Thanks, Captain Tips

>Back home, I don’t even think about tipping. I seem to remember having to tip everyone who provided anything remotely resembling a service around 15%, regardless of how shitty the service was. This was a system I condoned but never supported. I understand that a lot of great folks in service industries aren’t paid all that well and they rely on tips to shore up their wages.  However, if you suck at your job, you should be fired… not rewarded an additional 15% on the bill for being a dick.

In Korea, you didn’t tip. Ever. On anything. Or at least, you weren’t expected to. Some places were “Westernising” and tipping was a bit more heard of. On the other hand, some Koreans seemed absolutely horrified that you were trying to leave them extra cash and would chase you down, tackle you and try to put the money back into your pocket.

That was a slight exaggeration. But only slight. I had a cabbie leave his car once and follow me down the street in Itaewon to give me my 500 won change. 500 won is about 50 cents. Or 30p. And he made sure I got it.

This is the part that kills me: so often the service in Korea was phenomenal. They deserved a tip. And, in my most humble opinion… they deserved it more precisely because tipping isn’t automatic there. They provided great service and you felt compelled, not obligated, to do something extra and nice for them because they had done a great job for you.

Now I live in London, where the service is similar to Canader in most cases. Tipping here is somewhere in between the two extremes – some places have the service charge added directly to the bill, other places it isn’t even thought about. However, I am sure that no person in London would chase you down and try to give you the cash you left on the table.

Because of this ambiguity, I’m not always sure when I should tip. So I’ve invented some rules in my head – if they have table service, I tip. If I have to go up to the bar and get a pint, I don’t. I tip the hairdresser and the lady who does my waxing (I have a vested interest in keeping that woman happy… she’s got power beyond all others to hurt me in my most sensitive areas if she ain’t happy).  I don’t really think about tipping cabbies because I don’t ever take them (I sure the hell can’t afford a cab in London).  Overall, my system works. Of course there are exceptions (read: hot bartenders) but for the most part, that’s the way I roll.

Today I went for lunch at Pizza Express. I’ve been craving the Express for sometime (yummy pizzas, my lovely North American friends not in the know) and I thought it would be groovy to actually take my allocated hour lunch (rarely does that happen).  The service was very good and the food was deeelish.

The bill came and I noticed that the service charge was not added. I put down a £20 note and waited for my change – I wasn’t leaving the full amount of the change but I was going to tip £2 (the service was good).  When she returned with my change and the bill…. I notice she had underlined where it said that the service charge was not added.  She also underlined thanks.  Didn’t write thanks. Found it on the bill and underlined it.

It really put me off, to be honest. I still tipped her… but I don’t feel good about it anymore. If she had left me a mint (I wanted a mint) and wrote “Thanks!” and her name on the bill… fine. It was the way that she had underlined “service not included”. She might as well have turned the damned thing over and wrote TIP ME.

Bah. I’m probably over-thinking the entire thing. I’m sure she makes nought an hour, poor thing, and the service was good. Still, there are more subtle ways of trying to squeeze a tip out of a cheap Canadian miser.

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