The cocktails might be good but some cruise companies charge 15% service for every drink

Nations have reputations for all sorts of things; the Germans for their love of all things technical, the French for romance (and garlic!) and the Brits for their sense of humour. But we also have a reputation for being amongst the meanest tippers in the world. But is it fair?

Conversely, the Americans have a reputation for being one of the most generous tipping nations, but do they do it graciously, or is it that they feel they have to because it is so deeply ingrained in their culture that they don’t want to be seen to be ‘not’ tipping?

There is a famous scene in the film Reservoir Dogs where at the end of a meal, one of the diners, Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) refuses to tip, saying that ‘tipping automatically is for the birds’ and a row ensues.

Of course, when tipping is such a part of the culture as it is in the US, it enables employers to pay staff lower wages, knowing that they will earn a lot more though tips. How can that be right? If the tips don’t come, you’re out of pocket.

On a recent trip to New York, I was amazed that on the restaurant bills, it gave you the amount that you should tip depending on whether you want to give 15, 20 or 25%! A quarter of the bill again for a tip?

The most expensive meal that I have paid for was at Heston Blumenthal’s famous restaurant The Fat Duck at Bray, for my wife Debbie’s 50th. The bill (for lunch) came to over £500 and 15% was due to be automatically added for service.

For me this is where the automatic percentage addition doesn’t work and I instructed the waiter not to bother (he wasn’t at all surprised, I expect it is commonplace). I still left a very generous tip, but I wasn’t going to leave around £75 (which 15% would have been).

We tend to automatically tip taxis. But why? They are owners of their own business, not employees. And the metres in black cabs in London continue to turn even when stuck in traffic. On one occasion, I had a £22 black taxi fare to travel the 2.5 miles between Waterloo Station and St. Pancras Station because of the traffic. He certainly wasn’t getting a tip (he could have asked for less money but didn’t).

When we go on Cunard cruises, we automatically opt out of the daily ‘service charge’, which is an additional £12 per person per day (Cunard’s parent company is American). This isn’t mean. We tend to imbibe rather a lot on cruises, and we are paying a 15% service charge for every drink and bottle of wine. It soon adds up!

We always give a generous tip to our cabin cleaner and waiter at the end of each trip, so I think it evens things out.

So, do tip where you feel it is deserved, but tipping automatically? Mr. Pink had a point…