Tipping in Dubai

Should you tip in Dubai? We start the great debate... 16 Comments

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‘Always tip!’

Time Out Dubai restaurant editor Daisy Carrington says you should always tip...
‘Some find tipping an American affliction. I think it’s one of the few things we do right. People don’t stop to think about how difficult it is to do service-sector jobs, and they don’t stop to think about how little the workers get paid.

‘In New York, where I’m from, waiters basically only earn tips, and a negligible hourly wage that’s just enough to cover their taxes. Here, some barely earn that. Add the fact that many taxi drivers and waiters not only earn minimal wages (half of which usually goes to a family in India, Pakistan or the Philippines), but they work extremely long hours, and can sometimes face torrents of abuse. I can’t count the number of times I’ve personally witnessed entitled expats treat these people like their personal (albeit vocal) punching bags. Is it really asking that much to hand over a few extra dirhams? And if you’re willing to drop Dhs60 on a cab ride from club A to club B, what’s an extra Dhs5 for the man who got you there?

‘If you’ve got the cash to spend on a Dhs350 meal, you can afford to drop an extra 10 per cent. Remember, you probably make more money than they do, and here you’re not paying taxes that go to give workers healthcare or social benefits, so you might as well give a tip.’
Daisy Carrington is our Food editor.


Click the next page to hear the other side of the argument.

By Time Out Dubai staff
Time Out Dubai,

User reviews:

Posted by: Martin on 14 Oct ' 11 at 12:34

Edited by TimeOutDubai.com

The problem with the service charges that restaurants add on the bill is that it's not going straight as a tip to the staff. Usually the restaurant takes 50, if not more, percent of it. So the staff actually ends up with less tips than if they would work for a restaurant that is not adding service charge onto the bill.

Posted by: Dianne on 14 Feb ' 11 at 08:27

I have no objection to tipping -good service deserves a tip! which all who go out for a meal can afford . .I do however object to the 10 or 15% automatically being added on to the bill and that going directly to the management .I would like to encourage you to refuse to pay this as i do ,simply deduct the add on and give it directly to the waiter/ess.The management can not force you to pay this .They know this and do not challenge you .If everyone did this ,the restaurant management would have to change their policy so that their cash and receits tally at the end of the day .

Posted by: Vishwanath on 16 Feb ' 10 at 13:29

Whats to debate !
The waiters in Dubai get paid monthly salary's. They are not students working for pocket money or to pay their fees. Most of the staff in decent hotels even have Hotel Management degrees.
By Daisy's logic the first guy to be tipped should be the farmer for producing veggies, the chef for cooking the meal, the dishwasher for cleaning the cookware and even the owner of the joint as they are all help in performing "service".
Why discriminate and pay only the guy serving, what is actually the effort of so many people behind the scene. Dose daisy imply that the cooks are well-off individuals who would not want a share of the spoils i refer to as rip-off and people like Daisy as tipp-off.
Daisey also do remember people like the counter girls at the Malls, the ushers at the cinemas, the pharmacists or for that matter the maintainance crew in your apartment probable earn lesser if not equivalent to the waiters in restaurants.
Its just a matter of how you look at it.
In the end its just your choice.

Posted by: Dominik MJ on 17 Jan ' 10 at 18:51

@Sean4223
>>The whole concept of tips as wages is faulty.<<

Dear Sean - you might be right! It really might be, that the whole concept is wrongly - even from the beginning. But said that, you have to go on and claim, that also the whole concept of restaurants and bars nowadays [at least those in markets like Dubai] are wrong.

The service and quality, what more or less everybody can experience & savor, was never meant for the mass market. Luxury was never intended to be targeted to the average Joe! Once upon the time, diners: Ladies & Gentlemen knew their book of etiquette - which obviously included something as archaic as giving tips!
In these times, nobody could complain about bad or unversed service - due to the tips, people could do a job as a waiter or bartender until their retirement and let their guest benefit of their expertise.

People who hadn't got the resources to dine and drink in such outlets, found other restaurants, which were less ambitious, simpler and required less tips [though tips, as I know were always a point of etiquette]. People with no etiquette would go to pubs and taverns.

World changed. But can't you expect, that despite of the democratization of luxury hospitality, the new guests would adapt as well?
The real problem is, that people would like to have everything, but would like to pay for it nothing!
The competition between restaurants are so fierce, that prices are dropping but the quality of the food stays good or even raises. Though this is not only for the good of the customers, as there is always a point, where you have to save money. At the end, hotels are not communal properties, but businesses with owners and financiers, who want to see their return of investment.
The management [which most here are allegorize as money raking...] needs to find a way, how to train unversed and often very simpleminded staff, that they can work in the guest service.

