Tipping point


I am sick and tired of the debate over tipping for restaurant service. It’s been going on for years and all that happens is the debate goes round and round without anything changing. The more people discuss it, the more you get to see who’s a cheapskate and which restaurants are abusing their staff.

Restaurants pay their wait staff unbelievably low wages because it’s assumed they will make up their earnings with tips. This is usually the case in the top restaurants where patrons are classy individuals who tip and tip well. But there are only a few of those restaurants, the rest are run-of-the mill and patrons range from good tippers to mean buggers who refuse to part with a cent that they are not obliged to part with. Restaurant owners ignore this and quote the good tippers as the norm.

Now, we live in a city that is fast becoming the hottest tourist destination on this continent and during summer it’s packed with tourists. After a bleak winter of poor earnings, waiters and waitresses (I refuse to use that other ridiculous name) are positively drooling at the thought of tourists enjoying the benefits of the exchange rate.

But some diners don’t tip or they tip badly. Instead of just accepting it or changing jobs to a restaurant with a better clientele or better working conditions, or, god forbid, improving their service and skills (which, yes, is often abysmal but that’s another story) … waiters/waitresses have found a new way to get good tips from their customers : they simply demand it. This is completely unacceptable. It happened to my clients this week at Karibu restaurant in the Waterfront. The waiter didn’t like the tip so he came back and demanded 10% !!! I’d like to see them try that with a table of South African diners.

If restaurants really want to do something for their staff (which we know they don’t – let’s be real here, they care zip-all for staff) they would get their act together, speak out as one voice and motivate for the entire industry to include service in all bills, in all restaurants. Obviously this is a large undertaking but if they cared, they would start the ball rolling.

While on that topic – when are we going to take the job of waiting on tables seriously enough to train people globally and pay them properly? Tourism is such an important industry, shouldn’t this be happening?

Rant over.

UPDATE 20 Jan/15: The restaurant in question contacted me about this. They advised that this is unacceptable and they will deal with the waitress in question. It’s a huge pity that she may lose her job but my clients will, I hope, go home knowing that we don’t accept such behaviour. It’s bad enough that it happened in the first place so let’s at least show we don’t agree to it! This particular group of people (5 of them) are all going home to share with their friends who have indicated an interest in coming to this country so the last thing we need is for them to remember only how they were ripped off!

About Francoise Armour

I run a small touring company (Tours du Cap) at the bottom of Africa, to show visitors the beauty and vibrant culture of the country I have lived in since my parents brought me here from France as a child. I enjoy taking photos and wish I had learnt to do it properly. I enjoy writing but don't do enough of it. I enjoy walking in the mountains that surround me and I marvel over the views and the flowers and the amazing rock formations. I have a small, cute, clever, black dog of indeterminable breed, named Vida, who reminds me regularly that walking and getting out is not only for when tourists want it.

7 responses to “Tipping point

  1. Ds Featherstone

    A built in service charge would be great! The restaurant industry abuses staff horribly! Although 10% is the norm in SA, I’ve heard many people say they don’t tip! Surely if you get good service, it should be acknowledged with a decent tip?

    • Can you imagine the reaction from locals if restaurants included it? What always fascinates me is when people spend hundreds of rands on a meal but resent the added cost of the tip. If they can’t afford the tip, get MacDonalds!

      • Pauline

        What irritates me lately is when paying cash you have to ask for your change! Its taken for granted that a tip is automatic so why do you need change – never mind what the amount!

      • Yes! My clients have commented on that, too. It backfires, of course, because if you have to ask for your change, the waiter is likely to get nothing at all. My trick for that is to keep my purse very obviously out, showing that I am waiting for change.

  2. I have to agree with you – there are potentially 2 solutions…. (and I am sure a whole lot more :))
    1. Restaurants/Service Industry pays staff a decent wage and TIPs are for “beyond excellence” – the way it is done here in Europe.
    2. Restaurants include the service charge (aka TIP) of 10% directly onto the final bill (but clearly state that this their intention – either on their menu’s BEFORE the customer places their orders or elsewhere)

    but this is an age old debate….

    In Europe – the question is whether or not it is rude to tip or rude not to tip… as in some places, the server will actually return your “change” (aka tip) back to you! While in other places – tipping is a generous way of saying “thank you”
    (we tend to err on the side of “good graces” and leave a few coins)

    • It really would be the best solution to include it in the bill in South Africa. Locals, however, would go mad and this would cause problems. Be that as it may, no restaurant can introduce it alone so they’d have to approach FEDHASA or some such body to get support. Not going to happen overnight!

      By the way, your blog, which I am now following, looks simply divine but doesn’t fit in with my vague plans for losing some weight!

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A note to all accidental visitors:

I am not a photographer and do not claim to have any particular skills whatsoever in that department. I have enormous respect for those who can see the potential in a scene and can create a great photo. Good photography is an art, in my opinion.

I am just a happy snapper, I have no special lenses or accessories, my camera is very simple and it's usually best to leave the setting on auto.

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