By Guest Blogger: Margaret Mwewa
I have always believed that tipping at a restaurant is something you do to reward a server who has provided an exceptional service. It is a kind gesture to appreciate a server who goes above and beyond to make your dining experience more than just good, but great or wonderful. Well, recently, in my travels in a neighbouring country, I went to a restaurant where gratuity was clearly stated on the bill as mandatory. It was expected of every customer to pay gratuity, the bill stated.
The food was nice and the server was okay. I did not think that he deserved a tip because he had basically done his job by getting my order correctly and making sure that everything was fine so that I could have a good meal I was rightly going to pay for. So, why was I being strong-armed into paying a tip? Nevertheless, I followed the good old advice to do as the Romans do when in Rome. I kept my objections to myself and paid the gratuity.
It was the first time I had encountered this requirement in real life. Of course, I had read articles online, of Americans engaged in heated arguments for and against the culture of mandatory tipping in restaurants in the US. I never thought it would be something I would come across close to home. I always thought of this topic as a “first world problem.”
I still think that a restaurant should pay its staff a minimum wage or whatever amount it can afford to pay and not expect its customers to fork out more money in form of mandatory tips to supplement the poor wages of its employees.
I certainly hope the mandatory tipping culture, which is primarily American, will not find its way to Zambia anytime soon. I have embraced a lot of American ideals and idiosyncrasies that I find reasonable and even excellent, but mandatory tipping is one that I am willing to pass on. I find it unfair. Personally, I would rather go to a restaurant which offers good food and good service at a premium price and does not require its customers to pay tips rather than go to a restaurant with standard prices, where I will be expected to pay mandatory gratuity in addition to my bill.
At the end of the day, I am just happy that restaurants in Zambia have not caught on to this mandatory gratuity trend. And if they have, I am glad I have not encountered it yet. I still have the freedom to use my own discretion to pay a tip to someone I think really deserves it. Cheers to that!