The community [or the majority of guests] is responsible for the service it gets.
If everybody would spend in average 15% in [serious] restaurants, I am sure, that soon much more trained staff would like to come to Dubai - because then Dubai would be competitive with other destinations.
As long as the tips rate low [and you have to see: the decreased prices also means lower tips] discourage good people to work in Dubai!

One more thing: If you say, that the system is faulty [from which perspective] - it is quite unfair to the staff - because staff in hospitality are also told, that the salaries are quite low, but they can do good tips. Not necessary an proper argument, but if you are comparing the jobs with other guest service businesses, where it is and was not usual to pay tips, it is a point of consideration.

Important is: Especially in luxury hotels, tips were always a sign of good manners.

Posted by: Sean4223 on 16 Jan ' 10 at 10:39

The whole concept of tips as wages is faulty. The diner is already paying for the food,ambiance,service,rent etc etc when he pays his bill. To expect the diner to pay wages for the waiter seems foolish. This seems to be a practice only in a few countries. In most countries the waiters get a minimum wage.

Regarding tipping, why does it have to stop at only restaurants and taxi cabs? I work in the customer service team for my company. I worked more than 5 years in this industry and I have never got a tip. My clients are happy with my service most of the times. But if they tip me, it would be considered taking a bribe. Now why does the tipping rule hold good only for low income groups? Are you tipping for the service you received or is it charity. If it is the former, then why the double standards? Do you tip the customer service representative who facilitated the property deal for you? do you tip the customer service rep who opened your bank account?

btw, I tip around 10-15% (only if I am happy with the service and if the isn't a service tax added to the bill) I am a part of the blind flock too...

Posted by: Dominik MJ on 16 Jan ' 10 at 03:26

First: where do you have the information from, that waiters don't get service charge and don't get tips?

I worked in two different hotels the last 6 years and have quite a lot of friends in the industry [they are working in decent hotels...].
Everywhere, the staff are getting 100% of the tips [and sometimes the managers and assistants getting the same share - however, they are also earning quite a ridiculous amount of money].
The service charge: first it is legal for tourist restaurants [means hotel restaurants] - second: tit is also distributed to the staff. I don't know anyone from free standing restaurants... but you shall post an differentiated picture!

Now to the main part. I think, people who are refusing tips are kind of greedy and don't have any idea of service to customers, good life or dining culture, really!

The waiters and bartenders getting this ridiculous amount of salary, because you are always complaining about high prices.
This is because hotels have to resort to untrained staff, from countries, where people are happy, to get a comparable decent salary [in relation to their home income]. Because of your avarice [always hunting for lowest prices and always complaining about high prices, and refrain of giving tips] you are not only worsen the situation of the service staff, though you are also responsible for the bad service!!!

If everybody would give more tips, more properly trained people would consider to work in Dubai [also as waiters, bartenders] - like those in the US: service staff gets a ridiculous amount of salary, which is often not even enough, to pay for their rent - though the tips makes the life - and good service staff, can encounter you [the guest] on the same eye level.

But wait; this is maybe not what you and most other people really want in Dubai!
It is always comfortable to complain about high prices [especially not considering any cost or quality], not efficient and not professional service, of staff which is comparable to most other countries unbelievable friendly and courteous; it would be more comfy than to tangle with an employee, who is confident and undeceived and who knows that we are in the 21st century rather than in colonial times.



Posted by: Karen on 14 Jan ' 10 at 18:32

I tip Dhs2 to the guy who puts fuel in my car, Dhs5 to the manicurist, Dhs10 to the pedicurist, Dhs10-20 on the waxing lady depending on how much she rips off, Dhs2-5 to some bathroom attendents if they keep the place sparkly and give me a disposable tissue towel for my hands, Dhs5 each to the valet guy who takes the car and then the one who brings the car 'round, no tip for takeaways, 10% in restaurants with a service charge if the service has been good otherwise nil to 5% and finally 10-20% for restaurants with no service charge. I don't work and get a small allowance so if I can do it, everyone can!

Posted by: Nadine Rahal on 14 Jan ' 10 at 18:03

Tipping should reflect one's appreciation to the service provider's extra mile, even if it is a simple smile.
By tipping equally we are literally saying that bad service is okay, giving managers an excuse not to train their staff to higher levels of service. And uniformally sending a message to the hard-working service providers who make the extra effort that it does not matter to us...bad our good service, we tip equally!

