Mark Sainsbury: More tipping for better service? Rubbish

OPINION: I'm struggling to see where Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett is coming from when she says we should tip hospitality staff more often to raise the quality of service in this country.

Unless we subsidise the staff out of our own pockets they won't actually perform their jobs as well? Good on you Paula, that's the spirit.

I have no issue over tipping for exceptional service.

But this is a country where we expect people to be paid a fair wage, even if it doesn't always happen in practice. Do we want to end up like the United States where tipping is part of the wage structure and god help you if you don't leave the proper percentage, or worse: don't tip at all.

I've worked in bars and restaurants and loved tips but never expected them. At restaurants these days when you go to pay the bill a prompt appears on the eftpos machine asking if you want to leave a tip.

For some reason – maybe I just panic - I can never find the right button to say no. So rather than have to ask the person at the till how to say no to their staff, I end up hitting yes out of embarrassment then struggle over how much to tip, because I'd never really contemplated leaving one to begin with.

It's the same with charity donations at shops. I went to The Warehouse the other day and as I was paying, the cashier asked me if I wanted to donate x amount to x charity. And it really, really annoyed me.

On one hand I applaud The Warehouse for getting in behind charities. But I make my own arrangements over which ones I support, so when you I say no in a shop I stand there feeling like an absolute cheapskate, like I couldn't be bothered giving a dollar to end cancer or make kids' lives better.

But I wonder what it's like for someone in the same situation who genuinely couldn't afford to give an extra dollar. For someone to whom every dollar counts. It's the guilt trip, the weight of expectations.

But back to tipping. The public weren't shy in telling Paula Bennett where to get off on Monday - she got slammed on social media and was forced to clarify that she wasn't suggesting "mandatory tipping" but that she thought that "rewarding good service makes everyone smile more".

That sounds like one of those trite sayings they write on a tip jar in a small café, usually punctuated with a smiley face.

Paula says you get better service in countries like the US where they have a strong tipping culture.

No they don't! They simply underpay their staff and everyone knows that you are expected to make up the difference through tipping. It's not a recognition of good service, it's an established right and a necessary practice to stop them starving.

Is that what we want here?

Mark Sainsbury hosts Morning Talk from 9am-midday on RadioLIVE.