Here’s A Tip If You’re Travelling to The United States

The strength of the Aussie dollar makes overseas travel very appealing at the moment, particularly to the United States.

But be warned, expect the cost of the trip to be up to 20 % more than you budgeted for.  The reason being tipping. The US is the home of the gratuity, and while generally we here in Australia consider tipping only for good service, in the US it is expected in almost every service transaction.

While a lot of Aussies travelling abroad for the first time might think tipping is un-Australian, “we don’t do it at home so why should we do it OS, ”consider this –   The State of California pays food service workers just $8 an hour. Some state’s pay even less. Without tips these workers would be below the poverty level.

When I told a food waiter that my 18 year old daughter back in Australia was earning in excess of $20 an hour  working in the food and beverage industry he was incredulous . He said on a good week he could earn reasonable money, but there were no guarantees. on a bad week he could take home less than $500 to the family.

The going rate for tipping in the US is 18 percent.  That adds up pretty quickly. When you arrive at LA airport someone helps you load your luggage into the car at $2 a bag times 4 = $8.  You arrive at the hotel – tip the cabbie (say $6) pay the porter $8 to load your bags onto a trolley and then another $8 when another porter takes them to your room.  That’s $30 and the “holiday” has barely started.

For every $1000 you set aside to spend on your US trip remember that almost $200 of that will go in tips. That is unless you’re prepared to get offside with the locals.

Also be wary, many restaurants will factor in the gratuity on the bill so if your not careful you could end up tipping twice (like once isn’t enough!)  Look at your diner or restaurant bill  if it says “gratuity  or service fee included” then that’s enough.

Tipping is simply a way of life in America.

It’s certainly not the way it’s done in Australia, but if you’re travelling you shouldn’t try to impose Aussie standards.

One thing that is glaringly apparent, and maybe it’s because US workers are dependant on tips, is that the service you get in America is so much better than here at home.  Whether it be in a department store, a restaurant or “gas’ station you always receive prompt courteous attention.  Not once in a month did my wife Eve or I feel  we were putting shop assistants or  food waiters out for asking for help.

In one instance I was trying to buy some newly released  headphones that were in short supply. The store I was in didn’t have any but knowing I was travelling around the country  the guy serving me rang  each city along the way until they tracked down the  head phones in San Francisco.  The guy put in at least 15 minutes for no return.  I was never going to return to the store but he was happy to help me out. And that wasn’t an isolated incident, nothing was too much trouble for shop assistants right across the US.

Sadly that isn’t always the case at home.

Australia is without question the greatest place on Earth to live but in a number of areas we have a lot to learn.

2 thoughts on “Here’s A Tip If You’re Travelling to The United States

  1. Charlie Helen Robinson

    gets back to the simple things Graeme… “do unto others” and “when in rome”.

    i actually think we have “tips” built into our wage because australians at their core are a tad mean. mean in spirit and generosity. amercians are also probably the worlds biggest charity donators (philanthropists .. sp?) as well… it’s nice to know they like to give to others – give in tipping for good service and give in spirit for those less fortunate.

    and yet they cant get their basic health care system right?

    so, i guess all people and all countries have their downfalls…

    or is it that when try and put processes in place – we stuff up. perhaps if they let the tippers and charity donators run the health system they will have won the day! who knows.

    thanks for the gentle reminder 🙂

    1. wellmaxx Post author

      I think your right Charlie, all countries have their strengths and weaknesses. I wouldn’t trade the Australian way of life for any other but we certainly can learn.

      The service industry in Australia could sometimes be called the grudging industry. We’ve all experienced shop assistants who clearly give the impression you’re eating into their valuable time when asking for assistance. You do not encounter that in the U.S.

      Regarding tipping, I’m happy to do it here at home, but only for good service. Because of the low wages in the US tipping is part of their pay structure but if I receive ordinary service (which is rare) my tip will be less.


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