How to tip gracefully when there's no money exchange?
July 26, 2012 10:10 AM   Subscribe

What is the least awkward way of tipping someone when you're not actually paying for anything?

I am from the UK, where the tipping culture is not nearly as established as in the US. That said, I always tip at a restaurant and sometimes at other times such as the hairdressers or when taking a taxi.

However, while I'm comfortable saying 'keep the change' to the taxi driver, or simply leaving a few pounds on the bill when leaving a restaurant, I can't work out the least awkward way of tipping when we go on holiday to an all-inclusive place next month.

Even though the resort says tips are included, I still intend on tipping (for drinks, food, maid etc) as I think these people work extremely hard for very little money. So how do classy people tip, when there's not actually any exchange of money going on?!

I literally need instructions here, as I find the whole business quite awkward and embarrassing. When there's no tray to put the tip on, like there would be with your bill in a restaurant, I don't know what to do with the money! I feel like just handing the barman money after he gives us our drinks is a little awkward. Similarly with the person who brings us our luggage. I guess with meals at the restaurants at the resort we can still leave the tip on the table at the end when we leave, so I suppose it's when getting drinks at the bar and beach and the luggage people I am most clueless about tipping. It's very likely I am overthinking this, as in the UK tipping at bars is just not done (although we do sometimes say 'have one for yourself' and buy the barman a drink), but still - help me not be awkward about this! Thanks.
posted by schmoo to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If tips are included, you may find that the staff won't accept your money because they're under rules that prohibit them from taking it. If such rules exist, they could be fired for accepting tips. You can leave money on the table after dinner or drinks, but I think it's likely that staff you deal with face to face will refuse a tip and that money you leave in your room for the maids will be left untouched. If that's the case, the best tip you could give would be to tell the supervisors of anyone who provides you with great service what a wonderful job they've done, and perhaps write a letter after your stay to the resort management praising by name the staff who worked hard to help you.
posted by decathecting at 10:15 AM on July 26, 2012 [6 favorites]

I'm American and I believe in the power of tipping, but when it's all-inclusive it's very weird.

Basically, don't tip any more at an all-inclusive place. We have the same issue with cruises. You could tip the freaking world and still not cover everyone who is contributing to your good time.

For every waiter, there's a dishwasher, hostess, bus boy, etc.

If you see the same maid daily, and he/she's doing something great for you, you can leave some money on the dresser when you leave, but other than that, don't tip extra.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:16 AM on July 26, 2012

What I would do, and I've been out of my depth with tipping before, is the evening before you leave, walk around and distribute envelopes directly to the people who were particularly helpful or consistent during your stay. Just greet them with a smile, shake hands and as you tell them you're departing the next day, hand them the envelope and say something along the lines of, "We had a great time this past week, and appreciate your part in making that happen. Thanks!" With maid staff, you can leave the envelope on the dresser with their name or role, and a short note to say thanks.
posted by cocoagirl at 10:16 AM on July 26, 2012

Best answer: the person who brings us our luggage

When I'm getting my luggage, I keep the cash in my hand or pocket, and hand it to the person immediately after getting the luggage. There's no need to say anything, but you could say "Here you go" if you need to draw their attention to the fact that they're supposed to take the cash.

getting drinks at the bar

Leave cash on the bar, close to the bartender's reach.

It's basically a matter of giving people cash in whatever way is most convenient. People are not going to complain about getting cash -- unless there's a policy against tipping (which I have seen at a hair salon in the US, but seems unlikely in the UK).
posted by John Cohen at 10:17 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also some places (like cruise lines) will have a setup where you have an envelope to leave a tip in at the end of the voyage, so you tip all at once.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:17 AM on July 26, 2012

If such rules exist, they could be fired for accepting tips.

Yeah, be aware that at places where employees are forbidden to accept tips, they may come running after you to return the money you have craftily left for them. This is not a situation in which you should argue with them; they're not being polite, they're preserving their jobs.

