Customer service is important to me, and I fear it's likely to be a source of constant frustration for me in Ireland. My Irish friends who have visited America rave about the outstanding customer service. My American friends in Ireland constantly (and usually humorously) complain about the terrible customer service rampant in Ireland. I've listened to many horror stories and they have always confused me. The Irish are known for their hospitality, their warmth and openness. So why is customer service so poor? I believe I've found the answer - tipping isn't expected or often seen in Ireland. Ah, it all becomes clear!
In bars it's not expected to tip the bartender, but there's usually a tip jar on the bar for those who feel moved to make a contribution. Alternately, it's also considered polite to offer to buy the bartender a beer near closing time. Most waiters don't expect a tip but many of the nicer restaurants add a ‘Service Charge’ on to the bill - usually 12.5%. Spas, taxis, and concierges don't expect any tipping. Hair stylists, barbers, porters, and cleaning staff do expect a tip but much less than an American generally would expect to tip - usually only 1 or 2 Euros.
Tipping has become more common lately because so many tourists tip as a matter of course, but 12% is still considered VERY generous for outstanding service and no one will give you the stink eye or spit in your food the next time you come in if you don't tip. You also don't need to wrack yourself with American guilt for not tipping - employees in restaurants and retail are paid more of a living wage than their American counterparts, so they don’t rely on tips the way American servers do.
Customer service effects each of us every day, not just when we go out for a drink or to eat - it's at the grocery, the dry cleaner, when you order/pay for utilities, and buy anything. I have had 100% consensus from all my Irish friends that they are treated on a daily basis with indifference and often contempt by those in the service industry. Don't take it personally. Everyone has a bad day and feels grumpy now and then. The difference is, American servers are paid so little that without tipping they would starve so they fake it in order to survive. The Irish don't have to. In this instance, Rick's cynical point of view will help me. I'll expect poor service and shrug it off as part of the culture and that'll leave me to be pleasantly surprised when I encounter great service. While it's not the norm, great service does exist in Ireland.
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