I don't go out for meals very often. This is mostly due to me being far too poor and partially down to me being a funny vegan while my partner hates vegetables... we're a pain in the backside. When I do I always leave a tip, even if the service isn't great. I've done waitressing, I've worked cafes and restaurants and it's a damned difficult, thankless job. You're the main point of contact for customers and for some reason they assume that you decide the prices, you have a time machine and you let gremlins out into the computer systems... just to annoy them. No matter how hard you work, how nice you try to be, sometimes things are beyond your control and someone gets bad service and angry.
So yeah, I tip. If the service was really good they get a bigger tip.
I always knew that some companies (the big ones, it must be said) take the tips and use them to pay basic, minimum wage. This is why I tip with cash and not on the bill. However, I've just discovered that companies were perfectly allowed, under British law, to take those tips.
That's a gift from the customer to the waiter (waitress, w/e), not to the company. How is taking it from the waiter not theft?
Now I learn that not only is it legal, but it's going to be made easier for the company to do so; from October staff will no longer have to be informed that the tips from cards go to their wages and not to the tip jar (if the company uses a tip jar).
Managers (specifically under the STRADA group which includes Bella Italia, where I've eaten a few times) are pressured by their bosses to not only get the card tips but to take cash tips off their staff. People have the gall to do this? To walk up to their dog tired, under paid, over worked staff and say "that's not yours, give it to me."
Now, there is an argument that people don't need tips in Britain; we HAVE a minimum wage, unlike America. This argument is pretty much made by people who have never worked in the service industry. Go and work as a waiter on minimum wage for six weeks, then tell me tips aren't needed. Go on, I dare yah.
It's not just about the amount of money. I've never received much in the way of tips (I've not worked in posh places). I was tipped 50p by a customer this week (I'm not waiting at the moment, but I do work in an eatery) and it made me so happy. It's not so much the money as knowing someone appreciated what I did and how horrid the job is. It's the thought that counts and all that. Of course... extra money is always nice (did I mention I was poor?).
So please, continue to tip (if you do so already, if you don't... well whatever) but take a bit of cash with you and hand it to the waiter (not the head waiter but the one that dealt with you the most). And don't forget the kitchen staff. If the food was good, if it was timely, ask that some of the tip go to them too. Kitchen staff NEVER get tips, unless the company has a tips jar that's divided up between everyone at the end of the month... again, this is generally the kind of thing that small companies do, not the big ones.