A colleague of mine, Matt Heath wrote a column this week on tipping.

He's been travelling around New Zealand and he says the service in our restaurants is patchy.

He's had good service but he's had some pretty ordinary service too, and he suggests that if we tipped more in this country, the service would be better.

And he compares it to the service he's recently had in the States. You always get good service there because of the tipping culture.

Advertisement

So what's your tipping stance? Do you tip?

I tip, but only if I get good service.

And we've been talking about this in the newsroom. It's been quite the topic of conversation.

The brutally efficient German producer doesn't.

She argues that the hospitality industry is no different to any other.

She says no one tips her if she puts together a good show. No one tips the nurses in the accident and emergency department. This is the German's argument. No one tips the pleasant, chatty person at the supermarket checkout, or the person who recommended the right bag of fertiliser at the nursery.

So why tip hospitality staff? Why is the hospitality industry any different to any other?

The salaries aren't great. Minimum wage or just above, quite often. And the hours are lousy.

I tip because I think I should when I get good service at a good restaurant. I'll tip when the food's great, the waiter or waitress knew their stuff, and it was a really nice evening. I'll put 10 or 15 per cent on the bill.

And I've been tipping for about 15 years now. That may be, in part, because I'm married to a South African and I remember when I first met him and he told me that Kiwis were the world's worst tippers. He worked in hospitality in Cape Town, many moons ago.

And then later, when he spent time with Kiwis in London, he said they were still shockers then. They never tipped, and they didn't see why they needed to. I think that might be why I've been tipping up a storm ever since, but now that he lives here he realises it's just not in our culture.

What has changed over the years is the nature of tipping. In the past, you would leave some extra money on the table and you would assume the wait-staff would pocket that. But what happens now when we pay by card? Who gets that tip?

It's add electronically to the bill and then where does it go? Restaurants should, I believe, declare their tipping policy.

I think your bill should list the name of your waiter or waitress and your tip should go to that person. At the moment, I imagine the restaurant pockets the extra money, or perhaps tips are pooled and divided up among wait staff, but I don't think that's fair either. If you do a great job, you should get that tip.

But, I guess central to all of this is that if we developed a tipping culture in this country, would it improve the service? Matt Heath argues it would. I agree. And in a country where the number one industry is tourism, then surely we should be striving for top-level service, country-wide.