Tipping in Europe?

Hello boys and girls, There has been quite a lot of discussion in the last few days about tipping in various countries, in various threads. Just today I was reading a thread which was talking both about toilet paper in bins not toilets and tipping. An interesting combination. What do you think about the question of North Americans changing their perceptions to those of doing things the European ways? Ways because the way tips are seen in Europe varies from country to country and district to district. I just read this contribution from Rosalyn from Berkeley: Twice, so far, we have eaten in places where there was a prod towards an American style tip. The first was at a cafe on the Spree, across from Museum Island, where the cc slip had a space for a tip. The second was the cafe on the grounds of the Charlottenberg Castle, where the bill said in large print that it did not include a tip. Granted, both are tourist venues. I have just had an enlightenment. I just realized that several people decently have mentioned that there was a place on the cc slip for a tip. That's the difference. Europeans never see a cc slip until after the transaction is complete. We use Chip&PIN so the machine is brought to us, we put in the card, key in the PIN and job done. Americans give the card over, it is swiped, then the slip is printed for signature, which can easily contain a line for tip, just as Americans are used to seeing. If the slip includes the tip the money likely goes to the business not the employee. In Europe we usually hand any rounding up directly to the employee. Waddayathink?

Posted by Marco
Oxford, United Kingdom
769 posts

Chip+PIN processing machines can be set to give the customer the opportunity of adding a tip. I specifically requested it myself last week in a restaurant in Peterborough when I realised I had gone out without any money only cards. It may however be rare for this to be presented without request. The restaurant in question was quite clear that all of the tips are kept by the staff however they are made. It is part of the UK code of practice in the hospitality industry to make tipping policy clear to customers. It is not unusual though for credit card tips to be subject to a deduction for payroll processing, but this has to be disclosed. Tips in the UK can't since 2009 be used to make up wages to the national minimum.

Posted by Matt
Washington, DC, USA
566 posts

Nigel,
Correct me if I am wrong (I have no direct chip & pin experience) but doesn't the machine brought to your table give you the option to add a gratuity at that time? At least this is what I was told by 2 different sources. At least some institutions using chip & pin are requiring, or suggesting, tipping. While I am either trusting or foolish enough to believe that the employee does receive the tip I leave on the credit card receipt in the US, I do know that the server must then that income for tax purposes. So lately I've been recording $0 tip on credit card, but giving cash directly to the server. I frankly don't know if it makes a difference, but it certainly can't hurt. I'm generally a follow-the-rules type of fellow, but wait staff in the US make such little money that I lose no sleep encouraging some minor tax fraud. The tipping situation over here is out of control. Everyone seems to expect a tip even when no special service is provided. At this point I don't imagine anyone except business owners who therefore don't have to offer minimum wage are happy with the situation. Ironically, I've unsuccessfully tried to leave tips on the credit card slips of my favorite takeaway restaurants. (I know by coming to the shop, I'm preventing the delivery man from earning a tip, so I'll leave a buck or two in compensation to my favorite places.) Their cc slips provide a tip line, but because the transaction is processed before I sign the slip, they rarely go back and add my tip later. Most times, I write in a dollar and they fail to add it to my charge.

Posted by Monte
Genesee, ID
1376 posts

What do I think? Let me tell you the ways. I'm not a great tipper here. If I do, I tip big. If I got a receipt with a space for a tip on it I would put in a big fat 0, zero, zed, ought. I also, usually had the tip to the employee although in this country that is taken to be more personal than some find comfortable. Last week I handed the nice waitress in the Polish restaurant In British Columbia a five dollar bill. Last Saturday night at the local watering hole I handed the bar keep a couple of bucks and said "Put that in the mug". All tips are put in the mug and split between the employees monthy. He handed my money back and said "No, having you here is good enough". He'll go far. That's what I think.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11256 posts

I guess this doesn't apply to me, since I always pay cash for meals. "I don't imagine anyone except business owners who therefore don't have to offer minimum wage are happy with the situation." In this country, the Fair Labor Standard Act requires that the employee get at least the minimum wage ($7.25/hr). The employer can take a tip credit of up to $5.12/hr, but in no case less more than the employee actually got in tips. So, if the employee made more than $5.12/hr in tips, the employer only has to pay $2.13/hr. But, if the employee makes less than $5.12/hr in tips, the employer has to make up the difference, so that the employee makes the minimum wage. The reason employers are happy is that they can "show" prices that are 13% lower than what you actually pay including tip.

