I am a firm believer in tipping for good service. However, I am smart enough to know what is expected in the country I am visiting.
In the United States, a tip of 15% is the norm. And in many places, it is added automatically. I understand that the server has to report 8% to the Internal Revenue Service regardless of how much they receive. So, if the service is good, 15% is acceptable.
In Thailand, this is not normal. Unless you are at a 5-star hotel or restaurant, you should only tip 5 or 10 percent and only if the service is exceptional.
You will find in many bars that your change will be placed in a small booklet or on a tray and they will always figure out the change to leave some very small coins on the tray. If your change is 400 Baht, you can expect 300 Baht in 100 Baht notes and the rest in smaller money. They will expect you to leave them a tip.
Some will even hide the coins under the bills expecting you to just grab the paper money and leave the coins. This annoys me to no end.
There are some that automatically expect a tip even if the service is crappy. And you will get dirty looks if you take all of your change and pocket it.
You may also find times when your drink bill will be 90 Baht and you pay with 100 baht and you are expecting 10 Baht in change. Sometimes you will have to remind them about your change. These annoy me too when they automatically think that the change belongs to them.
The problem is not the girls. It is the foreigners that just let it go. After all, it is only 10 Baht. It is the equivalent of about 35 cents. So, no big deal. But it adds up if she does it to every customer all night long.
I have no problem leaving a 5 or 10 Baht tip for good service for a couple of drinks. But, if the girl tries to pull the hidden coins trick or the automatic no change returned bit, I will refuse to tip.
We need to band together to show them that a tip is for good service and not an automatic. Maybe then, we can expect good service instead of the same old thing all the time. Service personnel cannot expect a tip if they did not earn it.
So, only tip if the service is good. Don’t tip according to the rules back home. A 5 or 10 Baht tip for a regular meal and maybe 20 or 30 baht for a pricey one is OK. Give the bellboy 10 or 20 Baht for carrying your bags and taking care of showing you everything in your room.
So, save some money. Tip only when given exceptional service. Don’t just tip automatically. Check your change and watch for the hidden coins. Don’t be a jerk, but don’t tip if it isn’t deserved.
Author Larry Westfall travels to Thailand whenever he can. He offer’s a Newbie’s Guide To Pattaya: http://www.pattayacrazy.com/