Archive for January 25th, 2013

Before we went to Tokyo , we were told that there was no tipping in Japan , that Japanese cab drivers and others would refuse tips even if offered. “Prices include everything including the service charge ;only taxes, if applicable , are extra.”The idea took a little getting used to but , once it did , it was a refreshing change from the U.S.  

Tips seem to be considered demeaning and, having been warned in advance that tipping was a no-no , we didn’t commit any faux pas by offfering tips .There was one occasion when the taxi fare came to 810 yen and I paid for it with a 1,000 yen note . Knowing how difficult and bothersome it is to make change, I tried to wave off the taxi-driver’s attempts to find the proper coins. He would have none of it and insisted on giving me back 190 yen in change though he had to struggle to find the coins . What could I say except ” Arigato. Arigato Gozaimas .”

Not having to think about tipping is wonderful.You pay the ampunt on the check and you’re done . Otherewise , in the U.S , I’m always wondering whether I have tipped the proper amount . I don’t want to pay too little and appear to be a skinflint . At the same time I don’t want to pay any more than I have to.

The initial purpose of tipping ( to reward superior service) has long been forgotten. For some time now , a tip has been considered compulsory, something that the waiter or the porter or the cab driver feels entitled to. Even at take-out places , there is often a jar labeled TIPS in a prominent place on the counter . What ? I have to tip you for taking my order and handing me my bagels ? Gimme a break.

I don’t mind tipping waiters at ordinary cafes or cabdrivers or the barber . These people don’t make very much and the 15% or 20 % is no big deal . However , at luxe’ restaurants where the bill can run to several hundred dollars , I most definitely grudge the hundred or more dollars that is extracted from me compulsorily ; it’s tacked on to the bill , regardless of whether I want to tip or not . There are several reasons for my resentment . Firstly , a large part of the check is for wine and beverages. The service charge should be applied only to the food but is actually a percentage of the entire bill , food and wine and even tax. Secondly , the percentage which they suggest seems to have gone up. It used to be 15% , then it went up to 17% and now some deem 20% the correct number . Why ?

What irks me most is that a tip, even the amount of the tip, is almost mandatory . Let’s be clear about one thing . The reason for the present state of affairs is that restaurant owners are trying to make the bill appear low by underpaying staff and shifting the responsibility to restaurant patrons . This is much the same as the airlines charging an extra $25 or more for each piece of luggage .

Not that paying these tips results in any better service. In high end restaurants , it can be very good but in most ordinary establishments it is spotty ; sometimes OK , sometimes disinterested. In Japan , even though there is no tipping , the service was uniformly good and the waiters , cabdrivers and others genuinely helpful and eager to please.

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