A Rs10 tip on a Rs4,000 bill is an insult, not a favour

Published: August 30, 2018
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The post successfully struck a nerve, with a barrage of nit-picky posts appearing on Facebook about how the restaurant is “overrated”, its food “unpleasant”, or its environment “unclean”.

Tipping is unique to the food industry. As a doctor, never once did a patient hand me an extra Rs20 note as a thank you for a good knee exam. The reason is that we expect a doctor to receive adequate compensation for his work through the bill alone. It was when I put down my stethoscope and took a hiatus, serving chai to paying customers at my own café, did I develop a greater appreciation for this art.

Tipping persists in the food industry because we don’t expect the labour to be paid what they are due. Serving food and drinks at a restaurant or a café is considered menial or even dishonourable work. Restaurant owners are thus usually happy passing a chunk of their responsibility to the customer when it comes to rewarding the servers.

This may be unfair because all labour is equally important, but this is the world we live in and servers expect to be tipped for their service. While we endlessly debate on the appropriate amount to tip a waiter at a restaurant, we all lean on the side of under-compensating the server’s hard work.

A picture uploaded recently by Easy by Fatsos is making the rounds on social media. This restaurant in Karachi photographed a Rs10 tip received on a Rs3,840 bill, with a sarcastic caption aimed at poor tipping habits.

Photo: Easy by Fatsos

The post has successfully struck a nerve. Nobody wants their kanjoosi (lack of generosity) displayed on the internet, and the most obvious counterattack was that the restaurant’s service isn’t worth more than a Rs10 tip. A barrage of nit-picky posts appeared on Facebook, about how the restaurant is “overrated”, its food “unpleasant”, or its environment “unclean”.

We live in an age where every disgruntled customer sells himself or herself as a qualified food critic online. The difference is that a food critic has greater empathy and deeper appreciation for the hard work that goes into running an eatery. A professional food critic’s word isn’t revenge against an overpriced meal, but a detailed examination that is more than just a narration of one’s personal experience.

If someone leaves you Rs10 as a tip, which is less than 0.3% of the bill, you’d probably feel slighted. In some way, it is possibly worse than not tipping at all, because one can at least blame a non-tip on one’s forgetfulness. But instead of the customer, social media aimed its guns at the restaurant. A defiant review appeared on Facebook, published on SWOT’s Karachi page, proudly announcing a customer’s refusal to tip the servers at Easy.

Posted by Immad Sajid on Sunday, August 26, 2018

Let’s be clear. Your server is usually not responsible for anything more than table service. It’s not your waiter’s job to make your food taste better. It’s not your waiter’s job to fix the establishment’s air conditioner. Your waiter’s job is to greet you, take your order, serve your food, and listen patiently to you complain about water dripping from the air conditioner, or as you call it, “rain”.

That’s labour, and it deserves respectful compensation. If you have issues with the establishment’s performance as a whole – from ambience to the taste of the food – you don’t take that out on the poor server while quietly paying the establishment the bill in full.

As a doctor, one becomes accustomed to a certain level of respect in society. About a month ago, I chose a simpler life; opening up a worker-owned café in which I serve tables myself. The contrast is sometimes jarring, and I’m often forced to signal that I am the owner, as that’s the only way I can get a modicum of respect. Serving food and beverages to smug, finicky customers all day long is gruelling work, and a tip is a great way of showing you acknowledge this labour.

For a sizeable party of customers to leave the serving staff Rs10 as tip is representative of one’s elitist disrespect for the worker. It’s worth reminding that you’re tipping the worker, not the owner who refuses to fix their AC. As an owner, I’ve never asked for a tip, nor have I ever complained about not receiving it. But then again, I’m in a privileged position to be the owner and not a paid server.

Ideally, we shouldn’t have to tip. Ideally, we shouldn’t be a third world capitalist country with dirt-cheap labour, instead of one where all work is equally respected and fairly compensated. Until then, be generous in tipping the server for his or her effort. If you can afford a Rs4,000 dinner, you can surely find a crunched-up Rs100 note or two in your wallet.

