Debate rages over 'insidious' new tipping trend in Aussie restaurants

More and more restaurants are asking customers to tip whether it's via delivery apps, EFTPOS or QR code and many Aussies are not happy about it.

One person posted about the "insidious" new trend on Reddit, which received more than 1.1K comments.

"It seems to me that we’re getting more and more places using digital payment means to promote tipping in Australia," they said.

"When you pay by card, you have to go through the tipping questions before being able to pay. Some places now have a QR code where you order and pay for your stuff at the table with no interaction from a server, and the process still asks for a tip.

"We need to f**k this sh*t off."

A picture of the fine print at the bottom of a menu which includes a Brisbane restaurant's service fees and additional charges.
The fine print at the bottom of the menu includes a Brisbane restaurant's service fees and additional charges. Source: Reddit

Given that tipping in Australia is optional and unlike in America, doesn't directly affect a worker's pay, most people don't appreciate the push to tip every time especially, when the service is not especially good.

"Went to a place in Circular Quay that automatically added a 10% service fee into everyone’s bill," another person said. "It’s in the fine print at the bottom of the page."

'A creep towards tipping'

Yahoo News Australia spoke to Godfrey Moase, United Workers Union Director of Allied Industries, who agreed there was "definitely a creep towards tipping".

While the union would "rather hospitality staff get good tips for service rather than no tips," Mr Moase said what happens to the tip "depends on the establishment".

"In most cases it does get passed on to workers but there are times when it gets pocketed by the boss," Mr Moase said.

"It happens from time to time and comes from a culture of workers not getting paid enough, experiencing wage theft, and harassment and assault on the job."

The Brisbane diner's receipt and the front of the Bavarian Bier Cafe
Last month, a Brisbane diner questioned an unusual surcharge on a restaurant receipt after dining on the Sunshine Coast. Source: Bavarian Bier Cafe/Reddit

Why do businesses want you to tip?

Mr Moase described tipping in Australia as a "safety net" for people, especially in difficult times like Covid when businesses aren't getting as many customers, and then have to pay their employees a proper living wage.

However, he slammed the act as a "maladaptive coping mechanism".

"A lot of relatively small businesses might be dealing with high rents from their landlords or mortgages from their bank, or other forms of debt," Mr Moase said.

"But what tipping does is shift responsibility for a living wage down to customers, rather than the business owners and the corporate trades in the hospitality sector," Mr Moase said.

"What it also does is open up hospitality staff to further disrespectful treatment from customers because it changes the power dynamic. And we know that harassment and disrespect of hopso staff is absolutely rife in the industry."

When asked what should be done to ensure that everyone gets paid enough, Mr Moase said the answer is for people to "organise from the ground up" and "force the entire industry to pay hospitality workers the living wage".

"They need more agency and power in order to not experience that sort of behaviour," he said.

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