Monday, December 14, 2009

Tipping and VAT (부가세).

In America, it's what we do. We tip. It's a short discussion at the end of a meal, but just like the credits at the end of movie, who really sticks around and pays attention? Leave the tip and be on your way. Who cares?

Answer: anyone who's waited tables before. The tip makes or breaks a server's day. A generous tip will make your shift 20x more tolerable and a dinky tip will leave you wondering why you even try to be nice let alone flirt with that girl who was clearly not your type.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah the analogy. So, if we follow the movie theater comparison, then Koreans hit the road as soon as the guy gets the girl and doesn't so much as stick around to see who directed the flick. In short, tipping in Korea is MIA. So what about America? What's normal?

Forget the old 10%. That's cheap. 15% is what I'd consider leaving for a grouchy-pants-McGee server. No, in America it's hard to argue against leaving at least a 20% tip. It's the right thing to do. Don't think of it as extra - realize this "extra" cost before you buy the service or product because to leave anything less is just rude in my book. If you can't afford to leave a decent tip, buy something cheaper. It's the unspoken rule - tip.

But, who and when does one tip? Thankfully, there are even specific situations where a tip is explicitly advised so as to not have any confusion as to how much and when to tip.
Tipping in Korea
But, dear readers, I'm here to tell you shocking news about tipping in Korea.

*gasp* tipping in Korea does indeed exist. In a way. I know everyone says that Korea is a no-tip country but there are, in fact, some instances where tipping is appreciated - dare I say expected? For example, exceptional service merits a generous tip when the employee has gone above and beyond his or her job description.

But what about this whole VAT business? It's already in the cost of the product. If it's a Korean product, it's usually 10% tacked on at the end of the bill. This VAT acts as a safety net and face saver. Fear not about tipping in these situations because the staff is already getting a cut from that tax. So in a way, you did tip them. But, times are a changing. Consider this the next time you're in a place where tipping would be appreciated. Keeping in mind that sometimes tipping is not only a little weird but rude. It's a tricky balance - and one that I have yet to strike.

So in conclusion, if you're going to tip and it's appropriate to do so, regardless of what country you're in, don't be stingy. Tip and tip well. Did you have a good experience? Was the server nice? Did you get your food in a timely manner? If not, did the server try his best? If so, tip generously. Altruism is good thing, you know? I mean, what's two or three extra dollars to you? To the server, that's lifeblood. If everyone tipped just a buck or two more, maybe the server wouldn't have to work doubles and thus, be in a better mood when serving you and thus making you tip him or her more. Karma works both ways you know.
tipping in Korea VAT