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Oct 1, 2013 02:16 PM

YIKES-Another thread on tipping in france

l had thought this discussion was way overdone in the past, but maybe not.
This past weekend l was with a bunch of people in the Southwest portion of France. There were three couples all born and raised in France in different areas and now all living near Toulouse.
l noted at our first restaurant meal that as we had a competent and good waiter a decent tip (10 % ) was added to the meal. It was a good restaurant, not touristy, but by now means a starred place. l said l had been told that all that was done was to round up, unless the waiter did your laundry and then you might add 5%. They looked at me with amazement saying the salary for a waiter was about 1500 euros a month and the tips made the difference in living to them.
l retorted that l had been told if a meal was 40 euros the waiter would get 15%, give or take a bit, and if 400 euros again 15% or so. Again they looked at me shocked.
Then at this place and the two following we asked the server whether the tips really did matter or not and whether he received a portion of our bill in his paycheck. All said tips were very important and whether we spent 12 euros or 1200 euros, they received no difference in their pay.
l am now seriously thinking of reconsidering my tipping stance in this country.
Parigi and her husband might have been right all along.

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  1. We have found that all of our French friends in the country tip as you have suggested above.

    1. Let me get this right. Are you saying that the bill indicated that service aka tip was included but, in fact, the server wasn't getting any of that money?

      5 Replies
      1. re: c oliver

        May I ask again please? Is it written on the check that service is included but it never makes it to the server?

        1. re: c oliver

          If service is included, it is written on the check.

          There is question and discussion about whether that or any percentage of the service charge goes directly to the server.

          There is a distinct difference in thinking about what constitutes normal service and what is exceptional service. And whether exceptional service warrants a supplemental gift.

          1. re: mangeur

            That's what I'm asking. So if it shows service included, then one cannot assume that that money goes to the server? I haven't been to France in a few years but I'm wondering if this is a question I need to be asking in other countries.

            1. re: c oliver

              No. One should not asume that it goes to the server. It may fund his salary but it does not go to him as a gratuity.

              1. re: mangeur

                Thanks. Do you get the sense that if you ask the server you'll get the truth? I want to tip certainly but don't want to double it. TIA

      2. When I try a resto for the first time, I leave a euro or two. When it's a repeat visit and I plan on returning, I do leave as much as 10% (always in cash). Self-serving generosity as well as an acknowledgment of a more familiar bond with the waiter.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Parnassien

          I'm afraid that we sign on to Parn's "self-serving generosity" philosophy. If a first visit is blah, we round up. If it has been extraordinary, both food and interaction with FOH, we leave a comfortable 5%. Whether this has been the reason for our warm returns in unlikely places, I can't say. But we are remembered and treated awfully well. Maybe it's just because we are adorable. Maybe not.

        2. Yikes indeed. We've been told by French friends and others whom we respect not to tip -- in the countryside or otherwise -- or at least not more than a few coins. Here and there, in the countryside and in Paris, we've noticed some tipping, but not much. Similar threads on the TripAdvisor France forum generally result in resounding "don't tip" advice from those who purport to be French posters, and many other experienced France tourists. Like DCM, I thought we had this figured out long ago, and will follow this thread with interest and maybe some chagrin.-- Jake

          1 Reply
          1. re: Jake Dear

            Me too! I'm always confused. When we go out with our French friends they never tip...we used to tip generously til we saw that they never do...we settled on a system where we round up and give what amounts to a 10% tip for good service...but still feel out of our element! We always tip 20% in the states because we know the pay structure here. So DCM no need for yikes!, it is an ongoing question!

          2. At 9.40 Euro per hour, the minimum wage in France is considerably more than in the US (5.30 Euro). I believe, in comparison to the US, it is well regulated, so there are far fewer companies getting away with paying people less than this.

            While no-one will get rich on £1,500 Euros a month, it is above minimum wage, and is on the lowest tax band (at 14%), so it is (arguably) a liveable wage. In the US this is not the case, where waiting staff are often on or below a minimum wage of 40-45% less.

            In response to the point below about whether the service charge included in a restaurant bill goes to the server, it is a completely different concept in Europe. When we pay for a meal in a restaurant or cafe, the price includes the cost of the serving staff - so, traditionally, this means that the service is always included. The money we pay is used to pay for the food and the wages of the staff along with all the other overheads. So no - the service charge is not "given" to the staff in the same way as money in the tips jar will be, but it does pay for their service.

            (There is a rider here that It has recently got a bit more complicated in Britain, where some of the higher end restaurants have started adding an "optional" 10-12 % on top of a bill for service. This is out of order in my mind, but, it is still usually optional. Sometimes, though, other restaurants (at all levels) will add a service charge for large bookings).

            A tip is different though - it is an acknowledgement of good service, and aims to give the staff a little extra - best described in French as a "pourboire" (literally "for a drink"). The US is different in that "wages" are so low for waiters that it is not a liveable amount and there is an expectation that customers should pay more to reflect this.

            I eat often in both rural and city areas of the Languedoc, and I don't see people tipping more than the usual round-up or few coins - in fact, when rounding up has meant that we have paid more than people normally would (eg when rounding 46 Euro up to 50 because we have no coins), we have been met with a range of responses from surprised to telling us we have made a mistake.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Theresa

              My experience pretty much mirrors Theresa's. I visit France most years (usually Pas de Calais, Somme or Nord departments).

              I don't see people tipping, other than the rounding up or a few coins which is how I've always tipped myself.

              When I travel, I try to identify local tipping customs and stick to them. So, pretty much no tipping in Belgium, France, Cyprus and Spain. Smallish tips in Italy & Ireland. 20% in America (which doesnt half contribute to making a holiday there expensive).