Faraz Talat

Faraz Talat

A medical doctor and bubble-wrap enthusiast from Rawalpindi, who writes mostly about science and social politics (and bubble-wrap). He tweets @FarazTalat (twitter.com/FarazTalat)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • DevCommunications

    I dont get it – will you hire a paramedic or a guard, or a receptionist or a janitor as a doctor in your clinic and expect the patients to tip them so you dont agree on a fixed salary with those poor souls? What am I missing here?Recommend

  • Adnan Akram

    Its an unfair analsys, negatively biased towards customers. Firstly, Rs. 10 note hides details of the bill, usually most restaurants charged service charges in which case tip should not be made. One is not certain whether service charges are included in the bill or not.Secondly, waitors greet and serve customers on behalf of restaurant’s owner. I mean, they are employees of the owners not of the customers and their cost is already included in the bill. Its good if customers choose to tip the waitor and at the same time its fair enough if they do not tip since they have already paid servor’s cost in the bill. It is the responsibility of the restaurants owners to pay their serving staff fairly and adequately not of the customers. Indeed paying tip is like paying bribes to govt officials for the very tasks they are hired to do and an extra burden on customer’s pocket yet accepted as norm just like paying bribes.Recommend

  • Abdul moiz

    Why don’t you start a trend of linking sales and servings with the tips ?. (it should be optional at first), somewhere in the range of 2% of the bill so 3840 would fetch around 80 Rs Tip, which is reasonable..
    The bill should be like
    4000 Rs Karahi
    400 Rs Naan
    600 Rs Drinks
    100 Rs Tip

    No extra tipping should be allowed or encouraged, many people nowadays carry cards and not cash, this way they will be able to pay as well and there will be no indecisiveness on the part of customer and the servers will respectfully get a decent compensationRecommend

  • PatelPara

    definitely a bad tip. what were they thinking??Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    Agreed, the server gets virtually no paycheck from the restaurant where he or she works, and depends mostly on tips to make ends meet to feed their own family!
    I never leave less than 15% plus, and usually more if the check is small!
    I worked as a server four decades ago, and learned why I needed to continue with an education for a better job!Recommend

  • Patwari

    True, the server is not the cook, the cleaning staff, the maintenance guy etc.
    He/she just delivers the food to you from the kitchen. Hopefully, with a pleasant
    demeanor. Not all servers are angelic. There is such a thing as bad service.
    But what about places that add 15% gratuity to the bill? Automatically. Whether
    the service stank or was exemplary.
    Like it or not, people want their food served in a nice pleasant way in a restaurant.
    And will go to a particular establishment, regularly, because of a favorite server there.
    [The food, may be average or mediocre, or simply nothing to write home about]Recommend

  • Parvez

    How can one not agree with what you’ve said.
    Tipping for service rendered is a tricky subject all over the world. There is from the standard 10% – 15% to some places having a policy of no tips at all. In Pakistan the amount suggested by you though on the low side should be adopted as a rule of thumb. Would you care to share the name of the Cafe you run ?Recommend

  • shaitan

    Such insults are a good thing because it forces the workers to negotiate for a better wage from their employer. Besides i’m sure these workers find their own ways to take revenge on customers. Diarrhea is free with most meals here!Recommend

  • Muhammad Rohaan Sadiq

    I don’t understand the concept of the “tip” to be honest. The waiter is getting paid to greet and serve the customers (it’s his/her job). If the waiter is doing exceptionally well then it should be the employer who needs to compensate him/her not the person being served who is already paying for the food (that includes staff salary etc).

