Is Inclusive Tipping Really the Way to Go?

Living in Vegas I know I have become spoiled in so many ways. Access to dozens of live performances a month. Fantastic restaurants with varied cuisine. And some of the best service the industry has to offer. With a lot of restaurants across the country talking about including the tip in the check, I have to ask, “Is inclusive tipping really the way to go?”

Some restaurants in other cities in the USA are already doing this with success. While it may be a welcome change for the guests and clients, how successful is it for the staff? When I was a server I counted on tips to make my bills. Are they making the same amount? Is their healthcare now included? I know one chef driven small chain IS including benefits for everyone in house – both front and back of the house – and everyone had a salary boost, but I don’t think that is true across the board.

Last week I took a trip to Atlantis resort in the Bahamas and it was wonderful! It was a “girls only” trip and we had a great time. Friend Laurie earned the trip with The Pampered Chef and she asked her pals to go along for the ride. What a ride it was! When you are at Atlantis you are on a separate island from Nassau and need to take a taxi or water taxi to the city. All four of being intrepid travelers, we took water taxis and regular taxis to get over to Nassau and off the Atlantis property for some additional fun. The prices on Paradise Island (Atlantis) are higher than Vegas or Disney (now that’s saying something!) and for convenience we ate some meals at Atlantis and some in Nassau.

Tipping is not a city in China

We quickly learned that Tipping is not a city in China, but an included item on your check. When I lived in Europe and traveled outside of the USA it was known that the tip was included in our bill, but it wasn’t a line item on the bill. In the Bahamas 15% is automatically added to your bill as a line item and you can decide whether to tip more. There is a space on your credit card check to allow “additional gratuity”. And our service was spotty at best. At Todd English‘s Olives at the resort (we ate there because we were exhausted and it was close) the only thing that came fast was the check. Having eaten at Todd English restos before, I can promise you he would have been mortified at the service we received. At Murray’s we waited 25 minutes for a table for breakfast and then an additional 20 minutes for water and coffee and another 30 minutes for eggs that were all over cooked and the shittiest corned beef hash I have ever had…EVER. The only edible things were the home fries and the toast. All told it was 2-1/2 hours for BREAKFAST! And the place wasn’t even that busy. And we ended up tipping for crappy service because it was included. On the other hand, in Nassau we ate at Oh Andros and the service was super friendly and a bit slow because the place was PACKED with at least 20 “to –go” orders leaving while we sat there and nibbled on conch fritters. The food was amazing and our server, Shakira, kept checking on us, refilling our drinks and informing us of the status of our food, basically treating us like we were there every weekend (there will be a separate blog about eating on this trip). And yet, at another joint in Nassau the waiter tried to tell us that the tip wasn’t included when it said so right on the menu board. And at a third place, the waiter actually stood there and looked at all of our signed checks to see if we were tipping extra. Like I said, a mixed bag.

“Is inclusive tipping really the way to go?”

If the tip is included on the check, what incentive do servers have, other than pride in their jobs, to provide excellent service? They know they are getting paid no matter what. They know they will probably never see tourists again; it’s not likely that we’ll become regulars. I found in other parts of the world, being a server is a career, not a job, and in those locations the service was always exceptional whether the tip was included or not. Yes, Atlantis and Nassau are tourist destinations with visitors from all over the globe. Well, isn’t Vegas? Isn’t New York? Isn’t Disney? As a server in the USA, it is customary to include a 15% or 20% tip on any party of more than 6 or 8 people, and that is expected nearly universally. Sometimes people tip additionally and sometimes they don’t.

Why was our service so spotty? Was it that I am spoiled? Was it that everyone was on “Island Time”?  Was it the fact that the tip was included? Or simply that service is not as important to some people as it is to me? There is no way of knowing. I have often said that I can forgive mediocre food, but I can’t forgive lousy service. If your food is great and your service sucks, chances are I won’t come back. Sadly, when tipping is included in the check, you never know what you are going to get.

Flushing Money Down the Toilet