The Tipping Point

United States' flag
North America » United States » Hawaii » Kaua'i » Napali Coast
September 8th 2019
Published: September 9th 2019
Edit Blog Post

I’m struggling to come to terms with the tipping culture here in the States. Back home we might tip a waiter up to ten percent if the service was really exceptional, but it would be by no means expected, and other than that I can’t think of too many people that we’d ever tip. Before we’ve even finished the last mouthfuls of our meals here and in Canada, we’ve had either a credit card machine or a bill put in front of us, with a menu of tip percentages on it to chose from. These start at 18 percent and work their way up from there. I get the impression that we wouldn’t get out of a restaurant alive if we declined to add a tip, no matter how bad the service had been. Last night it took nearly an hour and two requests to get a simple soft drink, and when it arrived it wasn’t what I’d ordered. Issy’s drink order was wrong as well, but despite all of this we were still expected to toss in at least 18 percent at meal’s end. This morning’s breakfast was a buffet. A buffet! They’re the meals where the wait staff don’t have to do anything, but still a tip was expected, and this was after I’d already tipped the guy who made me an omelette. Everywhere we go there seem to be containers in which we’re expected to deposit tips; the guy sitting in the corner of the hotel bar playing a guitar last night had one, and so did the guy who lifted our suitcases off the bus after a two minute ride from the airport to the hire car company office yesterday. We had to pay a fee to park the car this morning, and we’ve got so used to handing out money that Scott asked me if we had to tip the parking meter.

Scott tells me he’s been doing some research on all of this, and it seems that the main reason for the tipping culture here is that the US Government's mandated minimum wage for wait staff is so low that they need to make far more out of tips than they do out of their wages in order to survive. Whilst I’m struggling with the culture I’d have to admit that most of the wait staff we’ve come across here do provide much more attentive service than we’re used to back home, which is largely, I’m sure, to try to make sure that they get a good tip.

Scott and I leave Issy to relax by the pool while we head off towards Waimea Canyon which is about an hour away via the south side of the island. We turn inland and climb steeply into a thick forest of gum trees. If it wasn’t for the yellow lines and the fact that we’re driving on the wrong side of the road we could almost be forgiven for thinking we were taking a leisurely Sunday drive through the Dandenongs.

Waimea Canyon is apparently known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific; we read that it’s sixteen kilometres long and up to 900 metres deep. The views from the first lookout are mind blowing. The canyon is massive and its walls are precipitously steep, and we can see a waterfall dropping off the far rim hundreds of metres into the river bed below. Photos don’t go anywhere near doing this place justice.

We pass a NASA installation near the top of the range. I can’t see any rockets, but maybe they’re hidden inside the mountains. I ask Scott for directions, but he says there’s no internet up here. I hope the NASA staff aren’t relying on their mobile phones to pass vital information back to mission control in Houston.

We drive on to the Kalalau Lookout for more stunning views, this time over steep jungle clad cliffs rising up out of the ocean on the island’s north coast. The cliffs are shrouded in an ever moving mist, so we’re not all that surprised to see a sign telling us that we’re on top of 5,075 ft Mount Wai’ale’ale, “One of the Wettest Places on Earth”. This is apparently the place I was reading about yesterday where the average annual rainfall is a drenching 11.7 metres.

We spend the afternoon relaxing by the hotel pool before heading out for a meal down by the harbour. The waitress mucks up all our orders, so gives us a ten percent discount as compensation. We are however of course still expected to provide at least a 15 percent tip....

Additional photos below
Photos: 8, Displayed: 8


10th September 2019

How beautiful is that scenery? The colours are stunning. Re: the tipping thing - we have very similar feelings to you. We're so used to only tipping for good to expectational service over here! It's sad that the minimum wage is so low that waiting staff are at the mercy of customers to make a living, but jeez, a tipping menu? :)
11th September 2019

Yep, very annoying. Ah well, back to sanity later today.
15th September 2019

U.S. tipping
The premise is that wait staff work provide excellent customer service if they know they can impact their pay. I'm not sure it works all the time but the plan is 10% for good, 15% for better and 20% for great service. Some places are adding suggested tips at the bottom so people don't have to do the math.

Tot: 0.137s; Tpl: 0.022s; cc: 51; qc: 195; dbt: 0.0422s; 1; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.9mb