Posted by stan
Kansas City, Missouri
215 posts

Nigel I normally only pay cash at restaurants, but travel with others who must use their cards in the way to which they are accustomed. I have seen the tip line on slips as well, and it occurred to me that, "tip" being an American-english term, it is only done as a kindness to Americans who insist on paying more and on paying restaurant bills with credit cards. I have not seen the equivalent translation of "servis" "Trinkgeld" or whatever written on a slip. We assume that business is done the same all over the world as in the US, and assume that servers are low-paid and that a tip will encourage good service. I think you are right that it is likely that any tip goes to the business not the server.

Posted by Joan
Gettysburg, PA, USA
161 posts

I haven't seen or heard Trinkgeld in Germany in about 40 years. Tip is the accepted term, I believe.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2373 posts

I saw the same posts where someone has seen tip lines on German credit card slips. I suspected that it was just there, but didn't mean a tip was required or suggested. Occasionally I get receipts in the US for purchased goods that have a tip line - obviously no tip is expected in that case. I think the other case, where it said "tip not included in price" was a not-so-subtle way to get Americans to pay their wait staff more...

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
2855 posts

It always seems strange to me that a tip, that is supposed to insure good service, is paid at the end of a meal. So the server doesn't know whether a tip will be forthcoming. I dislike the American system of underpayment of workers in anticipation that tips will bring them up to minimum wage. It is unfair and dishonest. The European system makes more sense, and service is always (in my experience) just fine.

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
2253 posts

I finally got to use my brand new AFCU P&C credit card in Switzerland. I kept trying to enter my PIN in the machine until the waiter finally said "No no, teep." So that's the way its done there. Same routine in Canada, just better pronunciation.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4754 posts

I can only speak about Germany, but here is the deal with the tip section on the Credit Cards. Depending on the machine used, it often isn't possible to add the tip to the credit card receipt after it has already been entered into the machine. It has to be entered as part of the bill, so a space is left for the customer to enter the amount. It isn't a request, it is just there for you, the customer, as a convenience. One doesn't leave money on the table for the server, tips are given when you pay. Whether cash or credit card. You can tip or not. Tips do not go to the business. At the end of their shift, a server will settle up their money, and all credit card transactions as well as cash transactions will be added up. The difference between what was rung up on the registers and the CC transactions as well as cash received, is going to be the tips. Example - A Server starts the day with 100 € in their wallet. Sales were 2000 €, and they have CC slips totaling 1000 € including those CC tips, and they have 1150 € cash in their wallet at the end of the day. They give the manager 1000 €, minus out their original 100 € bank. They made 50 euro in tips. Berlin has been reported about the bills saying the amount did not include the tip. This is illegal. Unfortunately, so many people think the VAT or the service charge is the tip, and that it has been automatically added into the bill. This question also gets asked on the Helpline. Service charges DO NOT go to the server either, those go to the business. Most servers are also going to tip out to the kitchen and to the bartender. They also must a certain amount for taxes. If service was good, anywhere from 5-10 % is fine. If service was bad, then no tip.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2684 posts

What Rosalyn describes is exactly what I have also encountered in a restaurant in Berlin-Charlottenburg, which is frequented by tourists, German and non-German. I see that space on the credit card slip and tell the employee what the total is. At this restaurant I pay with a credit card. Because I absolutely like the place, its North German cusine, the food preparation, the owner, the staff, etc., I make an exception here instead of merely rounding off, usually 1.5 to 2.5 Euro to be added...as Trinkgeld. At other places in Germany I usually pay cash, tip the German way by rounding off in a sensible manner.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8731 posts

quoting a previous response: I haven't seen or heard Trinkgeld in Germany in about 40 years. Tip is the accepted term, I believe. To take the discussion off on a related tangent, especially for regular visitors to Germany and Austria, german speaking Switzerland, and to residents there, what is your take on Trinkgeld / tip in those parts? For my answer, I have used the expression Trinkgeld on every journey through Germany and Austria (we don't have enough money to go to places in Switzerland which involve a tip very often) over the last decade and a half and have never had a funny look from a waitress. What say ye, locals?

