Previously I rambled on about America, the land of opportunity. It is safe to say that I was mightily impressed by the USA, from the moment we arrived until the moment we left. Of course the roads aren’t paved with gold, I am not going to say everything was great. For example there was the first night, where we stayed in a Days Inn in Valdosta, GA and heard gun fire and police sirens in the distance. I did wonder if we were going to be featured on CNN in the morning…it was all better after the IHOP (International House of Pancakes) breakfast in the morning.
Over the course of the holiday I was to put on 12lb, well earned I should add. The American’s certainly do food in a very big way and we ate at quite a few American favourites; Wendys, Waffle House, IHOP, Red Lobster, McDonalds, Burger King, Longhorn Steak House. Not to mention pretzels, seafood, and a lot of junk food. And one thing that is very different about eating in America as opposed to eating in England is the service.
Prior to heading over to the US I had been told about the ‘tipping’ culture. Indeed, I’ve heard horror stories of people being chased down the road by angry serving staff for failing to leave a tip, and this didn’t really sit well with me. Don’t get me wrong, I am all in favour of tipping people when they provide a good service and when in a nice restaurant in the UK I will often leave a tip. But so often in England the service is woefully inadequate and then you glance down at the bill and so the the dreaded words “service charge included”. This infuriates me. It is the assumption that a good service has been provided, when actually the waiting staff didn’t look like they care and the icebucket has a warmer personality than the bar staff. This has left a bitter taste in my mouth (excuse the pun) when it comes to tipping.
But actually the reality in America is that the system actually works. Generally waiting staff over there don’t get very much in the way of a standard wage, but they make their money in tips. At first this might seem a bit unfair but actually it puts the onus on them to do a good job. And they do. In the 17 days we were over there I didn’t experience a single bad service. I mentioned in my last blog about the happy greeting we received when we arrived in America, well the waiting staff are the same. In almost all the restaurants we not only got the basic, we had long friendly conversations with our waiter or waitress, and it wasn’t feigned interest, but genuine two way conversations.
For me, this was an example of how the tipping system can actually work. The personalities of American people suit this approach anyway, they are kind and open. They earn their tips and the conversation over the bill is often not, “I don’t want to pay a service charge” but “how much should we leave, 15% 20%?”. The way they have set out the system means that the customer actually has the power, as the staff need to impress them and make sure they have a good time. In the UK it often feels like the opposite, that the customer is there to do as they are told and pay the requisite price, whether the occasion was enjoyable or farcical. Another point won for America here. I am still not a fan of tipping in the UK, but in America it is a system that works.