Posted by: John on 14 Jan ' 10 at 11:57

Being American, tipping is not new to me. I'm used to tipping 15% as a matter of course for what I consider at least a minimum effort. That is adjusted (up or down) depending on the service that's provided. However, I have done quite a bit of research on the subject in Dubai restaurants. Depending on who you talk to, the tips and service charge are distributed in one of several ways. Some say (the servers) that they don't get to keep the tips (the tips are either shared amongst the staff or the establishment keeps it all). Others say (the management) that the servers get a percentge directly and the balance is used for their direct benefit in training, or it all goes to the server. I've gotten to the point that I don't leave the tip on the credit card, but give cash directly to the server. I recently heard that service charges are no longer allowed in Dubai unless the establishment has a permit to charge for it. This came from one of the restaurants I frequent. I noticed that they dropped the service charge. I that case, I revert back to my previous tipping habits. Bottom line, no service charge, good tip. Service charge, ask questions at the establishment then act accordingly.

Posted by: Melissa on 14 Jan ' 10 at 11:35

Frankly I find it horrifying that service charge is not paid to waiters in Dubai. I always assumed that this went to the waiters and would add in an extra tip accordingly. Having worked in the service industry as both a waiterss and a bartender back home and in the UK, I know how tough it is to be, how badly you are treated by both customer and management, the unbelievable hours you work and how selfish and rude people can be. I think 10% should be the least a waiter should get (and the management should see none of this) and if the service is excellent then its at the discretion of the customer to tip accordingly. I have received fantastic tips and its a wonderful thing to be appreciated in an industry where you deal with so little appreciation. My suggestion - send your kids to waiter for a few months. It will teach them humility as well as the value of money.

Posted by: Billy McDonald on 14 Jan ' 10 at 08:51

Tipping should be based on the level of service provided. Simple as that. If I get good service I tip accordingly. I don't have any norm percentage and dont think there should be. I could tip 20% .It could be 5, 10 or 15 or whatever.It could be 100 per cent if i bought a tea for 10 AED and the waiter/waitress was in good form.I would give 20AED no problems. Its given on level of service. I certainly wont award poor service or a taxi driver who moans and groans as can be the majority of trips in Dubai.I dont tip anymore than 5% in any restuarant that has already put on the service charge. Complete NO NO for anymore. They want rip of their staff and not give them the charge that's their problem but I aint paying it twice.I dont mind a minimum but thats it.I travel to USA all the time and the service is usually top notch because they rely on you to make up thier wages. Bad Service to them = No Wages. In Dubai the attitiude is pretty hit and miss with a lot of the service I find.It goes from top level to bottom of the barrel regardless of establishment .

Posted by: Mita Srinivasan on 14 Jan ' 10 at 07:31

You are completely missing the point. I strongly believe in tipping but in more than 80% of the restaurants the tips do not get distributed to the waiters - they get pocketed by the 'management'. If we had clarity on where that money is spent i.e. on the staff then I'd understand. Oh yes, and there's the questionable service charge and the question of service!

Posted by: Paul on 14 Jan ' 10 at 06:14

I don't agree with either of you and the way it is now can not be the future of Dubai. I recently learned that some of the Hotel Staff get paid only AED 1500 per month. I feel the basic pay structure needs to go up to a level were the workers are happy, have money to spend, don't need to rely on tips and give best possible service. We should not need to pay tips if we know everybody is looked after!

Posted by: Mike on 14 Jan ' 10 at 06:13

It is not our fault that the employers do not pay their staff enough. We pay hefty amounts already for services in Dubai and we do not pay taxes here for a reason and often at a cost to our personal lives in some way or another so I do not accept that as a reason we should be manipulated into SUPPLEMENTING service people's wages. I object to so many publications, organisations trying to make us feel guilty about this. The last thing we want is the American situation where a tip becomes expected. Personally, I only pay a tip for exceptional service which is rare in Dubai. I wont shoulder the blame for the employers and supplement their duty to pay their staff fair wages.

Posted by: Issa on 13 Jan ' 10 at 12:02

I agree with you however most restaurant here charge u a 10-15% service charge which does not go to tho service staff . it is not fair for the customer to pay an extra 10-15 % on top of that 10% service charges and hospitality (7%). They should either eliminate that and people start tipping or give the whole 10% to the waiter/waitress on top of their salary same as in NY

Posted by: John D on 11 Jan ' 10 at 10:02

Spot on, James.

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