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Has tipping become a tax for customers?

Knowing when to hand over extra money – and how much to give – can be extremely embarrassing. We explore tipping etiquette.

Tipping is a strange and bewildering custom.

It can even lead to feelings of resentment and bitterness, according to Justin Modray, founder of personal finance website Candid Money.

"It's felt that having paid good money for a service, such as a meal or haircut, why should you then pay extra money via a tip – especially if the service provided was mundane or miserable?"

Tipping etiquette

For those willing to reward good service there are many questions.

Is a tip expected? Will you look tightfisted only putting down a £1 on a restaurant table? Are there times when you should refuse to pay?

To help end this confusion we have consulted a number of people working in a variety of occupations to find out if you should tip, when you should tip and how much is appropriate.


Some establishments will automatically levy a service charge of 10 to 15 per cent on your bill, while others leave the decision up to you. 

If it isn't added you should consider leaving a tip based on the welcome you received and the quality of the service provided during the meal. Around 10 to 15 per cent of the bill is fine.

When it is added as a matter of course – and a weird quirk is when they demand a higher fee for larger bookings – don’t hesitate to challenge it should the service not be up to scratch.


There are no golden rules but if your driver has gone out of his way to find you a quicker route or has been helpful with your bags - then consider giving him 10 per cent of the journey price.

Conversely, if they are unfriendly or make you walk a distance to your door then just pay what you owe.


Hotels should have a transparent tipping policy that is stated in writing within the room information to avoid confusion.

However, as a general rule people usually give a porter up to £1-a-bag for bringing their luggage up to a room.

The maid could be in line for £5 at the end of the stay if they have done well.


For men at a traditional barber shop – where they just turn up and wait their turn – a tip limited to rounding the bill up or leaving a £1 on the table should be sufficient.

With ladies it can be different.

They will usually book in with a particular stylist and are generally more generous. Budget for 10 per cent extra – especially if you want good service next time!

Beauty salons

The amounts depend on the treatment being carried out. Salons regularly receive everything from a £1 to £10 in tips.

And very regular customers may choose instead to reward individual members of staff with a present at Christmas to thank them for their efforts over the past year.

Tipping overseas

Britons find it even more confusing when abroad with less than half of us knowing what is expected tipping-wise, according to a survey by TripAdvisor, the holidays and travel website.

The report discovered that 16 per cent of Brits had been confronted by a waiter about a tip, while eight per cent claim to have had a holiday ruined by a tipping experience.

It also found an incredible 22 per cent of people have been put off from travelling to the US because of its tipping culture where a barman will expect dollar bills for just pouring you a beer.

What’s more, staff are quite willing to challenge you if they sense your wallet is staying shut!

When tipping becomes a tax

On a recent visit to New York I paid what I considered a healthy premium in the bar at a Broadway show for two modestly sized beers.

But the unsmiling bar staff kept nudging a plate stacked high with dollar bills towards me, making it clear I should add to the pile.

So although these demands are effectively an extra tax, I found that keeping a few dollars in my pocket was essential to avoid ruining my visit with ugly confrontations.

The answer, says Emma Shaw from TripAdvisor, is to research and understand local customs and expectations, especially when it comes to tipping.

"Being informed will help travellers avoid unnecessary confrontation or embarrassment," she says.

What do you think?

Do you tip? If so, when, and how much?

Do you regard tipping as payment for exceptionally good service or simply a way for employers to get away with paying staff a lower wage than they would otherwise?

We want to hear from you! Share your views on the message board below.

Rob Griffin

Rob Griffin

Rob Griffin is a freelance journalist who regularly appears in national publications, including The Independent and Daily Express. He covers motoring, business, and personal finance issues.

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