Monocolumn

A daily bulletin of news & opinion

28 February 2014

I have a huge appreciation for those who work in the hospitality sector. Waiters, air stewards and hotel staff all face the consequences very quickly if something goes wrong.

And sometimes what goes wrong can be unpredictable. Just look at me: a couple of weeks ago I ordered mussels and got pork belly instead. And here I am still fuming about the injustice I have experienced.

Serving people well is not easy and people who are great with dealing with customers are a valuable asset. This is why I find the idea of tipping perplexing.

On one hand, I do enjoy giving tips to those individuals who have clearly mastered their customer-service skills. But these individuals are rare and nine out of 10 front-of-house staff I encounter don’t quite manage to impress enough in order for me to want to part with an extra 10 or 20 per cent on top of the restaurant bill.

On the other hand, I find it comforting when I am dealing with service workers who don’t expect tips. My home country Finland does not have a tipping culture. Sure, you can give restaurant staff some euros if you have been happy with everything but it is in no way expected.

Finland lacks tipping culture because there is no need for it. The employees are on salaries they can get by with – which is Nordic society’s way of showing that their profession is valued.

Sure, you sometimes see waiters that are not bothered by the idea of an added tip – the service is not overtly friendly, you don’t get quite as many smiles as you would in London or New York and the real mood of employees is more visible than it would be elsewhere. But at the same time you don’t get the feeling that someone is being nice to you just to get a few more euros. The Finnish way of dealing with customers is honest and straightforward.

Considering all this, I am delighted that in a recent survey Finland was found to have Europe’s friendliest hotel staff. Knowing my countrymen and women, they haven’t been faking it but instead have really enjoyed their work. It’s an excellent indication that great service doesn’t always involve a quest for tips.

Markus Hippi is a presenter and producer for Monocle 24.

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