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Tipping in "poorer" countries

Travel Forums General Talk Tipping in "poorer" countries

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1. Posted by dr.pepper (Travel Guru 316 posts) 9y

I just read an interesting post on the Sydney Morning Herald's Backpacker blog. The writer talks about an experience he had in India, buying a samosa from a street vendor:

This one time, I went to India. There, fresh off the plane, I walked up to a street vendor selling samosas. I bought one, and, so surprised to find it only cost me the equivalent of 30c, I told the vendor to keep the change. It was an extra 30c. I was happy. He was happy.

He says he was criticised quite a bit by some people, who argue that this kind of tipping spoils it for other travellers, as merchants start trying to get more money out of them and see Westerners as "walking banks".

What's your take on it? Is excessive tipping in "poorer" countries a bad habit?

2. Posted by Peter (Admin 5791 posts) 9y

I don't think 30c is a particularly excessive tip - even if it is double the price of the samosa.

I figure this would only really spoil it for are cheapskates who may not be able to get away with paying dirt cheap prices!

3. Posted by james (Travel Guru 4136 posts) 9y

This post reminds me of people who put on their best negotiation skills and, for instance, get a T shirt down from $15 to $8 but still don't buy it because they only wanted to pay $5.

So for the sake of the $3 difference, they go home without the T shirt they wanted.

As for tipping supposedly jacking up the prices and "ruining it for everyone else" well, it's called a market economy and you pay what you think is a fair price and tip. I don't think tipping is a bad habit, I actually think it's a very good habit as in my mind it's similar to making a donation and helps out.

If people don't want to tip, that's fine. Just make sure you make a small donation to World Vision (or whatever) when you get home. That way, the price of your precious souvenirs won't be so "expensive" and you will get a tax deduction for the donation.

4. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5595 posts) 9y

Personally I am not against tipping in general and certainly not in poorer countries. But this is just too much, maybe not for us westerners (I mean, what is 30 cents) but indeed you have to see things in perspective. Although being generous with the money, actually he is being pretty stupid as well. Prices can raise, although not necesarrily, at least for foreigners. Ok, westerners can pay that price, but even though I can pay 1 dollar for a samosa without having any problems, will I do that when it only costs 10 cents? It is not a matter of being too much money for us.
I think you should have a bit of feeling and experience with these sort of things, if you pay double the price of something regardless of it being just 1 cent that is not a good practice.

I am not even going to talk about bargaining, that is another thing, but this is also about having feeling with it although being harder of course. Some people are better bargainers than others, paying maybe only 25% of the price, others paying 75%. Although this might effect the price raises as well, you can not blame a bad western bargainer.
But people who are bargaining for an hour for a few dollar, like James mentioned, better not do this in front of my eyes or I might lose my temper...;)

[ Edit: Edited on Jul 18, 2007, at 12:22 AM by Utrecht ]

5. Posted by Purdy (Travel Guru 3546 posts) 9y

I dont want to get ripped off - l mean who does - but fighting with someone over pennies (literally 30c - is approx 10pence - 15pence l threw that out of my purse this morning cos it was copper pennies!) isnt worth it in my view. I dont believe if over inflating prices cos its so much cheaper than what l would pay in the UK - but when its pence whats the point of sweating over it plus you are making someone elses life a teeny bit easier!

Bargaining and bartering are a different story - l enjoy it as a form of entertainment - usually for tourist tat! And the people on the stalls whether in Thailand/China/India all expect the westerns to barter/bargain so over inflate the price quoted initally anyway - its fun and it should be viewed in that way by both vendor and purchaser!

[ Edit: Edited on Jul 18, 2007, at 1:59 AM by Purdy ]

6. Posted by Mel. (Travel Guru 4567 posts) 9y

Hello Dr Pepper:)

I was in a part of Bangkok, where tourists dont go.
I payed the rickshaw guy double what he asked.
I dont really have an opinion, about whether it is spoiling it for other tourists or not.
I tip those who will be happy to receive the amount of money I can tip, especially since that amount of money is almost worthless, in the tourist parts of the city and more so here in Germany where I live. It is worth a lot more in the hands of somebody like that hard working rickshaw man.
I also tip in expensive restaurants, but only because it is expected.
I also tip any person, who is nice about my child being there, creating the disturbance children create.

