Help Tourists Feel Comfy with US Tipping Standards

US Tipping Standards

Posted: Jun. 15, 2018

Summer is a popular time for travel, and your restaurant might start receiving an influx of international guests over the next few weeks. The new faces and positive reviews in online tourism forums might bring even more to your door. You’ll want to be prepared for one big cultural difference between the United States and the rest of the world: Ours is the only country that requests tips higher than 10%.

Tipping can be something of a travel nightmare for anyone, no matter how worldly. If you tip too low or too high, you are likely to leave a bad taste. Yes—even for tipping too much.

That’s often the case in Europe, as most servers are paid well and on livable wages. Too much tip could be considered insulting, because it may insinuate that the recipient is a charity case. If a server did a truly excellent job, then 10% may be left, otherwise, the small change left over would suffice.

Similarly, in Asian countries like China, Singapore, and Taiwan, over-tipping (such as 15% to 20%) would not be welcome. For instance, bartenders and servers in Singapore share a pure hospitality perspective of their work. They do not work harder or better to get a tip; instead, they aim to give their best service because it makes for a happier clientele and is a form of taking care of the community as a whole.

In fact, in these countries, there is often a “No tip” policy at establishments. Employees working in Singapore’s Changi Airport are even forbidden from accepting tips. When a restaurant or hotel does have a tipping policy, they add only 10% to the bill (which is considered high).

You can imagine international diners’ confusion when they come to the United States and do not know our customary tipping behaviors. For many, the addition of 15% to 20% is considered outrageous, most not knowing that the hourly salary of their servers averages at $5.09.

In some ports of destination, like Miami Beach, an 18% service charge is often added to the bill—much to the chagrin of locals and foreigners alike. After all, people do prefer having the option to tip as they please.

The idea behind an automatic gratuity protects the employees, yet it risks upsetting your clientele. There are other ways to get around this cultural hiccup, though. See our recommendations below.

5 Ways to Educate International Customers on US Tipping Norms

If you are located in a dense tourist area, you are especially encouraged to consider your international patrons. Because most foreign visitors are unaware of the US tipping culture, the best you can do is inform them in a straightforward way.

  1. Prepare table signage that explains how tipping is customarily done in the States.
  2. Insert a small note inside your menu.
  3. At the bottom of your menu, you can include a polite request to tip 15% for good service or 20% for excellent, and more if you felt the experience was outstanding. Otherwise, encourage patrons to talk to a manager about the poor service received.
  4. Another approach is to include tip suggestions on the receipt. However, this works best as a supplement to a separate note explaining US tipping norms.
  5. Include the gratuity automatically. Keep in mind that this often shocks foreign guests. If you choose to do this, you are strongly advised to include a short note in your menu.

Most cultural gaffes can be laughed or smiled away when both parties approach the situation light-heartedly and without anger. The majority of tourists don’t want to upset locals and will be more than happy to oblige local customs, once they are fairly explained.

Tipping culture actually varies within the States. Find out who America’s best and worst tippers are.

 

Posted: Jun. 15, 2018 | Written By: Emma Alois

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