Who gets the dosh when you leave a tip?

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 September, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 September, 2000, 12:00am

In San Francisco earlier this month, I asked my daughter and her husband what sort of tip was normal in restaurants and bars in California.

The reply indicated that 15 per cent was normal, but 20 per cent was more appropriate.

This in addition to the 10 per cent 'service' charge, brought my involuntary gratuity up to 30 per cent on top of the cost of the meal.

As I tend not to skimp on food and wine when travelling, and as members of my family were among my guests, I let it slide. Two nights later, at the same restaurant I politely asked the head waiter, who exactly profited from this largesse.

'Not us', he assured me. 'It's split among the senior management.' Now what people do in San Francisco doesn't bother me at all, I visit there too infrequently to care, but I do care very much what happens to the thousands of dollars shelled out in tips and 'service' charges by my friends in Hong Kong, often for 'service' which can at best be termed indifferent.

So who does get the 10 per cent to 15 per cent 'service' charge? And who gets the cash tip we leave for extra 'service'? Like most people I use a great many services for which no tips are ever expected.

My tailor spends hours fitting and adjusting suits and shirts, at a shoe store I can try on a dozen pairs before I find what I like. The postman, couriers and delivery men deliver stuff to my home without even the hint of an extended palm.

Bus conductors, ferry crews, airline stewardesses and the little guy who delivers my South China Morning Post through rain, burning sunshine, typhoon and flood, never threatens me with an extended hand.

So why do waiters qualify for this (presumably untaxed) benefit, when they're simply doing the job that they are paid to do? And if the waiters themselves are not getting the dosh, then who is? And why?


Wan Chai