Although, it does get annoying, to be treated as a walking wallet, in the third world, and charged more than the locals are, just because I am a foreigner. I am not sure what is annoying about it when it does not necessarily make things what one would call expensive, but it is annoying. Perhaps it is annoyig because it says, "u are an outsider, and we are not going to make u welcome, by treating u like one of us". Often, especially in places like Thailand, there is a contemptuous attitude, that is displayed by the person who is overcharging, which makes paying more an even more unpleasant experience.


[ Edit: Edited on Jul 18, 2007, at 3:22 AM by Mel. ]

7. Posted by tway (Travel Guru 7273 posts) 9y

I think it's a matter of knowing what the item/service is worth and judging whether or not the vendor is trying to exploit you as a "westerner". For example, in Italy we came across street vendors (mostly poor African immigrants - whether legal or not I don't know) who were illegally selling knock-off leather purses. They'd start their ask at a rediculous price and you'd be a fool to pay it; haggling was expected. You knew very well that they were targeting you for all they could get.

However, in a place like Cuba, paying a few extra convertible pesos to the guy who makes you a straw hat on the beach or the girl who braids your hair is a small gesture that can go a long way. Even tipping at the bar (which I believe Cuban law frowns upon now) is a simple way to help out that person's family. These are examples of compensating someone for their excepional service (like you would at home) and giving back, rather than being a 'victim' (and I use that word loosely) of exploitation.

8. Posted by mohit_sa (Full Member 59 posts) 9y

I think tipping is not bad. Its a totally personal decision about how much to tip because it really depends on the experience one has had.

In places like India, things that should be avoided and not encouraged are things like bribery and letting vendors charge over-inflated prices. Try to pay the price what you think the item deserves. If the vendor seems to be charging an honest price without having to bargain, it would be a good idea to tip at that time. That would act as an encouragement rather than provoke him to inflate the prices.

9. Posted by anglosurma (Respected Member 106 posts) 9y

Its almost impossible not to tip india , people want a tip for anthing i found it hard to avoid i was always pesterd on every occasion

they would say
{backsheesh backsheesh} tip me

I dont like the concept of tips personnaly in india as theres always as theres service charges in most places anyway.

the only time i felt happy tipping was normally to a street vendor who looked like he really needed some xtra cash or a bike rickshaw as they work there balls of in that heat , so i would give a tip, or if i really came accross not just a good service but someone genuine not just bu-----ing me cus he could get a few notes , which i must say is hard to come accross in india .

maybe tipping in every situation should be avoided if possible as people expect money from you all the time and every traveller they come accross , but if you can offer that bit extra to someone who needs it like a poor street vendor , why not !

its like a beggar , beggars will always target westerners as easy targets , they wont approach wealthy indians so often,

when i first arrived i give to alot of beggars as i was suffering culture shock especially seeing such poor children, but in the end if id carryed on with the mass of poverty id of been out of pocket myself, so i decided to only give to children or persons who were disabled or a child that really pulled out all the stops to try and sell me something i dident want , and really tryed and tryed , and dident resort to begging, that way i feel like id encourage the ones who were trying and hadent resorted to begging.

[ Edit: Edited on Jul 19, 2007, at 7:43 AM by anglosurma ]

10. Posted by italy_07 (Budding Member 22 posts) 9y

Really this whole bargaining thing brings a negative impact to tourists. When I was down in the Hati, I watched a man bargin with a little kid over some beads. He got them down to $0.05 they were $1.00 originally. Think about it, that kid and his family's livelihood is in selling nicknacks to tourists and some guy just cheated that kid out of money to feed his family. How does it hurt us to tip him or pay the price they're asking?It's only going to benefit their family. This isn't allways the case, like in most european coutries. Normally they make enough to support their family, so bargain, they will expect you to. But when you're in an impoverished area and you want to bargain with someone over a dollar, just pay the extra dollar and know that you're helping someone.