Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Tipping, not just a footy term

Constantly seeking some kind of victory (life satisfaction/job satisfaction/healthy body image/saving the world/saving the animals or even just a really good breakfast) has resulted in me trying a number of jobs. One of the tougher areas I have worked and I imagine will do again is hospitality.

When you are working in hospitality you can tell the people who have also worked in hospitality. They are the ones who say thank you, who make eye contact when you are speaking to them, who don't talk about things like you can't hear them. Or maybe these people haven't worked in hospitality, maybe they just have respect for other human beings.

Another sure sign of a hospo veteran is that they tip.

There is a perception in Australia that tipping isn't the done thing, that the staff are on excellent award wages with penalty rates and that tipping is superfluous.
One night when I was bartending, a couple standing directly in front of me began a debate about whether they should tip or not (as if I couldn't hear them). As part of her anti-tipping case the woman said "Babe, these guys are on like $40 an hour after seven o'clock." At which point I was compelled to break the illusion that I was without ears and interject with "Actually, we aren't, we are on a flat rate of $22.70 per hour and will be here til 3am *picking manky bits of pineapple up off the floor."

The fellow triumphantly handed me about $4 in change.

It is true that the award for hospitality is very good, but most business' avoid dealing with complicated penalty rates by having staff sign a contract with a flat rate that is maybe marginally above the award base rate. Or sometimes marginally below. Sure, you could not sign the contract or negociate for a higher rate but you need the job.

Hospitality is hard work. There is a lot of heavy lifting, you are on your feet all the time, a lot of staff have skin problems from constant hand washing and using strong detergents. You are dealing with intoxicated people and constantly making assessments relevant to Responsible Service of Alcohol. You are generally finishing very late at night and it can be hard to establish good sleep patterns, especially if it is a second job. If it is extremely busy you can go a couple of hours without remembering to drink water. Often in an eight hour shift you might only get a fifteen minute break. Conversely, if it is not busy, your eight hour shift can be cut back to three hours.

Most hospitality staff are not working in their dream job. The majority are studying, or between jobs, or working an extra job to feed their family. It's easy to be lovely to customers when you love what you do, quite a bit harder when there are assignments to do, bills to pay and you haven't seen your loved ones for 4 days. Or you've spent the last 4 hours being spoken down to or blamed for mistakes the kitchen has made.

Everybody knows you have to tip in the USA. The hospitality folk only get paid $5-7 per hour by their employers. Yet I often hear how much better paid the staff are. Yes, $5 an hour is rough, but if for example, you add a 15-20% tip on each bill (let's say the average bill is $50) and assume you serve 15 tables in a four hour shift that is: $112-$150 in tips + $20 paid by the employer = $132-$170. In Australia the same employee would get about $90 plus maybe $10 in tips. Then there is tax which tends to be higher in Australia plus you can get a bit creative about declaring tip-money. There are a bunch of other factors at play of course but the bottom line is that hospitality staff in Australia are certainly not well-off.

If you really can't afford to tip then fine. But if you can and have had good service then think about rounding up the bill by 10%. If you had great service maybe go a bit higher. Even if everybody just rounded their bill up to the nearest $10 the staff would be a bit better off (and there would be no annoying change in your pocket:). Your lovely service person will be taking bins out at 3am and might like to be able to afford a knock-off drink or even just a taxi to get home.

*I am too polite to have actually said the bit about the pineapple but I wanted to.

I would love you hear your thoughts on this. Do you tip (if the service is good)? Or do you not believe in tipping? What did you think hospitality staff were paid- did anything in my little rant surprise you?

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