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Do You Need to Leave a Tip in Australia?

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by Michaelie Clark (subscribe)
Pun-loving freelance writer based in Victoria.
Published January 2nd 2012
Once upon a time it was a very rare thing, but in recent years, tipping in Australia has almost become customary, to the point where it's often expected in some parts of the service industry. These days, change is more and more frequently given back on a tip plate at bars, tip jars are becoming more prevalent, and if you wait for your change in a taxi you are increasingly likely to encounter an awkward pause with no coins forthcoming.

Tipping in Australia
Do you believe in tipping in Australia?

The custom of tipping varies greatly around the world. In the US, tipping forms a significant part of the income of wait staff in particular, who are subject to taxation and award laws built around gratuity. In most cases, customers are expected to tip hotel staff, restaurant wait staff, bathroom attendants, taxi drivers, fast-food couriers and many others in the service industry, with standard tips on bills and fares usually around the 15-20% mark.

Tipping in Australia
Tipping is the norm in the US. Photo credit: Scott Sanchez

In Japan, on the other hand, tipping is unnecessary and can often be deemed an insult, while in many other countries, tipping is generally reserved as a reward for exceptional service or as a convenience to save counting out loose change. This has traditionally been the way of it in Australia, though there has been a decided turn towards the American tipping customs of late Ė to the chagrin of some. Let's take a look at a few of the different attitudes towards tipping in Australia.

Exact Weight Coin Counting
Many Aussies hold to the idea that a fee for services rendered is exactly that. Why pay twice? Wait staff in Australia are guaranteed a wage that is deemed appropriate by law, and this is part of the operational expense of bars and restaurants, paid out of the profits made when charging set menu prices. Therefore, staff members are already in effect paid for their services by the patronage of the customer. Likewise, the fare paid for a taxi covers running costs as well as the time and services of the driver. Some would say that tipping is therefore not fitting in Australia, and may even go the extra step and argue that tipping every Tom, Dick and Harry that does the basics of their job cultivates an expectation that undermines the tenets of good customer service.

Keep the Change, Mate
This is a common phrase in Australia that seems to stem more from our reluctance to wait about for shrapnel than anything else. This is perhaps why cabbies are slower to get out their coin dispensers these days, though any show of unwillingness to offer change is usually unappreciated.

Recognition and Reward
Above-and-beyond service is more commonly rewarded with a tip than a tip of the hat in recent times. While many establishments are happy enough with a thankyou and the prospect of return business in recognition for doing what they can to satisfy customers, tips are usually welcomed by staff and are often gladly given by patrons who have had a particularly good experience.

Gratuitous Gratuity
Perhaps it's the influence of American TV and film, but many Aussies are feeling the pressure of the perceived etiquette of tipping, even for lacklustre service. We may resent it, but it can be difficult to take change off a tip plate or leave without adding a supplementary charge to a bill when it's clear an establishment expects something extra Ė regardless of the service experience. A tip is not compulsory, and so is a gift of sorts, which means the 'giving' can be soured by an obvious expectation on the part of the venue or staff member, even if the service was excellent and a tip had already been intended. Likewise, if the service is not good but a tip is evidently expected, customers can be left feeling shamed into giving one, which just makes a bad experience worse.

What are your views on tipping in Australia? Are you more likely to tip-toe around tipping or splash cash willy-nilly? Do you identify with one or more of the four scenarios above, or do you have a different take on things? We'd love to know what you think Ė leave a comment and tell us your Aussie tipping tips.
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Tipping is becoming a little more apparent mainly because of the international visitors holidaying or working here. Some restaurants i visited in the US had waiters that paid to work there and only lived off tips. As an Aussie I tip only if they go over and above their job, you can tell that they really care about the experience whether it be a waiter, hairdresser or taxi driver. To expect a tip for not putting extra effort in is wrong with our set wages. Work harder, care more, get tips. Simple.
by leyce (score: 1|10) 3543 days ago
I think it's disgusting how the trend appears to be changing in Australia. In the US and Canada, having worked in the service industry over there, I can atest to the very low hourly rate paid, and you live off the tips and I can tell you, you had to work for them. The service generally is better in the US and Canada for this very reason!

