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Here's a tip for us all: stop being so stingy

YOU'VE no doubt heard about the running gag at the Oscars, which saw Ellen DeGeneres have pizzas sent to the stars in the audience before seeking tips for the delivery driver.

About $1,000 (€730) was raised by the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Brad Pitt and Kevin Spacey. And it was funny – the first time.

But it did bring the issue of tipping for food to the fore. It's something Americans accept as a given, whereas we Europeans, especially we Irish, are far more negative.

In fact, the Irish are dreadful tippers. But it is, of course, a chicken and egg situation.

I have dined with as many rude plutocrats as I've had bad waiting experiences in Irish restaurants.

One leads to the other here, whereas when you dine in America you get five-star service everywhere you go.

That rockstar service doesn't stop us moaning though – even when we get the free drink that those New York bar tips eventually land us.


Why do we have an anti-tip attitude? Well there's the 'Aren't all they on minimum wage anyway' mantra. But in a country where we 'cap' bankers' salaries at €500,000 this is a bit rich.

Waiting tables is a tough job – the only reason you'd do it is for tips. As a musician, I'm used to getting hammered on price all the time, as if doing something fun shouldn't be paid for at all.

Irish people perceive waiting tables, working in a bar or playing music as a menial job where you should be grateful to get paid.

We're not alone, of course. Our near neighbours the Brits will round up a €38.90 bill to €40, and southern Europeans don't tip at all.

But the Irish have a resentment to it because we are a nation of hagglers.

Tipping means you pay more than the asking price, which doesn't compute in our brains, especially with the recession in its sixth year.

Yet even during the Celtic Tiger era, we still found ways to avoid tipping.

After clicking our fingers and roaring "garcon", we'd race to the till and pay, pretending we'd left the tip behind. We'd deliberately ask why there were no chips on the menu, to give us a reason to summon up a rage and skip the tip.

Older people who bought their house for eight guineas and the rich see tipping as something others do. It is always younger people, travelled people, who tip in Ireland.

I always tip, especially after spending time in New York. But the days where you could have a $5 breakfast and have the staff treat it like the most important thing in the world, well, they never arrived here.

We have great waiters, but they're often working for rude managers in places with ridiculous opening hours, staffed by narcoleptic chefs.

There are Dublin restaurants I won't set foot in after being made to feel terrible for being hungry at 4pm on a Saturday.


There are gastropubs that I avoid because you need to plan for the food to arrive the next day.

I once arrived in a famous brunch establishment at 10.55am to be told there would be no food until 12.30. Meanwhile, the staff bleached everything in sight - an enticing aroma.

Before we even talk about tipping, Irish restaurants need to be more like their American counterparts – i.e. they need to be working restaurants.

Who knows? It might help us learn why we should tip.