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Why Tipping in Singapore Makes No Sense


A Straits Times article published earlier this year lauded the rising trend of restaurants that encourage tipping. If you’re not yet pissed off about the practice of tipping in Singapore, by the end of reading this article, you will. Here’s why.

Tipping is Inherently Unfair

A common reason why people tip is that it is seen as a magnanimous, generous thing to do to reward good service. This is unfair though. Bringing you a nice, satisfying meal is a team effort –the chef in the kitchen who grilled your excellent steak, the dishwasher at the back, the people who did the procurement, and so on. Tipping the server alone as an expression of gratitude for a wonderful experience makes little sense. Which brings us to the next point.

Biggest Beneficiary of Tips: Restaurant Owners

In some establishments, service staff members are told that though their “basic” pay is low, it will be made up for in the tips they receive. Essentially, the restaurant owners got away by paying less than they should by letting their employees’ earnings to be at the mercy and whim of customers.

Some establishments even proudly declare: “No Service Charge”. Here is a translation of what that means: “Labour Cost Transferred to Customers”.

Tipping Perpetuates Bad Stereotypes

Diners think that because they have power to give (or not give) tips, servers are incentivised to give excellent service. Really? How much faster can they bring your plate of food from the kitchen to your table? How carbonated does your glass of Coke need to be for them to earn top tips? Tipping perpetuates the myth that people are motivated by money and money alone.

Also, if servers need to rely on tips from customers in order to survive, they would be vulnerable to bad behaviour from customers, who know they have the advantage.

Another myth is that good service will be rewarded with appreciation in the form of tips from customers. Talk to any waiter and they’ll tell you: you can provide sterling service, but if your restaurant’s crowd is full of misers, you’re out of luck. In other words, good service does not mean good tips, and good tips does not ensure good service.

Ending the Tipping Culture in Singapore

We at DollarsAndSense believe that servers, like all professionals, should be paid a competitive wage. Being shortchanged and having to be at the whim of customers is unfair.

Instead, having that cost factored into the price of food would allow revenue to be fairly distributed to the entire team who were all indispensible in a restaurant.

Happy holidays everyone! Bon appetit!

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