Why Should I Always Tip?

So here’s a story of a meal I had this past weekend. We met my parents at an Indian restaurant for lunch on Sunday to celebrate my husband’s birthday.

Everything was fine except for the fact that after we received our food, no one came to check up on us to see if everything was all right. That was okay. The food was good, came out quick enough, and we were having fun watching my kid really enjoying eating.

Then came the dessert and coffee we wanted to order. My dad ordered his coffee and before any of us could say anything else, the server turned to leave. Then, I asked for coffee so he turned back towards us. He turned to leave again. Then, my husband asked for coffee and dessert so the server turned back towards us. As he turned to leave again, I asked him to hold on so we could all check what we wanted. It wasn’t more than a minute that it took us to decide. Finally, we got our full order in. But it was a little irritating that he couldn’t just wait 2 seconds to let all of us order without worrying that he was going to take off.

We got our coffee. Immediately after, we got our check. We didn’t pay right away because we were still waiting for our dessert (which was ice cream so really, it shouldn’t have taken longer than the coffee in my opinion). I took a look at the check to see if they had charged us for the ice cream. I figured if it was on there, then at least he had heard us and they would be bringing it over. As soon as I glanced at the check and put it back down, the server was back to take it away. He didn’t even ask us if we had paid. I had to stop him again to let him know there was no money in there and that we were just waiting for our dessert.

Finally, our ice cream came. Unfortunately, it was so frozen that we couldn’t eat it. We couldn’t cut it. We flagged someone else down to get a knife so we could split it 4 ways. I was hoping she would bring a steak knife because that’s what we needed. But we got a butter knife instead. We still managed to cut it but we still couldn’t dig our spoons into it to eat.

While we waited, we finally paid the check. Of course, that was taken right away by someone other than our server and returned to us with the change. While we were still waiting, our server then came and picked up the final bill with whatever change was inside of it. He didn’t asked us if we were finished paying or doing whatever we needed to do. He just assumed it was okay to take.

Now if there had been a lot of change, I would have protested. But there was only a couple of bucks in there. Which meant that the server left with a $2 tip on a $60 bill. That’s a 3% tip. We normally tip at least 15%. We had discussed though that since the service was really bad, would we be tipping that much?

It didn’t matter. The decision was made for us by a server who was just trying to turn over the table.

Tipping is something that can be a sore point for me. I have had friends and family who have worked in the service industry and I get the whole underpaid thing and the need to have tips to compensate for it. But shouldn’t tipping rely partially on the service provided? I don’t have it in me to automatically tip a good amount just because you did your job. At the same time, I will tip generously if the service was beyond what was called for. But that is my hard earned money and I did my job well so I could come to the restaurant and eat. I don’t want to just part with it because of societal expectations.

I think it’s unfair that we feel like we have to tip a certain amount automatically. A lot of us are in jobs where we don’t receive a tip for good customer service. A lot of us are in jobs where we feel like we aren’t compensated enough for the amount of work we do. But we deal with it. We don’t have an option other than to ask for a raise or to find another job. Why is there a double standard here?

With this particular experience, this server did as much work as someone in a fast food restaurant. He took our order and brought us food. There was no extra service. I don’t tip a fast food employee. So why should this be any different?

Maybe I’m missing something about the restaurant industry so if you would like to fill me in on those facts, please feel free.

A Cultural Norm

For those of you who have grown up in America, we are taught to do everything ourselves. Our goal in life is to be independent. It actually can become a problem because we don’t tend to ask for help even when we do need it.

Something else I encountered on our trip to India which is very different than what we have here is the idea of having servants. Almost everyone has them. Someone cooks, someone cleans, someone helps you with the kids. It’s very much the cultural norm.

Every day I’d sit for breakfast and someone would bring me food and coffee just by my request. It was very weird. I’m sure, on some level, it would get easy to get used to having so much help but on my 2 week trip, it wasn’t. There was a day when we returned from a shopping trip and we had a lot of bags with us. I did what I’d normally do at home which was grab all the bags I could and take them to my room myself. I did notice that a few people tried to help me but it just didn’t feel right having someone else carry my stuff.

It’s one of those things that is just a part of the culture in India. I can see both the good and the bad sides of having servants. On one side, there is a class system in place and there are people working for you. On the other side, these are people who are getting a good job, food, and a roof over their head. They have the opportunity to make money for themselves and their families that they might not otherwise have.

I don’t know if there is a solution or a chance to change this or if it’s something that even should be changed. I just wanted to mention it because it was definitely something out of my comfort zone while we were traveling.