Tips, tips tips — it’s a word that’s practically flying out of people’s mouths these days. Waitresses at Manifesto ask for it. Receipts from Zentral suggest it. The Westin Brunch includes it without even asking! What gives?
There was a time not all that long ago when tips were taboo in our fair city — Shanghaiist has even had tips forcibly rejected by taxi drivers and waiters who found the very concept to be vaguely insulting. (“Why would you need to pay me more? It’s my job! You don’t think I normally give good service?”)
Yet over the past year or so, we’ve detected a distinct change in the way tips are perceived. Perhaps it’s the recent influx of foreign waiters, or a more general awareness of bar and restaurant culture elsewhere in the world. Wherever the idea come from, it’s popped up in unexpected places: a box at Starbucks, a space on credit card receipts and as mentioned above, a suggestion on a delivery receipt from Zentral — a restaurant that already charges 10 kuai for delivery.
We didn’t really consider the issue until a recent visit to Manifesto, mentioned several times on this site. Our waitress could only be described as comically, epically, theatrically rude — she would sigh loudly we when we would flag her down, and roll her eyes when we wanted a drink. We even had an “I can’t talk to you right now, I’m way too busy!” during an apparently hectic moment. It was almost charming! The icing on the cake, though, was her request, not once, not twice, but three times for a tip! Excuse me?
Now this is an extreme example, but it seems to mirror a larger trend: restaurants and bars are encouraging their customers to tip. As a former waiter, Shanghaiist appreciates the value of the extra cash — it was the only the real money we ever made in high school. Yet we’re not sure how we feel about its emergence in Shanghai. Not to sound too much like Scrooge McDuck, but it’s the deliveryman’s job to deliver — why should we pay him more? We have steadfastly refused to tip except for exceptional service, but have lately been feeling insecure about this policy. At dinner on Saturday, Shanghaiist did an unscientific survey of our Chinese and foreign friends, and found most people had similar rules.
Do you tip at bars and restaurants? If so, how much? What do you think is the right policy? We’d love to know.