Tip for Tat?


When it comes to leaving a tip, there are definitely students out there who are more likely to opt for ‘wearing warm socks in winter’ than throwing in a few extra coins with their  bill.

This perhaps isn’t surprising – for the more impoverished around campus, it’s rare enough that they can afford to eat out without adding unnecessary charges to the evening.

I’m happy to be the first to admit that when I’m out with friends and cash is a bit tight, the coins on the plate are ones of the first things to go. I can’t help but feel bad about this – it’s a fairly well-known fact that tips are where the money is for those working in the food industry. Employers in this sector are often only too happy to pay minimum wage (some of the cheekier ones may attempt to pay less) and salary deductions can be incredibly harsh. A 10% tip for a decent meal can easily amount to more than your hourly wage and that’s nothing to be sniffed at.

Ellie Brough, one of many students who knows the conditions of working in the food industry only too well, gave me her thoughts on the subject:

“As both a waitress and a student, I can understand both sides of the argument but next time you go for a meal you should give a thought to how a little appreciation can improve somebody’s day.”

Not everyone feels the need to tip however. There is a very persuasive counter-argument to be made and some people feel very strongly that tipping is neither necessary, nor should it be the norm. Third-year student Ryan Singh puts forward the other side of the debate:

“I don’t tip because I don’t get tipped when I work behind a bar. You never tip a bus driver so why would you tip a waiter? Minimum wage is in place to stop employees being taken advantage of and I’ve already paid their wage by eating at the restaurant. The fact that I’m on a tight-ish budget plays a part too!”

The bottom line seems to be that we need to strike a balance between what is appropriate in light of the service received and what is fair and generous. This is something that some countries are perhaps better at than us in the UK – in France, for example, tipping is not rare but it is something which very much has to be earned. Gemma Louise Scott, another student who works as a waitress, gave The Wessex Scene her opinion:

“If I’m out and about I will tip the waiter/waitress but only if I feel that they’ve genuinely gone out of their way to ensure I have a good visit.”

Although it can be nice to leave a tip at the end of a meal, there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s an added expense. Although sometimes we have great restaurant experiences, equally the standard of service can be pretty awful and it’s certainly fair to question whether this should be rewarded.

After all, the stereotypical student budget brings to mind Tesco Value beans more than it does caviar… Every little helps.



Undergraduate student studying English Literature and French. I write features and theatre reviews.

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