Starbucks: Tipping the balance

Posted on by Mike Evans

The plan by Starbucks to add a tipping feature to the iOS app is a bad move and I hope it doesn't come to the UK. Tipping, in general, is an out-dated and stressful procedure that has no place in modern society. Custom varies from country to country, of course. In Germany or the USA, for instance, it is customary to tip bartenders while in the UK this has always been unknown. In fact, the USA is the Mecca of the gratuity. The practice is particularly annoying in restaurants where customers are expected to leave at least 15% in cash, irrespective of the level of service. I have even seen 20% passed across the table, something that I find totally outrageous. Woe betide the diner who fails to tip a waiter in the USA. Friends have pointed out that some staff are paid very little and expect to live on tips. Well, this doesn't justify a rotten system.

Even worse is the idea of leaving an envelope full of dollars in an hotel room is totally alien to all Europeans. I just refuse to do it.

Here in Britain tipping is mercifully restricted to taxi drivers and hairdressers and, perhaps, the bellboy in an hotel on occasion. Even restaurant staff no longer expect cash tips because, in the vast majority of cases, a service charge of 12.5% is automatically added to a bill. Even that I object to because the menu prices should include the full cost of running the establishment without resort to charity. But it is at least straightforward and removes some of the anxiety. I never pay more; people working in a service industry should not expect to be bribed to do their job properly.

Why should anyone expect a tip? I think it is actually demeaning and it is up to employers to pay an living wage. Shop staff and others performing a service for the public do not expect gratuities, so why does the practice linger with hair cutters, taxi drivers and a few other select individuals?

The last thing we want is for a simple and useful pay-by-phone coffee app to start prompting us to add a gratuity.


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