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To tip or not to tip after a meal in Dubai?

As per tipping etiquette in Dubai, it is customary to give 10 to 15 per cent tip

  • By Janice Ponce de Leon, Staff Reporter
  • Published: 21:00 July 21, 2013
  • Gulf News

Dubai: If you’re always faced with a dilemma of leaving that Dh10 or Dh20 bill to the waiter after a meal, fret not as you are not alone.

While there are residents who know right away how much they would tip a service provider, there are also those who think saying “keep the change,” (or literally the loose change left behind), suffices as a ‘tip.’

But what really is the rule for tipping? In truth, there is none. History dictates that tipping has always been a voluntary decision of a customer. It has been practiced since the Roman era or possibly older as a way of ‘rewarding slaves or servants.’ The custom has since evolved and is now commonly practised in many countries, even in the UAE.

“Tipping is widely practised around the world. Even here, you should give at least 10 to 15 per cent at restaurants. You give tips because you’re happy with the service,” S.M., a Canadian expatriate based in Dubai, told Gulf News.

Emirati student Ahmad Al Nuaimi, generously gives tips but only when the service merits it.

“If there’s a service charge indicated in the bill, I don’t tip anymore. If not, I give about 10 per cent of the total bill. But if the service is bad, I don’t bother giving,” he said.

There are no hard-and-fast rules for tipping in Dubai according to the Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) but this does not exempt people from giving gratuities.

“As with most, if not all countries, there is no official tipping policy in Dubai but, as is common practice by many worldwide, hotel restaurants tend to include 10 per cent optional service charge on their bills,” Majid Al Merri, Director of Hotel Classification, DTCM, told Gulf News, adding that the hotel industry includes a 10 per cent service charge in the bill.

Tipping as a ‘reward’ is always based on the guest’s discretion, Al Merri said. It helps improve the quality of services delivered in a sector that is already known for its high standard of service, he added.

“As tipping is a thank you for good service, it is very common for people within Dubai’s service industry to receive good tips. The practice of tipping in the service industry drives the level of service quality up, and is part of the encouragement to deliver the best service that meets the guest expectation,” Al Merri said.

In the US, tips received by service workers such as waiters, house cleaners, and others, form a significant part of their income, at times reaching up to 60 per cent, according to PayScale’s 2012-2013 Tipping Study.

While there are no studies yet on how tips impact lives of service workers in the UAE, there are those who say that tips are a lifeline for them.

“The staffs use the tips they receive to augment their income to pay for their transport, so it’s a big help as well,” Robert Fortuno, an executive chef at a café along Jumeirah Beach Road, told Gulf News.

Fortuno said tipping is in their café is centralised or placed in one box and divided among the staff weekly. The same is true for other restaurants in the emirate.

“All the tips are monitored, recorded and divided among the staff so that it’s not only the waiters who benefit, but the kitchen staff as well,” Fortuno said.

Other service providers, however, can get really lucky especially those working in spas, salons, and hotels, who get to take home their tips directly.

Vinez Contreras, 40, who works in a salon, said the biggest he has ever received from one customer was Dh500.

Julius, a hotel butler, said almost half of the hotel guests he serves give direct tips for service well done. When asked who the most generous tipper is, he said: “Emiratis are the most generous, followed by Qataris, Kuwaitis, and Saudis.”

TIP BOX: Below is a guide on tipping around the world. But whenever you’re in doubt, ask the locals.

US: Typically expected; Restaurants 15-20 per cent; Cabs 10-15 per cent

Canada: Restaurants 10-15 per cent; Cabs 10 per cent

United Kingdom: Restaurants 10-15 per cent; Taxis 10 per cent

Germany: Restaurants – typically included; Taxis 10-15 per cent

Switzerland: Restaurants and cabs – loose change

Italy: Restaurants 10 per cent optional; Taxis – uncommon

South Korea: Typically not required

Japan: Typically not required

Hong Kong: Restaurants and cabs 10 per cent

Thailand: Typically not required; at restaurants, you can round up the bill

Singapore: Typically not required

Source: The Lonely Planet Book of Everything

Comments (8)

  1. Added 15:34 July 20, 2013

    TIPs= To Insure Prompt Service. So if you like great service, TIP promptly.

    sage, dubai, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 15:01 July 20, 2013

    the 10% in the bill does not mean that it will end with the employee , i know in most hotels where the 10 % is NOT given to the emloyees .....TIP for the good service

    Maxwell, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 12:33 July 20, 2013

    Would like to leave a tip in a coffee shop or a restaurant as the workers make a living out of it too. However i have my reservations of a tip due to service. I have faced a lot of racism in restaurants based on the color of my skin, yep i do get what i want but with a frown, what do i do then ? Be happy about it. It is generous and ethical to leave a tip as far i would go.

    Arjun, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 12:19 July 20, 2013

    There should not be much fuss about tipping, after all everywhere in the world most of the hotel waiters come into low paid category considering this if they get something extra by customers it should be welcomed and encouraged.

    Zakir kakamari, Ajman, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 12:14 July 20, 2013

    When I first came here in Dubai my first job is as a waiter. So I understand why some customers are not very keen in tipping (to ensure promptness) to their attendants. Surely, I understand TIP goes for well-served (including taste) food skirted with fast and good delivery services and value for money if we must. When I was still working in a Mexican restaurant, I developed 10 steps to improve our customer service from receiving our guests to escorting them out our premises after their dining, not only to increase our sales but to increase our monthly TIP sharing. However, it is very difficult to be consistent with 100% good service because several factors are affecting it, like the availability of staff because the company can only afford to hire so much and sometimes there are really difficult customers that they don't accept any explanation. To think of it, we are just an casual dining restaurant. Based from my 3 years experience as a waiter in that restaurant, i tried to categorized customers according to tipping habits and should I say friendliness. If you will ask another waiters, for sure they have different categorization. This is purely my experience base on that particular time. If I can only tell you what nationalities I don't want to serve most, I will but it will be racism in certain extent I guess. Please I request you all readers to please always give generous TIP to your attendants (with service charge or without service charge). The salary of the waiters is not that competitive but their job is not that easy most especially on always busy restaurants. They work 10 hours a day or so without over time pay. I always give TIP regardless of the quality of service but I make sure that they received my complaint so next time they know how they will treat me as customer.

    CARLOS ANTE, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 11:47 July 20, 2013

    well I do tip irrespective of the service charge mentioned on the bill or not, since most of the hotels though charge service on the bill and it does not get distributed to the staff. I never give coins but only bill as tips. Tipping makes you star among the crowd, for the branding of oneself

    clive, mumbai, India

  7. Added 11:15 July 20, 2013

    i second indradeep hajra, my brother, my dear friend since a decade.

    Abhishek Ghosh, Kolkata, India

  8. Added 10:47 July 20, 2013

    Tipping is not the norm in Australia. The minimum wage in Australia is generally quite decent and this is fairly standard across all types of restaurants/hotels around Australia. Tipping staff of any other kind of business is pretty unusual back there.

    Indradeep Hajra, Dubai, Australia

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