In Australia, people in the service industry are paid well for what they do. It makes me sick when service is nothing but average and people expect a tip. No! Above and beyond service may deserve a little, but it shouldn't be expected in Australia!
by micha216 (score: 1|10) 3543 days ago
Nice, it's like an extended and new version of my article on the matter :) in a lot more detail I think, though!
by Maz Serena Rockers (score: 2|615) 3543 days ago
I dont think its a new thing to tip, I have been going to reastaurants with my parents since about 2yrs old (and no I didnt run around the place screaming I was taught how to behave) and remember them discussing wether they would leave a tip or not.
If the service or the food/coffee is above expected or just really good, I tip -10% is standard.
However sometimes you get great service and crap food or vice versa and thats where I believe the real to leave a tip or not to leave a tip question lies as in the majority of cafes and restaurants in Australia divide all the tips between all staff at the end of the night.
by ella_ (score: 0|7) 3485 days ago
Some states in the US actually allow employers to pay below the award rate in the expectation that the difference will be made up in tips. Hence the reason it is expected in the US and has spread like a cancer to other parts of the world where the need does not exist.
In Australia there are minimum wage standards which includes loadings for holiday and sick pay as well as overtime and public holiday rates. There is no similar provision in the US.
This tipping nonsense needs to be properly understood. Like many others, I will not tip unless the service is something extra special (very rare) and I have traveled extensively in Europe where I only occassionaly tipped. Tipped more often in Thailand and Cambodia where there was a willingness to provide good service
by snowd (score: 0|5) 3498 days ago
A spade is a spade and if you choose to work in a low paid job then you should only expect to get low pay. I generally agree with most people who had the opinion of 'No'. However everyone has missed some overwhelming points. Australia is one of the highest developed nations in the world and with relatively higher living standards. This is only as a result of setting appropriate legal minimum standards to many various laws and in all industries.

The food & service industry is no exception as the minimum wage is a fair pay for the job (yes I worked in the industry when I was younger). Itís enough to live a basic good life and when it isnít, it then gets lifted.

For the writer who claimed the industry wouldnít survive if they didnít under pay their staff, itís a load of rubbish. Those who accept this only deserve such treatment. They should grow some balls and demand you get your legal entitlements. If your employer refuses then you should report the business to the correct authorities and find a job that awards legal entitlements.

If the business isnít so successful then their prices will be lower, draw less business and they will pay their staff minimum wage. If itís a great business it will charge higher prices, earn higher profits and afford to pay their staff higher wages. That is how business works in Australia.

Those getting paid on the lowest end have to be realistic that no matter how well they serve food & beverage the job does not merit a high wage as comparable to someone who had done the hard yards studying (at their own cost) or choosing to work hard in a developing path to eventually get a better paid job. Itís also a relatively easy low skilled job in the scheme of things.

The writer of the above article did a reasonable job of putting cases forward for both sides of the argument. However has missed the fact this argument of tipping becoming increasingly more common exists mainly in the capital cities and not in the rest of the country. Hence we cannot say this is an issue in Australia and only limited to capital cities or major tourist locations. This is due the fact these areas are filled with people (visiting or living) from foreign shores who keep their tipping habits from home as they donít appreciate tipping is not required or necessary which then allows greedy business owners to leach off their ignorance by leaving bills on trays where tips can be left, tip glasses on bars, cab drivers taking their sweet time to give you change etcÖ Hence tipping is only a result of greed praying on those venerable and is no way required in any situation in Australia.

