First, let’s hear from a person who wants to see the price of service being built into the meal

“Why is there a concerted effort to normalise tipping in NZ? It depresses base wages, does nothing to improve service (it’s almost unheard of for cafés in the US to bring you your coffee, or collect your used cup, despite more or less demanding 20-25% as a tip surcharge) and destroys payment fluidity (requiring multiple keypresses instead of a tap). Just say no to this antediluvian system. 


And if your cafe or restaurant or fast food joint uses a machine that asks for a tip, tell them their machine is broken, and that they should get it fixed if they want to keep you as a customer.”

And now for my perspective

I hear annoyance and frustration that tipping is a common practice in some places. It also sounds like you see tipping having an overall negative economic impact on workers, which is frustrating because you value fairness. It sounds like – in your experience – you do not see the practice of tipping improving service.

Normally, in a “real life” conversation, I’d ask all of the above as questions to be sure I am correctly interpreting your assertions, before continuing.

I’m hoping you have put your opinion out in this forum as a show of being open to hearing some push back. Here’s mine.

I have no experience with tipping in NZ, so I did some research so I’d not waste your time with assertions based purely on opinion. My experience is from living in 18 different cities in the US from coast to coast, 1 city in Mexico, 3 cities in Europe, and Tokyo.

Regarding your “…cafés in the US… more or less demanding 20-25% as a tip surcharge…”: My experience with cafes in the US is being a native US Citizen, having lived in so many US cities, and with my hobby of using mostly cafes as spaces to meet for my “Practical Empathy Practice Group” since 2015. With that experience of US cafes, what I’ve never seen is “demanding” of tips. Ever. I see tip jars at the counter but not always. I’m pleased when I do see them, so I can show my appreciation if the coffee/service was good. And at the cafes where the barista comes around, they *never* ask for tips. Sometimes they have a credit card reader machine that allows you to *choose* to tip and what amount you wish to give. I don’t use the word “never” lightly. Maybe I misinterpreted your definition of “demanding”?

In my travels through Europe (and 4 years living there), one thing I noticed at cafes and restaurants, in comparison to the US, was the service. It was on a whole other level. I don’t know if it is fair to call it “bad” or better to just say service – on average – in the US in both cafes and restaurants has in my experience been on a completely different level. Can we say for sure that tipping is the reason? No. I do suspect it is a big part of the equation.

One thing I’ve enjoyed over the years is hosting couch surfers ( from Europe and Asia. They’d come and spend time in my guest room for a few days. I always love showing them around, including my favorite cafes and restaurants. Without fail they would comment on how amazing the service was.

Personally, I don’t like the service fee being built into the cost of the meal because I see them as separate items and I prefer having more choice. I love being the “tipper” because it allows me to choose how much I wish to award thoughtful, attentive service. It gives me a good feeling to “over-tip” a bit because I can influence another person’s life in a positive way. Maybe it comes from being homeless with my mom as a child drifting from city to city, her taking on odd jobs as waitress or bar maid. I remember how often she would come home from work and dump a jar of coins on the mattress we shared on the floor. How fun it was to count the monies!

Chat GPT says

Finally, here is what Chat GPT 4 said when I asked it to critique your words on tipping in NZ:

Tipping in NZ isn’t about undermining wages or service quality; it’s about recognizing and rewarding the extra mile that staff often go in the hospitality sector. It’s not a means to depress base wages but rather an additional way for customers to express gratitude for exceptional service. Moreover, the argument about service in the US isn’t entirely fair; cultural norms and expectations vary greatly from place to place. As for the inconvenience at the point of sale, it’s a minor hiccup in the grand scheme of enhancing the overall service culture. Digital tipping options offer flexibility and can be seen as a step towards modernizing the tradition rather than sticking to an “antediluvian system.” Rejecting tipping outright dismisses its potential positive impacts on service employees’ morale and financial well-being. And about those machines? They’re not broken; they’re adapting to a changing world where customer feedback, including financial appreciation, is becoming more direct and transparent.

What will the future hold?

Sadly, maybe, I think the increase in use of automation will some day make this discussion irrelevant. Sad for people who love and/or need this job and sad for those of us who enjoy the human interaction.

What do you think?