    For people who wish to disagree…Before you start criticizing me, let me share with you my personal experience. I used to work part-time in a local cinema. Once, I found a wallet on the floor during post-screening checks with lots of money in it. Following the rules I logged it in the lost property and left it in a designated secure place. When the customer came back looking for the wallet, he asked to see me and wanted to compensate me. I can’t remember the amount exactly but it was a decent amount. I refused to take it because I was only doing my job and did not feel it was right to take a compensation for what I was supposed to do anyway.Recommend

  • Adnan Raza

    I don’t agree with this blog at all.
    Why do I have to pay a tip to a server. It should be my choice.
    Do you pay tips to plumbers, electrician or any other guys for maintenance in your house? I don’t think this is the case. They can be needful as well.
    Servers at restaurants have defined salaries by the owners, and they are just their job.
    Come on man, there are a lot of professions where people earn less than these servers. Look for them as well.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Appreciate your point of view but a restaurant waiter’s station and the incident you described at the cinema are different. In Pakistan like in other places, in general, the restaurant server is usually employed on a a very basic wage with the understanding that he would make up the difference in tips, as such the need to be a little generous.
    It some restaurants the tip is added in the bill and mentioned, so then if you don’t tip the waiter it’s acceptable.Recommend

  • InsanityWithin

    Restaurant charges aren’t exclusively for food. There are many eateries which deduct service and tax charges in the bill. The Kunjoosi part which the OP pointed out, goes more in the restaurant owners side.Recommend

  • Sheryy habib

    Bro instead of paying beggar, we should encourage the tip culture in our society. These people are hard working and not working earning well.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Agree with you …. did I say anything about paying beggars that prompted you say that.Recommend

  • Patwari

    It’s called ” No Hippocratic Oath “.
    Everything made fresh daily.
    It’s on the leeward side of the Queen’s stables.Recommend

  • Dante

    Tipping is a cultural invention and not necessarily an “appreciation” for someone’s hard work. If you tip in Japan, that’s considered an insult. Because in Japan, service is supposed to be exceptional all the time. In France, you are expected to only tip if you considered the service to be truly exceptional. Otherwise it’s not a norm to tip every time.

    Whichever way you look at it, tipping is an extra expense and not everyone is too enthralled to submit to it. If you think a waiter deserves extra credit for the service, why not tip the staff that cooks? In some manners, cooking is even more grueling than serving a customer. Multiple orders coming in simultaneously, the need to maintain hygiene, multi-tasking, etc etc are all factors that make the job of a cook even harder, yet we don’t tip them and no one bats an eye on it. In that regard, the janitor that wipes the floors of the building establishment that everyone works at also deserves a tip. Even doctors deserve it! When you’re just out of medical school and doing an internship and grueling long hours of service, and only get paid a meager salary, that’s much more deserving of a tip.

    I always tip at least 18% regardless of service in a restaurant. If the service is good, the tip goes up. Opening up a cafe and serving chai doesn’t make anyone qualified to feel what it’s like to be a server and the hard work that goes in (not when one is also the owner and a medical professional). Technically the message should be to tip every person that works in the labor industry, not just your server, because the person that opens up your clogged drains and cleans up the sewers is as much deserving, if not more, than a server in a restaurant.Recommend

  • twister286

    Last time I visited Pakistan, many restaurants charged extra service charges for table service.

    If you already add service charges to a bill for providing table service over and above the cost of food and GST, I am under no obligation to tip.Recommend

  • Haider Ali

    Tip is a generous way to appreciate the server the service he/she has offered. Usually in UK/USA people give 10-20% tip to servers..Recommend

  • PatelPara

    unlike western societies where restaurants only pay $2-4 per hour, in Pakistan waiters get paid salary for whole month. It varies from restaurant to restaurant. Tips are appreciated in west because of definitely they get paid less. In Pakistan we don’t have a law for how much a waiter should be paid. If its less then yes TIP them. but if its standard then you can’t blame customers. obviously the one above is definitely an idiot. seriously who tips Rs 10 but at the same time it’s wrong understanding that decent restaurants don’t pay decent salary to their waiters.Recommend

  • PatelPara

    no paycheck? have you worked at any restaurant in Pakistan? don’t assume.Recommend

  • PatelPara

    because they get paid by hour very very less. In Pakistan mostly are on salary. don’t compare both societies. There is a law in west and Pakistan doesn’t have any laws.Recommend