Tipping: The annoying question that won’t go away
WE DON'T live in the USA.
That's the common response at the end of a group dinner when the whisper circulates, "should we leave a tip?"
Traditionally, punters would throw loose change and small notes on top of the cheque or round up the bill to ensure a little is left for the staff.
But now a large majority of payments are processed electronically, diners are less inclined to tip because it's easier to pay the exact price.
This has led to venues setting their EFTPOS machines to include a step before finalising the payment, asking patrons if they would like a tip included.
One in nine Australians, or 1.8 million people say they have been pressured into tipping, according to analysis from comparison site Finder.
More than half (51 per cent) refuse to leave a tip extra with most saying they're already paying a fair price.
In the age of social media, Finder money expert Bessie Hassan said some restaurateurs would see just as much value in a good review or engagement online.
"That's really what cafe owners and businesses are looking for if someone is or isn't tipping," she said.
"But being presented with an EFTPOS machine at the table while the waiter's hovering and waiting for you to process the payment can make some people feel pressured to tip even if they weren't intending to."
Daniel Mason is the co-owner of Henry Sugar, a restaurant and wine bar in Melbourne's Carlton North.
He appreciates tipping is optional in Australia given pricing should account for staff wages but says it's nice when quality service is rewarded.
"We try and offer a premium experience and I think people do appreciate that and usually will leave a tip if prompted," he told news.com.au.
"These days, it's definitely important to do that prompt because we're finding almost no one's paying cash - we'll go days and days without taking a single cash payment."
"There's a quite a strong tipping economy in Australia if you're offering the right services.
Mr Mason said it's important to distinguish between a cafe or a pub with more straightforward service and a career hospitality worker who has devoted time and training to their profession.
"There's a lot that goes into working in these higher end establishments, they have high end wine programs and cocktail programs," he said.
"It's not like when you go to the pub and you get out a schooie and pull a beer.
"There's a lot of background learning, training and commitment that goes into these places that (tipping) is a nice touch and shows that you are appreciated."
But the restaurant owner does agree there is a tasteful way to approach the payment.
"If it's too pushy or the service isn't right, then it definitely feels a bit sour because it's expected," Mr Mason said. "The expectation of a tip is a real turn off."
The issue follows us when we travel overseas, with data commissioned by restaurant reservation site OpenTable revealing half of Australians admit to being confused about tipping when on holiday.
More than half say they would prefer tips to be included in prices, while a call-out to news.com.au readers invoked mixed responses.
Ros Ovington posted: "Generally don't tip in Australia as opposed to other countries hospitality staff here are not relying on gratuities as income support."
Another said: "I don't tip and hate the way people are trying to make it a thing here."
And another was more straightforward: "Bugger tipping. No one tips me in my job, being a waiter is a profession these days, not a charity."
A number of respondents did, however, express a willingness to tip if the service warranted it.
One user posted: "I tip regularly when I go out to a restaurant and even for a coffee. If the staff and food are nice I will often gladly leave a tip."
And another: "I still tip in Australia as long as service is good."
Misko Ivezich has a simple rule with his gratuities: "The more expensive the restaurant the more I tip."