In Defence of Fixed Service Charges (or: Why Only Tip for Service?)

Tipping: that most contentious of issues that–depending on your location–can be illegal, required, or the most heinous of etiquette crimes. It’s a complicated business (as the Wikipedia entry indicates by the size of the Tipping by region section), and an odd and occasionally uncomfortable tradition.

As a self-proclaimed ‘socially awkward Briton’ David Mitchell laments the removal of the automatic, fixed service charge at D&D London’s group of restaurants primarily because, as The Browser summarised it, “they minimise embarrassment, and you sometimes get a bargain”.

Mitchell goes one further, of course, wondering why is it only the service we commend and reprimand through tipping?

Tips are embarrassing and stupid – they’re vestigial haggling in a society that has otherwise moved on. If you’re going to a restaurant to be served and eat a meal, why is the price of the delivery open to negotiation but not that of the food itself, the ambience, music, heating or use of the furniture? All of these things can disappoint or delight. It’s illogical to fix the price of one element but not the others.