By: Patrick Maguire
Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service
I love getting thoughtful emails from readers with questions, feedback, suggestions and stories. I received the following email a few days ago, and it raises an interesting question.
I read your blog all the time. It is a refreshing take on what we all talk about on a daily basis and truth be told, we all just want to be heard!
I was working last night (teaming with another server) and we had a table of 7 ladies, not originally from America, although they spoke pretty good English. Their bill was $590.11 and when they paid (cash) they left $600. Yup, $9.89, a 2% tip. Luckily, I work at a very popular restaurant in Boston and honestly although these kinds of tips truly hurt, we make great money, so what can you do? I am extremely grateful for the business we receive from all of our guests, and my level of service will never waiver based on any preconceived notions or stereotypes. It’s not in my DNA to provide less than professional service to everyone.
My question to you and your readers is this – How viable is the “Foreign customers don’t tip” mantra in 2010? My reality is that most of the lower-tipping or non-tipping guests are from outside of America. Most people have instant access to all types of information, and that includes the customs of the countries we visit. If I went to London, I would already know how popular soccer is and would not ask to change the TV channel to baseball. I would also know the custom for tipping at a restaurant in London to respect local protocol.
Whether it is a frame of mind from their country of origin or a lack of understanding, I (and many of the people in the restaurant biz) believe that the days of “They don’t know to tip 15% or more” should be over. There’s too much information readily available online to use ignorance as an excuse for poor or no gratuity for great service (poor gratuity for poor service is another story). Most people with a cell phone have the ability to research any subject, especially if they are traveling – Wouldn’t you want to know as much as possible about the area you are going to visit?
I am interested to hear what other restaurant professionals and your readers have to say about guests from other countries and how they tip.
Part of being a responsible guest in another country includes understanding the customs and cultural norms, and it’s also part of both the challenge and excitement of traveling internationally. So yes, international visitors should know the tipping protocol in American restaurants. Similarly, when Americans travel abroad, it’s incumbent on us to extend the same courtesies and respect for local customs and culture.
For the record, most Massachusetts restaurant servers make $2.63/hour. Hourly wages vary by restaurant and state. And yes, some do charge an automatic gratuity for large parties.
So what do you think?
What are your experiences when serving or dining with out-of-country guests or when visiting other countries?
Are the, “We didn’t know. We’re not from here.” excuses still viable when visiting other countries?
Please keep your comments respectful, inclusive and civil or they will be edited. Thank you.
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