Are Gratuities an Expectation for Service Delivered?


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Last week, Sarah Simon tweeted the story shown in the image to the left. The story is about a waitress who received both a two-cent tip and, literally, someone’s “two cents worth” about the service delivered by her. In the closing paragraph of the article, the author asks: “Is the note a teaching moment, or its author just a jerk?”

You know me by now… this got me thinkin’…

Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but I honestly thought/think that a tip is a reflection of the service you receive; and the amount you give is (a) a personal decision and (b) generally ranges from 0-20%, depending on the quality of service. It is not mandatory that you give 20%; you give what you feel is appropriate. And the amount you leave sends a message; it either says, “Hey, you took great care of me. Thank you.” or “Wow. That was terrible service.” or “Meh, that was OK, nothing special.”

So I did a little homework and researched the origin of tipping.

The stories about the origin and history of tips are as varied as the tips themselves, but the general consensus seems to be that tips were given as monetary rewards for service to servants perhaps as early as the 17th century (possibly even earlier). No surprises, there.

Tips did not make their way into American culture until the early 1900s and were quite the debated topic before they became commonplace here. And once they became commonplace, one of the things that happened is that they became an expectation; as such, employers often pay lower wages because they believe employees will “make up the difference” with tips.

Tips are rewards for the service delivered. And when they become an expectation, they are really no longer motivators for delivering great service, are they? They’ve lost their meaning, their purpose. As an expectation, they become no different from getting your weekly paycheck. Might as well do away with tips and just pay your employees more.

I get it. I’m not discounting what service professionals (wait staff, hotel staff, doormen, cab drivers, hairdressers, etc.) do. They work hard for their money. But, when you’re in a service profession (before you even think about the fact that your income depends on it), deliver great service; otherwise, why are you in that role?

And for employers, I’ll say it again: “Hire the right people. Hire for nice; train the skills.” Nice goes a long way toward earning the tip, even if the rest of the experience sucked. One more CX cliche: “People buy from people.” It’s about connections. Take the time to connect. Again, even if the experience wasn’t that great but you showed that you cared and tried to make things right, that’s important.

Customers talk with their pocketbooks, and they walk with their feet. That means, if they’re not happy, they’re not going to pay, and they’ll not return. So let this customer’s two cents worth be a reminder to that employee, to all employees, to the management, that while this was just one incident, there could be others. It’s time to up your game.

I agree with Sarah: this is the voice of the customer at its finest, speaking loud and clear. Second, I do believe this is a teaching moment.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Annette Franz
Annette Franz is founder and Chief Experience Officer of CX Journey Inc. She is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, consultant, and speaker. She has 25+ years of experience in helping companies understand their employees and customers in order to identify what makes for a great experience and what drives retention, satisfaction, and engagement. She's sharing this knowledge and experience in her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the "Customer" in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business).


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