CHINA / Odd News

To tip or not to tip? That is the question
by Shanghai Daily
Updated: 2006-03-11 14:57

As a Chinese, I am annoyed by the practice of tipping in America. In the United States you tip almost everywhere: You tip at hotels, you tip in restaurants, and you tip when taking a taxi. Why do we have to tip?

Does giving a tip mean that I am satisfied with the service of the bellboy? I don't think so.

Does tipping mean my compliments to the waiter? I guess not, since I have to give a tip to any waiter who happens to serve me. Even if I do think I enjoyed a meal more because of his service, then should I distinguish his service by giving him more? The normal tip is already 15 percent of the bill, which is not an insignificant amount. How much more do I have to pay on top of that?

Due to tips, taxi meters of in the US are virtually useless. American travelers to developing countries often complain about the lack of meters in taxi. But in the US, what the meters say is not the whole story. If the meter says 4 dollars and I hand the driver a 5-dollar note, I should expect no change back.

Tipping dampens the joy these services provide. To tip, according to the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, means to give a gratuity, which in turn, means something given voluntarily or beyond obligation. In reality, however, tipping is no longer a voluntary act.

Once I attended a buffet in the US. The price of the buffet was supposed to be all inclusive. However, as soon as we stepped out of the restaurant after paying the bill, one waiter ran after us and shouted at us to our astonishment.

He demanded that we give a tip, sounding as if we had committed a crime. We were really perplexed. One American student enlightened us with the fact that waiters lived on tips. How can we have the heart to deprive them of their means of living? Each of us tipped.

Then comes the question: Why do they live on tips while having a job? In other words, why doesn't the owner of the business pay a decent salary? He or she is surely making good money!

Money, in many people's eyes, is a symbol of status, and tips are automatically related to one's "kindness" and "generosity." I have to tip in the US however much I dislike it, since "when in Rome, do as the Romans do."

But I beg foreigners in China, where we fortunately don't yet have the culture of tipping, not to tip. If you feel bad about that, cumulate the tip money and send it to a charity.