The act and art of tipping

Every country has a different set of norms around tipping. And, they keep evolving. Even within country, tipping differs by region and service. Some people tip 15%; I usually do minimum 20%. Some people just tip on the pre-tax anount; other’s tip on the whole check anount. Some places add an automatic tip. This I don’t like. If you are going to add an automatic tip pay your staff more to begin with.

While I’m Colombia all the tipping debates came roaring back. What’s customary? For what? My rule of thumb is to just tip for everything. Most people appreciate it and you feel good. At my local bar in New York, I way overtip. I’ve established that as my norm. I receive phenomenal service. I barely pay for the drinks, I just end up paying for the tip, knowing it’s going into the server’s own pockets.

Two days ago, we were slightly lost in Bogota and ended up in a not-so-great neighborhood. The Uber driver was worried for us. A local street vendor came over and started dialing someone to come help us out. They all pitched in to ensure we were safe. We didn’t buy any fruit from her, but we did tip her. She was surprised but grateful. Her help was valuable to us. Interestingly however, as I reflect on that moment, I don’t believe I would “tip” someone in NYC for helping me out with directions. The question for me to ponder is why one situation gets a tip and the pther doesn’t.

1 reply »

  1. When I was young and my sister worked as a waitress, tips were considered tax-free income. It was all cash and nobody would bother to report it. A large majority of her income was in tips.

    Today tips are usually recorded on credit cards which means the waitperson’s reported income is much higher. (They have to file a form reporting tips every month!) IRS actually looks at your tip income and if it doesn’t look high enough to them, they could tax you on what they think it should have been and you’d have to challenge it. Now, many waitpeople don’t make enough – even with tips included – to get into the taxable range. But many do and the IRS is determined not to let that tiny bit of revenue escape.

    A 15% tip really isn’t a 15% tip anymore. Part of that is tipping the government.


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