Tipping points

Gratuities have always been an issue, and nowhere more so than in Europe, with the British probably leading the way on balance in terms of whether, when and how much they tip.

Tipping came to mind again recently with the sad passing of that great hospitality critic, film director and English treasure Michael Winner. His radio tribute reminded us of Michael’s determination to help us Europeans get it right regarding gratuities. We shared similar views in this respect.

In many ways North Americans have it correct. They value and identify service well. When it happens they are very prepared to award a service payment even to the extent of different levels in varying establishments. In Europe we are following the trend better than perhaps we used to. Good service is good service wherever it takes place.

The one thing, however, that annoys us greatly — and evidently Michael Winner felt the same way — is the practice of charging a level of service and then not closing the bill, but leaving space for a further gratuity. This has happened to us recently in both New York and London. It is discourteous, embarrassing and has an air of mischief about it. I also think it will inhibit us ever getting it right in Europe.

Many Europeans return from visits to the United States and comment about the constant expectation of service staff to receive a gratuity. Personally I think the general convention is a good one and is a major part of the North American pride and success in delivering high service standards and recruiting well. Eradicating what may be considered bad practice is, however, relevant in any area of operation.

Do you agree, and what are your current thoughts on the matter generally?