As tipping becomes more and more common in the UK (and yes tips have probably always been best practise here but I’m sure we all remember a time they just didn’t happen for the most part, for whatever reason) the question I often see crop up is ‘should you tip bad service’?With the list of those we’re expected to tip growing and the percentage seemingly increasing every 3-5 years, does there ever come a time where you have to say enough is enough and not tip at all? I remember not tipping in America when we had received truly terrible service, only to have the manager all but attack us in the street once we had left. It took a lot of talking to explain that we would not be parting with money for service when the service had been at first non-existent and finally so terrible we would have preferred to go back to the non-existent service. Why on earth should we part with our money to have man wipe his hands on our napkins and greet my dining partner with a racial slur?
The thing is in America is it not uncommon to complain about bad service or to send food back but here in the UK it is virtually unheard of (I wrote about complaining here). It’s not that bad service is expected but we do put up with it or complain afterwards to our friends and family. Often even when complaining to managers we’re seen as odd balls or troublemakers. The friends and family we’re out with hastily beg us not to make a fuss or to ‘just leave it’ because often (not always but often) it won’t be handled well and everyone just wants to get on with eating their cold food. I have actually been out with people who are given the wrong meal but they ate it rather than asking for it to be changed and then tipped at the end, even when a long list of other problems cropped up. In the words of social media from 2011 Da fuq Britain?Recently I took a taxi trip across Salford with a colleague and the driver was not only a terrible driver but he blared the radio at such a high volume (despite our protests) I started to feel like I was at a rave in 1994 but instead of playing dance music, said Ford Sierra rave was whacking out a Simply Red remix. When we reached our destination he more or less threw our baggage at us from the boot when we asked for a receipt and yet we still gave him a bloody tip. We’re mugs.
Mr Thrifty and I have had some terrible service in restaurants over the years and we’re always in a quandary when it comes to tips, again we are mugs. I’ve worked in the service industry and appreciated tips but I saw them as a bonus, I never counted on them. If I had for some reason given bad service or there had been a problem with the food I’d have been surprised to receive a tip – although if I’m honest I was surprised every time I did get a tip, mostly because I’m a surly faced bitch at the best of times.In the last year or so (apart from the taxi incident where I actually think we were scared of this guy) I’ve all but stopped tipping poor service and let the ‘tut’s wash over me. I’ve taken to complaining a lot more and asking for the manager when I’m not satisfied, I’ve even asked for the automatically applied ‘discretionary service charge of 15%’ to be removed from my bill on a couple of occasions. I’m very discreet about it but I do see eyebrows raising both from the staff and above the peepers of my friends. They don’t want a fuss, my friends would rather shove a tenner on a plate and the managers would rather not hear it. But I’m not made of money and eating out or going to the pub is a treat and the service is as much a part of the experience as having my belly filled so I don’t tack on extra if I don’t receive it. I wouldn’t pay for a drink I didn’t receive, so I’m certainly not tipping service I don’t receive
Here’s the break though, I worry – I’m a born worrier. I worry the person giving me poor service is doing so because they are being ground down and forced to work long hours for very little, or if this government is anything to go by – nothing. I worry if I don’t tip them for their rubbish service they won’t be able to feed themselves or their family and then I go home and wish I hadn’t gone out to eat for my one treat that week. This kind of stuff keeps me up at night. What do you think? Should you only dine out if you can afford to add 15% on top even if the service is terrible? Should you only tip exceptional service? Should Brits catch themselves on and start demanding decent service? Also who do you tip, where is the break off point? If people working in a shop and in a bar are earning the same for a similar job (effort wise) why does one get a tip and not the other? Where do you draw the line, what constitutes bad service to you?
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