You can never go wrong with mentioning the great job someone did to their supervisor(s).
posted by elizardbits at 10:22 AM on July 26, 2012

Possible backup plan: Research what might make a good gift for that area. For example, when traveling, items readily available and not terribly expensive where you live may be highly prized where you are going. If the staff won't accept tips, they might accept gifts.
posted by Michele in California at 10:32 AM on July 26, 2012

Whenever I am in a situation that may require a tip (most recently two guys delivering furniture) I make sure I have the cash I need available (if I need to break a large bill I might buy a drink at a convenience store or something) and put it neatly folded in my pocket so I can whip it out without fumbling around in a wallet. When the recipient of the tip is done I thank them while simultaneously handing them the money. It never seems awkward to me, but I grew up here.
posted by TedW at 10:36 AM on July 26, 2012

You are going to get bored of tipping every person in an all inclusive resort. I'd suggest seeing if there was a way to add to the tip pot centrally. It would be surprising if there was not.

That way, on the assumption that the tips are fairly distributed, you are not just tipping the visible people but the ones who add to your stay in other ways - the ones who clean the pool, chop the food etc etc.

If you have to tip, the key is confidence and being low key. You're saying thank you with currency. They are in the service industry. If for some reason they can't take the money they'll find a non-awkward way to do so because they will have done it lots of times. You're not paying your crack dealer - you don't have to hide cash in your palm. But you're not paying. If it is unclear to them you're giving them a tip, a gentle nod and a "for you" works.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:42 AM on July 26, 2012

I tended bar for many years and am very concerned with this sort of thing, and was equally confused when we went to an all-inclusive place in the Bahamas. I have trouble not tipping, but I didn't want to look like a sucker. What I settled in was just to give a big tip (5 or 10) on the first round (two to four people). Then we were priority customers and my spidey senses never tingled that a bartender was getting tired of us. Then I'd tip another five on the last round and say see you tomorrow. The way I determined this was good for both parties was that I could approach the bar while crowded, several rounds later, and still get served instantly. I felt like they were happy, and I (we) still saved a lot of money. $15 for four people to get loaded, woot.
posted by hypersloth at 11:03 AM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

Greg Nog has got it. But one other thing you can do for extra helpful/wonderful people at a no tip place is a gift. Our hotel staff in Madrid was exceptionally fabulous when we were pickpocketed, so when they refused our tip , we bought them flowers. They seemed thrilled. People tend to appreciate food, flowers, and alcohol the world over.
posted by bearwife at 11:30 AM on July 26, 2012

The least awkward way to give someone money is to give it to them and not be awkward. It's when you try to be subtle or all Goodfellas folded-in-the-palm that things get weird.

Have it ready if you can, pull it from your pocket if you can't, and simply say thanks and hold it out. You give them the opportunity to decline if they must because of work rules or because they don't feel it's appropriate. It also reduces the chance that you seem like a tool because if you're not making a big deal out of it then you don't come across like you're doing some great life-changing boon to them with your 5 euros.
posted by phearlez at 11:58 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with phearlez. Just relax and treat it like it's everyday, not awkward. This is not a big deal. Fold a bill in your hand, and say "Thanks for ____, this is for you." and offer it in much the same way that you'd reach to shake their hand. They take it, thank you, you say you're welcome, everybody's happy. Or they refuse it, and you shrug and say all right, and thank them and wish them a lovely day and move on.
posted by lemniskate at 2:36 PM on July 26, 2012

After a few awkward tipping attempts, I've settled on straightforwardness: if I'm trying to tip someone in person, I offer a bill (usually folded, but not concealed) and say "Can I give you a tip?" If they're OK with the tip, they'll take it and thank me. If they're not allowed to take tips or don't want to for some reason, they have the opportunity to decline without a fuss. If they decline, I put the money away and reiterate my thanks for the job well done.
posted by Orinda at 5:14 PM on July 26, 2012

You don't need to worry about this: it'll be fine.

Just tip cash in the normal way -- leave money on the bar or on your restaurant table, hand money to porters and other people who help you, and leave money in your room when you check out. (Don't leave money lying around in your room during your stay: the cleaners won't touch it, because they won't know for sure it's meant for them.) If you're handing someone money, just hand it over and say "thank you so much for your help."

If it's really not okay to tip, people will tell you that. If it is okay, they'll happily take your money. But either way, it won't be awkward. People try to tip them every day, so they will have lots of experience gracefully declining if they need to. And if they can accept it, they'll have experience gracefully doing that too. They will make it comfortable and okay for you, because that's their job, and they will appreciate that you're trying to be kind :-)
posted by Susan PG at 7:11 PM on July 26, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you everyone! I should've said in the question: tips are accepted at the resort. Thanks to you I shall tip away without awkwardness!
posted by schmoo at 11:13 PM on July 26, 2012

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