© 2011 Grant William Veitch Harrold The Royal Butler. All Rights Reserved. 

Tipping Etiquette




















The word tipping or gratuities can be a wonderful word to people in the hospitality industry and many other professions. Tipping symbolises two things


1. A thank you for a service from someone who you have been provided with a service.

2. A sign to you that your service and work have been appreciated, of course, you have to be careful as the tipper that you give the correct tip otherwise you may find yourself being chased down the high street by the waiter! 


So why do we tip? Here is a short history to this time old tradition. 


The correct term for tipping, "gratuity", is believed to date back to the 16th century from the word  "graciousness". It might have come from the French word gratuité or possibly from Medieval Latin gratuitas, "free gift", or Latin gratuitus, "free, freely given". Whatever the case may be the meaning of money given in return for service first appearing in the 1530s.

Tipping, therefore, began in Tudor England. In the 17th century overnight guests were expected to tip in private homes and would hand over sums of money, "vails" to the host’s staff. It was around the same time that customers would tip in coffee houses in London and similar venues.


The term  "to give a gratuity" originated in the 18th century. It came from an earlier word of tip, which was "to give which originated in the rogues" in the 17th century. This word may also have come from the 16th-century "tip" meaning "to strike or hit smartly but lightly" which may have come from low German tippen (to tap). It is believed that the term "Tip" was first used in 1707 in the play "The Beaux' Stratagem" by George Farquhar, who used the term after it was being used in criminal circles.  This was a word used to imply "the unnecessary and gratuitous gifting of something somewhat taboo" such as a joke, a sure bet, or illicit money exchanges.


Over the past 23 years, I have been fortunate as a Butler and then a Royal Butler to receive tips/gratuities from employers and guests. It was something one would never assume they would receive but when you did it was a welcomed surprise. The average tip for a weekend house party could be anything between £20 and £50 per a guest so therefore it could be quite lucrative depending on how many guests you receive. In some houses, the guest will give the butler the gratuities to be shared out equally with the staff. This is of course done to the butlers discretion. 


In many public establishments in the UK, there is an understanding that the tip should be 10% of the bill, which again can be quite a small fortune depending on the amount of guests being hosted. In some establishments the money is collected in a tip jar, then shared out equally with the staff. I believe the tips in the United States is 15% but this amount is actually part of the wage.


We must remember that tipping is not something we have to feel forced into and that people offering a service have a right to but it is a courtesy and understanding going back centuries. If you do receive a gratuity you are not required to write a thank you letter as you would in other situations, however, you would say your thank you at the point of receiving it.