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4754 posts

One can use either word. I think you would find it difficult to find a server that doesn't know the word "tip", but they would also use the word Trinkgeld, when speaking German, especially with each other. I say Trinkgeld, and not tip, most of the time.

Posted by Mark
Berlin, Germany
316 posts

The only correct German word for the money you give service staff is das Trinkgeld, the German noun der Tip has the exclusive meaning of 'hint, useful information.' Many Germans working in the tourist/service industry will understand the English term 'tip,' but that doesn't make it a German word.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2684 posts

That is correct. I always use the word "das Trinkgeld" in that context, never the other word.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11256 posts

Back to Matt's statement about tipping being out of control here, The Denver Post ran a poll yesterday about the tipping system, and 68% of those responding said the restaurants should move away from a tipping system and just pay servers a higher wage.

Posted by Joan
Gettysburg, PA, USA
161 posts

Mark, what about words such as fairness, multiple choice, multiplication, multimillionaire, English words that have crept into German and are fully accepted. By your standards, kindergarten would not be an English word. :-)

Posted by Mark
Berlin, Germany
316 posts

Joan, the differnce between Fairness, Multiple Choice, Multiplikation (that's from Latin BTW not English), Multimillionär, and Tip in the sense of hint, useful information on one hand, and tip with the meaning of money one gives to service staff, is precicely that the former are fully accepted and used as German words while the latter isn't.

Posted by Joan
Gettysburg, PA, USA
161 posts

Thanks for the instruction, Mark. Lesson learned: never assume anyone's sense of humor.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2684 posts

"...but that doesn't make it a German word." True, and neither is it proper German.

Posted by Denny
Columbus, OH, USA
733 posts

Gee. I always thought Das Trinkgeld was part of the Ring cycle. :-)

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3296 posts

Hah, Sarah, I'd forgotten about stimmt so. A very useful phrase! I think I've forgotten more German than I realized. :) Although, this also recalls a funny story about NYC that involved German Tourists in NYC. I work on Third Avenue at 44th and we're right across the street from the Hofbräu Bierhaus which is on the second floor of a two story building. We're also right around the corner from the Chrysler Building, so we're all used to nearly running down tourists who have come to a dead stop in the middle of the sidewalk to snap a picture. One morning, though I spotted a young man taking picture who was not in the Chrysler sight lines. I quickly realized he was photographing the Bierhaus. Once I caught up to him, sure enough he was surrounded by family and they were all exclaiming in German about our local afterwork spot. Pam

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

I get the impression that Americans who resent tipping/chronically undertip in the U.S. use the idea that "Europe has a wonderful system of only tipping when you feel like it!" to undertip in Europe as well. Both are bad form, imo. The German style of "rounding up" doesn't mean that if you have a bill that's 48.50 you just round up to 50. That's far too small a tip if your service was decent or better. I hear the term trinkgeld used sometimes. I don't have much occasion to use it, I just say the amount I want to pay and if the server tries to give me back money I say "stimmt so". And I can't remember the last time I paid with a credit card in Germany, I'm so used to paying cash. It would only happen if we went to a truly fancy restaurant where the bill would exceed 75 euro or so, which doesn't happen much.

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
611 posts

Which nationalities obsess more about tipping when traveling internationally yet tip as much as most Americans?

