Do you need to tip in New Zealand?

09 Dec 09 / Posted by: Jessica

The tourist books will tell you that tipping is not expected in New Zealand – but if you’ve ever worked as a waiter or bar person you’ll know how valuable those few extra dollars can be when you’re earning the minimum wage of $12.50 an hour (or even less if you’re a teenager!).

In the U.S. it’s easy to spend a small fortune on tipping. I learned my lesson quickly the first time I visited after handing over a US$20 note for a US$5 drink in a bar, and never seeing the change. From that point on I hung on to all my own luggage, never asked for directions unless absolutely necessary, and made sure I always carried plenty of single dollar bills at all times.

I don’t think any of us would want the culture of tipping to get that extreme down here in Godzone but what is appropriate?

Unlike the U.S., restaurant staff are paid wages for their work in New Zealand, but if you do receive exceptional service, a tip of around 10% of the total bill will be appreciated.

Just be aware that if you tip by adding a percentage to your credit card or EFT-POS transaction, the money may not go to the person who served you, but instead may be pooled among all staff. If you want to be sure the cash reaches a particular individual, you could always hand the cash directly to them.

Of you could say thanks in other ways – one of the best “gifts” a customer ever left me in my waitressing days was a signed letter to management complimenting my courteous service. It didn’t get me a pay rise but it sure boosted my confidence. And it brought me a bit of leniency when I accidentally dropped a full tray of champagne on a bunch of businessmen the next day!

The 10 – 15% extra that restaurants and cafes charge on public holidays does not go directly to staff. Instead, owners use it to offset the higher wages that they are legally required to pay to staff working those days.

Rounding up a taxi fare to the nearest dollar is standard practice – and it can work in your favour, as it’s a whole lot easier than fumbling with loose change when you’re in a rush.

How much do you tip? Do you think tipping is necessary?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on tipping in New Zealand.

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