'What is the point of tipping?'

Do you tip when you are out and about? Peter Smith (inset), from Cromer, thinks more people should in places such as Costa. 

Do you tip when you are out and about? Peter Smith (inset), from Cromer, thinks more people should in places such as Costa. - Credit: Peter Smith

In the latest of his columns, Cromer resident Peter Smith, 88, asks what is the point of tipping? 

From my point of view the most important event in Cromer during the festive season was not hanging bright lights over the streets nor the fireworks display on January 1 but the reappearance of the tip jar at Costa. My point of view in this context is that of someone who tips.

Peter Smith, from Cromer, said more people should consider leaving tips for the hard workers in hospitality and other shops. 

Peter Smith, from Cromer, said more people should consider leaving tips for the hard workers in hospitality and other shops. - Credit: Supplied by Peter Smith

Just as the world is divided up into people who think the glass is half empty and those who think it’s half full, so it’s divided into people who leave tips and those who don’t.

One of my best friends, who worked behind a desk all his life, had the attitude that he never received a tip and so he could never see why he should tip anyone else. The fact that some people’s well-being depends on getting tips was of no importance for him.

To whom do I give tips? To baristas and others who serve, to hairdressers, to taxi-drivers, to sellers of The Big Issue, and to buskers of all kinds.

A tip jar at Cromer's Costa coffee shop. 

A tip jar at Cromer's Costa coffee shop. - Credit: Peter Smith

Why do I give tips? Basically because I think I ought to live up to the expectations of the people who are engaged in those jobs. If I see a tip jar – like the three I have taken photographs of – I almost always drop in a coin or two.

Victoria Coren Mitchell, the host of Only Connect, told us a few weeks ago that we British are the next-to-worst in the world when it comes to tipping.

A tip jar at a business in Cromer. 

A tip jar at a business in Cromer. - Credit: Peter Smith

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The worst are the French apparently. The best are Germans and the second best are Americans.  

This column is based on a very unscientific survey of tipping in Cromer, and if it has any point beyond sharing my thoughts as usual it is to encourage more of it.

I noted, for instance, that although she paid with cash the woman in front of me in the queue at Costa today did not leave any of the change she received. Costa baristas are among the busiest people in town – especially during the summer.

Garden Street in Cromer. Do you ever tip when you are out shopping? 

Garden Street in Cromer. Do you ever tip when you are out shopping? - Credit: Archant

After innumerable visits to Mary Janes fish and chip shop I can simply not understand why nobody - except me - shows special appreciation for the fact that in the season the kids who serve them their tasty treats are on their feet for hours on end, never have a break, never get an order wrong, and never lose their cool. It doesn’t help, of course, that a lot of purchases are paid for with by card these days; but it’s also true that many transactions involve cash.

I always tip with a £1 when I get my £7 order, and I am always thanked! And I get a lot of satisfaction.

I can recall a time when if one paid for one’s meal in a restaurant with a credit card there was a way of adding a tip available, but I discovered that that option is not available in the Garden Street Grill – so after paying with plastic I tip with some cash.

If you go to Wikipedia and type in 'tip' you will be sent to 'gratuity' and there you will be deluged with facts and figures, not to mention a map of the world with different countries coloured differently to show the differences in tipping practice.

You will see that Russia, the world’s largest country, is in bright yellow signifying that a tip of between five and 10pc is expected. 

Germany and the United States are joined by Egypt in bright red telling us that they are countries where a tip of 15-20pc is expected.

The map is full of odd insights. Chile is the only country in South America where the expected tips are substantial, while Sweden sits between Norway and Finland, both of which are more generous. The UK and most of western Europe is in light green, telling us that a tip is usually limited to 'rounding up the bill' but is 'not expected'.

My informal survey made me aware of the fact that some businesses in Cromer encourage their patrons to put their change into a charity box – Davies the Fish Shop, for instance, has a receptacle for RNLI, but no tip jar for its splendid team of servers.

For some unknown reason I refrain from donating even though I would be happy to leave a tip. It’s clear that tipping is an idiosyncratic business, but by reading this, I hope a few more people will be encouraged to say “keep the change” from time to time.

And if the owner of Mary Janes is among them I hope he will give some thought to putting a tip jar on the counter there – at least during the summer.