That being said if anyone is filthy rich and wants to throw away their money, then go for it, I will not stop you. However just keep in mind youíre promoting the false idea of tipping in deserved in Oz. The analogy is similar to that of feeding seagulls at the beach. The birds will definitely eat your hot chips but will have a false expectation on how easy food is to come by loosing their hunting ability and will struggle to the point of starvation should they dare to return to unpopulated parts of their natural environment in their real world.
by jonat0 (score: 0|4) 3467 days ago
Australia has a lot to learn about "service". Bars, restaurants, taxis etc should be giving discounts to patrons for the bad and lack of service.
by const0 (score: 0|5) 3542 days ago
my wife went out with friends to a chinese restaurant near kerford road in st kilda and was asked whilst paying the bill with her credit card, would she like to tip the waiter, her reply was NO, but she felt that after walking out of the restaurant that by saying no it made it seem that the service was bad.Tips should never be requested, she will never go back to that restaurant. NB: She also noted that the restaurant was not even a quarter full, No wonder.
by ronmo (score: 0|5) 2442 days ago
I always tip when I get good service, however if the waiter starts huinting at getting one, then is a no. I understand these employees get paid, but tips implement their earnings and I see nothing wrong with this concept.
by enriquito2005 (score: 1|49) 3536 days ago
Not really in Australia as people get a wage, but only do it if it gives u a buzz because the food and service was great,
by gdayg (score: 0|6) 3517 days ago
Good service will get a tip but in Aus they get paid reasonable enough for working, quite often cash meaning they miss outon tax, even more often students work and get their government money AND a wage..I have worked in hospitality in various places across the world, including Australia and can honestly say Australia hasd the worst customer often feel like an inconvenience to the staff members..can barely get a tell me why you deserve a tip? It's not a given guys...
by Luciana Longo (score: 0|4) 3509 days ago
I once helped out a friend in Sydney by serving briefly (and freely) behind the busy bar in his restaurant. A new customer, an American, tipped me quite sizeably when he paid for his first drink and I was offended. How dare he bribe me to give him better service than I was giving the other patrons! (But I kept the tip and said nothing, anyway. Blush!)
by strid (score: 0|4) 3534 days ago
In my opinion the tipping system in America, ie a percentage of the 'cheque', is flawed. The service required to deliver a $40 steak to the table is no different than what is required to serve a $10 hamburger and yet the suggested tip would vary greatly.
In Australia, our hospitality workers are paid very decent wages, plus penalty rates, and the prices we pay have the service component already built in, so unless they go really above and beyond I don't think tipping an additional amount is required.
by Karen (score: 2|231) 3542 days ago
I work as an electrician in manufacturing where I am expected to continually upgrade my skills and knowledge for little benefit for myself. No matter how effectively or diligently I perform my duties, I will never receive a TIP; Christmas bonus or even a thank you.
I don't believe anyone performing the duties of their chosen career should expect me to applaud them financially.Llike it or leave it
by gjjef (score: 0|4) 3539 days ago
by kimpt (score: 0|4) 3489 days ago
Given a tip is supposed to be a gratuity for good service, I only ever tip if I feel the service was worth it. The proprietor should not be under paying their staff, and expecting the customers to top up their income. If you work in the service industry, providing good service should be second nature to you....and therefore you will earn tips from many of your customers. I have no problem tipping if the service was good, but at the end of the day, tipping is optional so it's up to the customer.
by hroeb (score: 0|3) 3542 days ago
Do we get the service to tip as we do in Europe!!!
we have to to all the job to get an expresso or our food and sit at the dirty table left by previous costumer !! We should get a discount .....!!
by Marie (score: 0|4) 3543 days ago
Only if the service is absolutely exceptional. We are not Americans our awards allow people to live (even if frugally) and not depend on customers to supplement their income!!!!!
by seddo (score: 1|16) 3474 days ago
@ Karen Have you worked in hospitality in Australia? It is a rare treat to work somewhere that pays full penalty rates, or even any penalty rates. Yes, it is illegal not too, but the industry wouldn't survive without stiffing the staff.. Incorporate the horrible hours, physically exhausting work and missing out on holiday seasons with friends and family and it makes me think if the service is good these people deserve a tip.
by Katy Holliday (score: 3|1133) 3522 days ago
No I dont think we should need to tip, Thats just another americian thing creeping into this great country. The people get paid to do a job anyway.
by goldi6 (score: 0|3) 3486 days ago
No I don't beleive so. Australian's are generally paid fairer wages then in other countries where people rely on the tips as part of their income.
by Kez H (score: 0|2) 3468 days ago
Tipping should always be at the patrons disgression and never a given, so many things in this world are given too freely and people expect it to be their right not a bonus for being a better or nicer worker. I work with children and am paid the average wage, I am always nice and put up with a lot of bad behaivour, I am never given a tip and rarely a thankyou.
by tk1962 (score: 0|2) 3529 days ago
I frequently dine out and take pride in thanking the staff and never leaving a tip. Tipping is un-Australian. Hopefully payment by credit card will put an end to the practice.
by jerem (score: 0|2) 1844 days ago
I lived in America for 4 month, and never tipped.
by schmu1 (score: 2|171) 3542 days ago
Tipping is okay IF IT'S DESERVED. Service in Oz is generally poor. In the USA the service (my experience) was very good and I was happy to tip. How many places do you go to in Oz where its near impossible to get a drink? There are many about
by softu (score: 1|10) 3542 days ago
tipping scene in Australia is still not so bad as in America & some other countries. Wages are very adequaate in Australia & so tipping should not be necessary.
by maggi5 (score: 0|2) 3541 days ago
I leave a tip in restaurants if the service has been great. I also have no problem rounding up to the dollar in cabs. Wait staff are paid well in this country and I have no intention of leaving tips for people for only just doing their jobs. If they give me exceptional service, then I am happy to give a tip within reason.
by jillr1 (score: 1|48) 3541 days ago
Just as employees get a bonus or increase for good work, I believe waiting staff should be rewarded for good service rendered. I come from a background of tipping and will always tip at least 10% for good service. I will however, not leave a tip if I feel the service was not up to my expectations.
by john. (score: 0|2) 3534 days ago
We do not need to feel obliged to leave a tip as they are being paid, do we tip our doctor or dentist? If exceptional service was rendered (unusual ) maybe!!
by scruffy (score: 0|6) 3531 days ago
I don't see anything wrong with tipping if you got good service and intend on going back there. Also I have heard that its considered bad manners if you don't tip at Chinese restaurants not sure if that's true though...
by Marian Tisi (score: 2|197) 3530 days ago

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