Tipping culture in Australia

Interesting data points from the US where in spite of everything tips are up. Part of the reason seems that technology is putting it more in customers faces and customers are being educated or acclimatized to tip as well as ‘standard amounts’ to make it easier. All before the card surcharge is applied of course. It is happening here already as previously posted.

and they are. Whether we will succumb remains to be seen.

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When CC’s used the paper signed payment slips with handwritten billing, and the boss still favoured a fountain pen for signing, the Australian AMEX versions always had a line for a tip. As if the prices charged were not enough, and knowing only the higher end businesses would accept the card. Cash tips OTOH were never asked for or offered. I’ve been resisting for a very long time.


My economic credentials are limited, but didn’t the concept of a living wage go out the window with globalisation? We used to have high wages and high prices; opting for lower prices meant a lot of imported goods and fewer locally manufactured goods, fragmented economy, part time jobs… maybe someone can explain it better. We may be doing well on the global scene, but the wealth gap is disturbing.

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I think tipping can be linked to the inherent wealth of a society .The following report by Credit Suisse shows Australians to have the highest median wealth of all countries . The attitude therefore is promulgated that you are earning enough so the tipping culture does not develop .

“Australians collected a higher median wealth per adult than anywhere else in the world at $US273,900 ($A390,870) – nearly three times the median wealth of $US93,270 ($A133,100) in the US . Australia was followed on the rich list by Belgium and New Zealand, with the US trailing behind at number 18.”

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Doesn’t this reflect our absurd property prices (a fixed asset) not our disposable income which you might expect to influence tipping?


Mean vs median.
Some might say Aussies are also ‘mean’ when it comes to tipping. We apparently only rank 4th measured by ‘mean’ - ness, after Switzerland, USA and Hong Kong. Just ahead of NZ in 5th place.

One link to the source data, with buttons to select mean or median and page 1 or 2 of the data.
Australians the world’s richest people as property prices supercharge wealth

Worth the read if only to find out where we are on the millionaires ladder.

Interestingly one conclusion offered is wealth is more evenly distributed in Australia than any other nation. Possibly why collectively Aussies see little need to prop up the wages of service staff by always tipping. The presumption is of a fair wage, whether fact or fiction.

We have tipped in Oz on occasion. It needs great service and performance from a business offering real value. As much a reward for the business as their staff. Experience related suggests business managers have varying approaches to how tips are to be handled on the premises. The best IMO believe in rewarding the team on the night, to be shared.

If individuals stand out to management, there are other ways a business can reward selected staff. If it is the product that stands out, experience suggests the management price accordingly. Some possibly hold aspirations greater than their abilities. Wisdom is to minimise the purchases of consolation wine to mask the disappointment thus rewarding the establishment further for poor product. It’s apparently unAustralian to grumble and send stuff back as unacceptable, ACL excepted. :wink:

As transplanted Americans we generally do not tip as local wages are usually 4~5x higher than most US servers get, notwithstanding other professions that increasingly expect, ask for in one’s face, and usually get, tips there.

We have one fine dining restaurant where we get impeccable personal service and tip the staff and finally realised the only way to tip the proprietor for his exceptional product is to buy better wine from his excellent cellar. What irks me most about tipping in Australia is that tip boxes and options in the (often US origin) terminals are ‘selling’ tips with greater fervour every month.

We do not revisit places with ordinary food and service or limited selections of swill at pretentiously inflated markups. There was one (now defunct) uppity establishment in Soutbank that was a pretentious classic. Service with an arrogance that welcomed BYO if one asked for ‘only’ $40 corkage (circa 2005).


I don’t see how that explains very much. Just because million dollar (plus) houses are now quite common does not influence tipping behaviour that I can see as that wealth is not available to spend. It is entirely possible to be sitting in an expensive house and have little discretionary spending because one has little income and/or a lot of expenses.

I think the question of tipping or not tipping is more complex and relates more to culture and the view of the role and reason for tipping in the country that it does to crude measures of aggregate wealth.

Agree, it may not.

An observation by one only.
Three nations with wealth and cultural profiles similar and not so similar to Australia.
Recollect over 40 years of visiting NZ has been a zero tipping culture. Japan is also zero tipping, and it’s not expected in Singapore.

The web offers varied points of view, although the more travel orientated sites seem to talk up tipping more than local web resources. One interesting example,

Tour guides
Tour guides and private drivers in Australia and New Zealand should be tipped between $20 and $50 (in local currency) per day, whilst bus tour operators can be given around a $5 to $10 tip for a day’s work.

If you’ve been given a particularly good tour guide or private driver in the South Pacific Islands, showing your appreciation with a tip is acceptable, if not expected. The amount is up to you, but always tip in local currency, as US dollars are hard to trade.

Taxi drivers
Similarly, drivers in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific Islandswill not expect you to tip at the end of a taxi ride, but rounding up the fare to the nearest $1 to $5 is common practice.

