Take a tip and leave one

GREGG WYCHERLEY uncovers interesting facts about the practice of tipping.

Last weekend, the Auckland Blues received some stick in the South African media for not tipping a Capetown waitress.

So are New Zealanders stingy when it comes to putting their hands in their pockets for good service?

Simon King, spokesman for the Tourism Industry Association, says tipping is simply not a part of Kiwi culture.

While workers in many other countries relied on tips to supplement their income, New Zealanders did not and that was the way the association wanted it to remain.

"We are not tight. We just come from a culture where tipping is something we do for really good service. It's not the norm.

"I was a bus boy in the United States. Half my salary was made up from my tips."

Mr King said it was a matter of "when in Rome do as the Romans do."

"In most guidebooks you can find out whether tipping is required and how much ... [New Zealanders] need to make themselves aware of that, just like other customs, such as how to dress."

* New Zealanders are not into tipping - we think establishments should just pay a fair wage rather than make staff grovel for tips - but has anyone noticed Kiwi wait staff knocking back tips?

* "Tip" is said by some to be an acronym for "to insure promptitude."

* Another explanation is that "tips" of gold were thrown by horse-riding feudal lords to the peasants in the streets as payment for safe passage.

* The most likely meaning is that it was originally medieval street talk for "hand it over."

* Tipping is almost non-existent in Japan. It is not expected in restaurants, hotels, or other establishments. Staff view themselves as professionals and say tips are unnecessary.

* The one exception is taxis. While a tip is not necessary, it will normally be gladly received for services such as carrying luggage to your door.

* American casino dealers welcome tips, or "tokes" as they are called in Las Vegas, which can be given directly to the dealer between hands, throws of the dice or spins of the wheel. However, casino dealers in New Zealand are forbidden by law to accept tips.

* Tipping denigrators have predecessors in the Anti-Tipping Society of America, an alliance of 100,000 travelling salesmen who, from 1905 to 1919, managed to have the custom abolished in 7 states.

* Tipping is standard practice in the USA. Since the late 1970s, the going rate has been 15 per cent, but it is steadily edging up towards 20 per cent.

* Waiters who wish to increase their tips should squat by the table while talking to customers, smile, and make eye contact.

* Female waiters who draw a "smiley face" on the bill get on average an 18 per cent tip - but male staff who do the same decrease their tips by 3 per cent.

* The use of tip trays bearing credit card logos increases tips by up to 25 per cent, even when customers pay cash.

* Tips soar by 140 per cent for servers who smile.

* Wait staff who casually touch customers increase their tips by 42 per cent, women customers being slightly more generous than men.

* American tourists to New Zealand, pre-warned of our disinclination for tipping, have been known to take literally signs on the side of the road saying "Refuse Tip."

* Even web junkies can get in on the tipping act. At the website tipjar.com, you can e-mail a tip pledge to the waiter of your choice (whether you follow up with cash is your business).

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