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.