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The evolution continues. The quote about ‘fairly compensating staff’ rubs when they seem to be comparing the American $USD2.13 minimum wage (in many places there) for servers to our own average of $26.98.

Perhaps the concept of executive bonuses has translated to expectations of tips, but from the customer not the board of directors (or business owner)?


The feedback from those in the family who have waited tables in Australia. The management policies on how tips/gratuities are distributed vary between establishments. The customer facing staff can receive most, some or little in equal or unequal share.

For customers adding a 10% or other value to the bottom line of a debit or CC payment, it’s more than likely a direct add to the business bottom line.

There are also some managers who forbid the taking of tips, most notably those made direct by cash to individual members of the staff. It can be a written or silent condition of employment.

All good reasons to think carefully and ask what the business policy is before donating, to be sure your contribution is used as intended.


Pre-surcharge prices include $95 for a T Bone steak and $14 for each side. It is highly unlikely that there is not already enough margin to fairly compensate staff. I like the way they have trotted out the excuse, commonly used when lacking a valid reason, of the surcharge being “standard practice in the hospitality industry”.

The article also includes the below quote attributed to the ACCC.

“However, the menu must include the words ‘a surcharge of (percentage) applies on (the specified day or days)’ and these words must be displayed at least as prominently as the most prominent price on the menu.”

I don’t know what their definition of “at least as prominently” is, but most menus would not meet what the average person would consider appropriate. Below is an example from the restaurant mentioned in the article.


The term ‘Discretionary 10% gratuity’ is also interesting. Unless the discretion applies to the customer, this is just an underhanded way of understating menu prices by 9.09%

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Is this an attempt to create a term (clever lawyers at work) that is not captured or arguable in a law court vs the ACCC determination on surcharging?

‘Discretionary’ might to some customers mean optional in which instance no need to pay it. Possibly a difficult discussion when setting the bill unless one happens to hold a law degree and has significant senior experience?


Discretionary means just that. Optional. The business will add it by default to your bill, at their discretion. Most will accept this and probably not even notice.

I on the other hand, if I am paying outrageous prices for food and drink, expect exceptional table service included in the price and would ask for it to be removed. That is my discretion. But only after the bill has arrived. Wouldn’t even mention it before. Never know what could happen to your food.


The ATO as a useful view on how such payments should be treated by the business.

A voluntary gratuity is how the ATO refers to a tip in the decision. Note the business must be able to demonstrate to the ATO by its record keeping that all gratuities so received are passed onto the staff directly. IE in addition to wages etc.

Whether the ATO agrees “discretionary” = “optional” it’s fixed at 10% for the business mentioned. Typical wages bills in the food service industry are around 30% of total costs, various sources. Passing on as required by the ATO the full gratuity is equivalent to a 33% pay rise above. Assumes the staff are not being under paid in the first instance. Something many in lower paid employment could only dream of. The investigative journalists might like to look further at some of the businesses including gratuities into the billing and advice where they actually go. It would not be the first time restaurant/hospitality industry employers have been caught short!

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Not in Australia. But?


There’s an eye opening link in The Guardian report to a news item from ABC7 on self serve checklists asking for tips.

Fortunately it would be un-Australian to routinely tip. It wouldn’t happen here. :crossed_fingers:

American culture, the best as well as the worst, is permeating the world and my punt is it is only a matter of time. It might be a long time coming but it is going to come.

The numbers of tip jars exploded during COVID, many terminals now have the tipping option, and while tipping here is ‘voluntary’ and have never seen any pushback for the majority who do not tip, it is also technically ‘voluntary’ in the US itself. But don’t leave a minimum of 15% for almost anything, and more often 20%+ expected across the US and one can be subjected to verbal abuse and potentially worse.

We have a number of well travelled native Australian friends who have gone from not tipping to always tipping 10% locally. They have been conditioned by months of overseas travel per annum where Americans (and others?) have made tipping voluntary yet obligatory.

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Would they be in the market for a new motor vehicle, or long luxury cruise? :wink: Assume there are some limits on when a tip is not expected.

Is the challenge for us Aussies to understand employment and labour conditions (business regulation) in the US are not as we have here? The US 50+ different flavours vs our more vanilla and very similar choices across the Aussie states and Territories. Whether cultural, the benefit of fewer states, our more recent constitution and federation, or …. we seem to have avoided having to fill the offering plate every time we spend a dollar.

I take tipping in some parts of the world to acting in a positive and socially response way. The hope is it does not one day become a similar imperative in Australia. We will have failed in other ways if it does.

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I always tipped in the US whilst visiting, when it was explained to me why that culture existed. (and after making a faux-pas in a Boston hotel by not tipping!). I won’t tip in Australia because most, if not all the servers here make more than me, on my age pension. I don’t get out much.

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This playground of the rich and famous might not make it to Australia - we hope - but is entertaining - no frightening - reading.

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