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The Curious Custom of Tipping

January 15, 2020 12:15 am Published by

When I worked for a Dutch engineer at a German company in Indonesia (mixed-up enough?) I became pals with a very funny New Zealander – also an engineer – who related the story of his first trip to San Francisco, on business.

He was traveling with two other Kiwi engineers and they had a great time in the City by the Bay, aka “Frisco”.

Their work went off well and so they decided to celebrate, with a “Farewell Frisco” dinner at a high-powered (read = ultra-expensive) restaurant, with a fine view of the Golden Gate Bridge. It was magnificent.

The dinner wound up, the check (sticker-shock!) paid in full, and the three New Zealanders strolled out into the chilly wind off the Pacific (“The coldest winter I ever experienced was a summer in San Francisco” – Mark Twain). They noticed they were being followed, and turned.

It was a pair of waiters from the restaurant.

“Did we leave something behind?” my pal smiled at the waiter.

The waiter did not smile back. “Was there something wrong with the service?”

The Kiwi three looked at one another. What was up?

“No, the service was great.”

The other waiter a short, feisty fellow, barked “Then how come you guys waltzed out and left us nothing? We got families to feed too, you know.”

Now the New Zealanders were perplexed.

“We paid the bill…”

The tall waiter snorted. “…and nothing else…”

Finally, it dawned on them. “Oh, the tip…”

“Yeah, the tip. You guys never heard of that?”

A wad of twenties was handed over with apologies and the waiters, still grumbling, turned as one and marched back into their restaurant.

The embarrassed New Zealanders, from islands far far off toward Antarctica, looked at each other. “Nobody told me about this custom. Twenty percent. Of four hundred fifty dollars. Wow. Ouch. So much for our per diem food allowance.”

“It was all that fancy grape juice. Even if the wine is local – from California – it’s not that cheap.”


And do not, whatever you do, fail to tip the waitress and the waiter…

Don’t they tip “down under”? How could it be that these college-educated professionals were simply unaware of the custom? Where else is this curious custom not encountered? Why am I asking so many questions?

What if I told you that a prospective waiter wanting a job in a ritzy New York restaurant might have to pay ten thousand dollars to someone currently employed – as though he was “selling his job”?

Cheapskate customers do not like to be reminded of the tip – they have even been known to murder the waiter who complained.


The practice of tipping began in Tudor England. “By the 17th century, it was expected that overnight guests to private homes would provide sums of money, known as vails, to the host’s servants. Soon afterwards, customers began tipping in London coffeehouses and other commercial establishments”.

Sound a little like Airbnb? You’re a “guest” but at the same time you are expected to show your appreciation with… MONEY.

gratuity (also called a tip) is a sum of money customarily given by a client or customer to certain service sector workers for the service they have performed, in addition to the basic price of the service. It may or may not be customary to tip servers in bars and restaurants, taxi drivers (including ridesharing), hair stylists and so on, but this depends on the country or location.

There is a curious history of tipping, covered faithfully by a Wikipedia entry.

Do tips make sense? They are supposed to reward superior service and (through their absence or miniscule amount) punish sloppy, hostile or erroneous service.

However, studies of the practice in America suggest that tipping is often discriminatory or arbitrary: workers receive different levels of gratuity based on factors such as age, sex, race, hair color and even breast size, and the size of the gratuity is found to be only very weakly related to the quality of service.

Big tits = Big tip?

So what happens if you decide not to tip? Some people are cheap: I witnessed a large party, extended Chinese family, in a fancy Glodok restaurant. Their bill was in the millions of Rupiah but they only left a tip of Rp 5000! And then to add insult to injury, one of their children loitered after the adults had bustled off and then snatched that tip for himself. Poor waiters. But working in a Chinese restaurant they might expect no better.

So who are the best and worst tippers? One comment on Reddit: Tipping is pretty much the standard thing to do in any US restaurant, but in other countries this is not always the case. In some places, such as Germany, tipping is something you do when you got good service, but it isn’t considered rude or bad etiquette if you don’t (at least not to my knowledge). In other places, such as Japan, tipping is pretty much never done. It’s easy to see how somebody might make mistakes if their local restaurant etiquette is different.

It’s taken pretty seriously by some restauranteurs: get this message to a measly-tipping customer.

How about those potatoes?

Strangely enough, the worst tippers do not tend to be those you’d suspect. Reddit commenters again (many who had worked in the food service industry):

“The worst tippers are black people. Everyone who’s worked in the industry knows that, but I’ll probably get downvotes for this.


“This suck, cause as a black dude I already feel like I’m being judged as soon as I walk into a bar/restaurant. Because of this I always give no less than 20% even if the waiter did a sub-par job. Good service gets 30%, and excellent service can get anywhere from 35% to 50% from me.”


“If you actually worked in the industry, you’d know that Canadians are the worst tippers.”


“Believe it or not, I’m told people who wear multiple gold chains and carry tons of cash are not the best tippers”


“I think it just applies to that kind if category. Not just black people though, all races that act ‘2gangsta’ are like this.


“As a part of the service industry for number it’s years – and I hate to say it – would probably be a tie between black people and old ladies. Old ladies are the devil.


“Super religious people – they always leave $1 and a pamphlet. Like, I might read your fucking pamphlet but it’s gonna cost a lot more than the 2% tip you left.


“I think you’ve spotted the official worst tippers. I had a lady give me a pamphlet. Then I saw her at church 2 days later, and gave her it back.


“What if there was a $20 in the pamphlet?”

Some tips are simply amazing: $500. Here, $1000 there…

Then there are customers who feel free to insult service staff with a tiny tip:

These saucy customers better not come back again – next time the waiter might just ‘accidentally-on-purpose’ spit in their food (oh yes, this happens – and not just in the movies).

Then there are the happy stories – “Police Officer leaves pregnant woman $100 tip “to make your day:

MEANWHILE, back at the ranch – no, I mean back at Ya Udah Bistro, life is speeding along as merrily as ever – are you going to be part of the show?

The serving ladies are on the alert, awaiting hungry and thirsty clientele…

We end our sojourn into tipping-territory with a reminder to be nice to your YaUdah Bistro serving staff, as they are nice to you: tip those ladies well, folks, and they’ll remember you next time.

Hey it’s chow-down for the happy masses; are you energetic consumers ready to roll? YaUdah Bistro serving and cooking staff will do their utmost fill you right up with great Euro-Asian cuisine, hygienic, authentic and tasty, and at a competitive fare.

Food should be fun, look appealing and healthy. Do drop around for dinner, awaiting the reader at the majestic and hospitable Ya Udah Bistro, now in Serpong (with a special non-smoking air-conditioned section) as well as the classic location in Menteng, near Gondangdia Station. Ya Udah Bistro is an historic site in Central Jakarta, featured approvingly in famed tour guides like Lonely Planet. Come around, eat, drink and make merry.

Smoke, drink, eat, laugh and yell to your heart’s content, in an elegant, polite environment, a breezy outdoor atmosphere where you can discuss all those big deals awaiting you in 2020.

Hey, thanks for reading our Ya Udah Bistro blog. Please check out some of the earlier newsletters on the Ya Udah Bistro website. We do appreciate your comments on these fanciful expositions as well. All Comments welcome!

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