the guide changed and deteriorated on day two.
I really think that this needs to be addressed in America as it is the only country in the world where this seems to happen on systematic basis. Where are you expected to tip for everything and anything? I blame the managers and companies for allowing this lack of work ethic.
Where has the basic work ethic gone in America, of doing your job well and to the best of your ability? Also offerening good customer service because surely that was what was on the job description when they applied for the job.