Should Australians tip at bars now?

A Melbourne bar, mid 2009. Coopers Pale Ales are $6.50, for which a $10 note gets you some change in coins.

The barmaid taps on the tip jar, in which there are a few loose coins rattling around, and says, “So are you going to leave a tip?”

Who asks for a tip in Australia? Now you are living the very definition of awkwardness.

Maybe 50 cents can buy you out of this situation. Maybe it won’t, maybe she’s vying for the $2 coin.  Stuff it, you give her nothing and answer, “No”, in a tone reflects the absurdity and awkwardness of the situation.

“And why not?”, she replies in a way that was as more a statement than a question.

WTF? What parallel universe have you stumbled into?

Well, you’ve been made to look cheap. Giving in at this point would make you look weak also. So you stick to your guns and reaffirm that “No”.

“Well you might as well tell me why not”, she asserts.

Holy Crap! Now you need to justify your decision.

***********

Okay, so this scenario might not have happened to you but it has happened, to me.

For a country of ‘non-tippers’, Australia is certainly awash with tip jars, change plates and credit card slips that conveniently have space for you to leave a tip. But these things go largely unspoken. Haven’t they always been there for ornamental purposes or for the change we couldn’t be bothered to carry around?

But I’m beginning to think that maybe the game in Australia is changing? There’s at least one barmaid out there who thinks tips should be standard in Australia. Is tipping something Australians should seriously start considering now? If so, why? What has changed?

I’m not against tipping, nor am I for it. I just want to know the rules and am just hoping to not have to justify every one of my decisions to service-employees, managers and those around me.

************

So how did I justify my decision in the situation described above, since I had to? Well, we had a bit of a chat about wage rates, overseas customs and the importance of service-employees. It was clear that during the conversation she was trying to convince me to tip her.

If I were less stubborn maybe I would have, but there was no tip from me.

However, the ultimate victory may have been hers. I haven’t been able to bring myself to go back there. Not sure why. Maybe due to guilt, or fear. Either way, I just can’t do it.

But the question is, for those of us who wish to avoid such confrontations, should we just start tipping from now on?

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7 Responses to Should Australians tip at bars now?

  1. Tight Arse says:

    All i can say about tipping is that it is an America-nism (if thats a word), thats seeped into european culture and is now (unfortunately) infested australia’s!

    Now tipping in the sense of paying for service above and beyond the call of duty, were merrited, I still believe it is at the discretion of the person who has recieved the service to tip or not to tip. Of course it is a little demoralising for the person who has put in the extra effort, but if it was a proper people orientated organisation, then that persons extra efforts should be captured in their performance measures, and be rewarded through that performance managment mechanism.

    I have no sympathy for your friend behind the bar. Either the lass looks for a better company to work for (or try prostitution)… But tipping for just doing your job, WTF?? if cash is an issue for her… heres a tip, get a higher paid job!

  2. Ains says:

    I only tip if the service is fantastic, I don’t think taking the cap off a bottle of Coopers warrants any kind of extra payment, the minimum wages here are much fairer than many other countries…so if you want a tip, work for it. No one tips me for doing my job….maybe cause I don’t do it well…meh

  3. Kim says:

    I think there is an interesting relationship between tipping at bars, skinny jeans and the mining boom. However this blog is not the vehicle for me to ramble on about this relationship.

    Tipping in bars. For opening a beer noone deserves a tip. Unless they open the beer with their teeth. Although that is unhygenic. And the reason why they don’t deserve a tip is because it is a simple, menial task. Imagine congratulating a PhD student for starting a blog? Or increasing a bureaucrat’s salary just for turning on their computer when they arrive at work? Ridiculous.

    However say you are at a bar over an extended stretch of time, drinking a fair portion and eating food whilst accumulating a tab then perhaps a tip is warranted. But there is never an obligation. Mainly because we have that minimum wage jazz in Australia.

    So I haven’t really answered the question. I suppose my answer would be “it depends.”

    I look forward,not backward, upward not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards future topics.

  4. tippingoz says:

    Thanks very much for your comments. There are some interesting issues in them and I’ll be trying to explore some of those issues directly in this blog over the next few weeks.

    One issue raised I may not get to in any upcoming blog, however, is the relationship between tipping, the mining boom and skinny jeans. Although, I suppose, one could suggest that the mining boom brings affluence, which in itself has impacts on society. Perhaps one of those impacts is an increase in tipping as people try to attain and consolidate social standing. Maybe an increase in affluence also has brought about a rise in skinny jeans as the wealthy try to set themselves apart from a more loose-fitting style of clothing, which has, arguably, become associated with poverty to some extent. So maybe such a relationship between the three does exist.

  5. thomasthethinkengine says:

    I think tipping is a social marker that says “I have continental values and I can’t believe Australians don’t tip. Furthermore, for me a few dollars is utterly negligible.”.
    I mainly tip at fancy restaurants where I am intimidated by the waiters. Ironically the price of the main courses probably means they are the waiters that need tips least.

  6. Dr Hesh says:

    I feel you should leave a tip where the service warrants it. Pouring a beer or a mixed drink as part of your job shouldn’t entitle you to a tip. Similarly, having copious amounts of cleavage and giggling “oh you” shouldn’t entitle you to a tip. A tip at a bar is however warranted if your bartender has done something out of the ordinary, perhaps if they have made a recommendation that you liked or have displayed some artisanship in making a cocktail.

    Having said that after I have had a skinful I am often too lazy to collect my shrapnel and leave a defacto tip despite the bartender not really having earned it. Perhaps barstaff put change on the tip plate for this reason. Prying change from drunks isn’t exactly the most difficult thing. I suspect that you could probably convince a drunk to wager $50 on the fip of a coin…

  7. Gus says:

    Barstaff leave change on plates, UNDER the notes/receipt so that you will just leave it on the tray. No one wants to look like a tightarse picking up handful of change, especially when it is difficult to do – even more so after a few drinks. Any notes get left on top, which are more reasonable to expect customers to want to take.

    If the change was on top of the notes, it’d be too easy to pick it all up together.

    Source: I learnt it on our bar course at tafe.

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