The earliest explanation for tipping I can find refers us back to the days of Dr. Johnson and his 18th century circle of wits. Upon entering his local coffee shop for a session of epigram-flinging, Dr. Johnson (or rather, one presumes, his flunky, Mr. Boswell) would drop a few pence in a box labelled ‘To Insure Promptness’ (T.I.P.–get it?) in order to encourage a greater display of vigour on the part of the generally listless attendants.
[N]ow, you can tell that Christmas is near when this old chestnut of tipping is discussed among London’s cabbie fraternity; should you give a gratuity as a means of rewarding personal service; is the practice outmoded; and should cabbies go down the road of adding a service charge to the fare on completion of a journey?
Hairdressers are usually the major recipients, if only because we see the same person every time. I tell my barber to pay special attention to the back of my head as this is the side of me that my customers see, he tells me that it is my best side, but still I always tip him.
Older drivers claim that in the 1960s, while there may have been fewer customers, their regulars would generally tip, often adding 25 per cent on the metered fare. Nowadays those that do tip will generally round up the fare to the nearest £1.
Now an increasing ground swell of opinion is suggesting that traditional tipping should be replaced by a service charge, negotiated at an agreed rate with the Licensing Authority and built into the tariff.
But why tip? It’s not likely you will see the waiter, doorman or your cabbie again. Surely the service charge should already be built into the salary of those who work in service industries, not compulsorily added as an addendum to one’s bill.
Many companies are now telling employees when using a cab on company business not to tip and so your passenger will ask that the receipt doesn’t show a tip even when proffered.
The next few years will see taxi tariffs rise considerably as insurance increases due to uninsured London drivers causing accidents, fuel duty rising remorselessly, and if Boris gets his 10 years limit on the age that cabs can be licensed, write down values will increase and will have to be added to the tariff.
If I was a fare paying passenger in a London taxi I would be very annoyed at having a 10-15 per cent service charge added to the fare, whilst being driven by a self-employed driver, who is let’s face it, just doing his job.
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