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

Bruce - quite a few as far as I can tell. Since I hang out with an international community of expats tipping - how it's done in your home country, how it's done here, which is right, etc - is a regular topic of conversation. One of my good German friends used to be a waiter/bartender. Even in the 90s, he says 10% was near standard for food and remains so today. If you're only having drinks, the simple 'rounding up' is fine. He's Swabian so he's hardly generous even by German standards and this is what he adheres to. I brought up the trinkgeld issue tonight (with the aforementioned Swabian, his desperate-to-integrate Filipina wife, and our Dutch friend) and we all agreed that "trinkgeld" is still a term that's used but not that frequently. "Tip" (it would actually be "tipp" in Deutsch, don't ask me why) is not outside of tourist areas catering to English-speakers. The four of us were celebrating a birthday and at the last bar we had a round of beers and shots. My Swabian friend tipped 4 euro total for that. As we were leaving he told me that the bartender found that very generous. (8 drinks total). Make of that what you will - he was horrified when I told him that in the U.S., a dollar per drink is considered standard by some.

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
611 posts

Sarah: I checked with our two Germans from Saxony in residence and they say 10% tip for a good meal/service is the norm for them. And, they'd round up a bar bill or so for drinks only. As for ..."in the U.S., a dollar per drink is considered standard by some" please note that that "some" don't live here....cheap bastards we are?

Posted by Diane
Westford, MA, USA
233 posts

By CC I appear cheap. In the U.S. I always leave the tip line at ?0- dollars, and give the service people cash according to their services and how they were given. Out of the U.S., if the gratuity has not been included already, I round off the bill and give the service people the same way I do in U.S. If the already included tip is too low, I adjust it. If it's too high, I accept the situation and move forward. At bars/lounges I round off to the minimum. I have no chip and pin experience outside the U.S. My younger years of experience in this employment field make me vulnerable to overtipping, so I do have to watch myself. I know the hourly wages are very low. The tips are the bread & butter for service employees and not their wages.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11256 posts

TIP AMERICAN EXPRESS According to the FLSA, if the tip is included on the credit card bill, and the restaurant pays the CC company a 4% commission, the restaurant only has to give the server 96% of the tip, so you're tipping the credit card company. I usually leave the tip line blank and tip the server in cash.

Posted by Christophe
Copenhagen, Denmark
265 posts

Many of these chip/pin terminals can be set up to ask for tips. Of course it can be switched on or off by the establishment. Here in Denmark, this practice has become quite common, I would guess that almost half of the bars and restaurants have machines that ask for tips. Some locals feel offended by it, feeling thet the restaurants try to sneak additional tips in although "tips" already are included in the final price by law and no tipping should be asked for in theory. But the reataurants say that it works because tourists are more likely to tip when they are confronted by the tipping question. Personally, it's a turn off for me, and I see it as begging. When I see a machine asking for tips, I deliberately choose not to tip.

Posted by Southam
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
909 posts

Nigel, a quibble. In the northern part of North America nearly all the credit cards have been switched to chip-and-pin and most of the machines are programmed to allow the customer to specify a tip, whether an amount or a percentage. Of course Canada's notorious goods-and-services taxes, VAT to you, cannot be avoided even though they are stated separately on the sales slip. Surely it isn't the machine that is a fundamental issue so much as the basic wages that servers earn. Minimum wage in a Canadian pub will be even less than the provincial standard, a special exemption to the law. As I understand it, European waiters are guaranteed decent if not flush pay. North American staff, all of them, really do work for tips. In many places the tips are pooled, encourging the employees to work together and put pressure on slackers, or floor staff give a portion of their tips to the kitchen crew.
I far prefer the European (and Australian) approach, but denying a bonus to someone who has helped me drink top-of-the-line cocktails won't help make our system fairer.

Posted by Ray
Portland, Oregon, USA
1333 posts

this is just my experience and how i do things. i will tip if i have had good service. in New Jersey once, i tipped 100% since i was really really hungry. Well that shoudlnt make a difference, right? well, i walked into a restaurant at dinner time and it was packed. I already knew what i want and told the waiter so. He took my order and in about 10 or so minutes, my food was there and there were some other people not so happy that i just sat down and had my food so fast. but i ate and was out of there within an hour. I didnt expect that fast of service, but it happened and i was a full and happy camper so i tipped how i felt at the time. I have tipped outside of the US for the same thing and for great food too. Many times i dont need to see the bill. i do it as i feel at the time. I do appreciate the headsup that the tip may not go to front line worker, so if/when i do the next time, it will be a direct handoff so it goes to where i want it. happy trails.