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.
Your an accountant James arent you!
I think it really depends where you are. I lived in a part of China that you were expected to barter. If you didnt barter, they would not sell anything to you. Also, in this area, they would accept tips, but I later was told not to do it as it is not the custom of the country. I had a little more money than the Chinese people, and would have been happy to tip, but they just dont do it there. I don't think it is relevent where you are from. If you are in a country that tips 10%, tip 10%, if the country doesn't tip at all. Don't tip either.
Interesting you should mention China. When I was in Beijing, I actually had the woman who served me in a restaurant come out into the street chasing after me to tell me I had forgotten to take my change (it amounted to a few coins). Of course, in areas used to foreigners, they certainly appeared to expect a tip.
Anyway, I do agree with the original piece in the Sydney Morning Herald, it is "selfish" of travellers to complain about excessive tipping "ruining" it for other travellers.
I used to wait tables, and occasionally (very rarely, actuall) I would get some stupidly large tips. If I was smart enough to figure out that this was a rare occurance and shouldn't be expected everytime a table came in, I am positive that the samosa vendor in India could do the same. To assume otherwise is to assume that you know better than him, and that just smacks of colonialism to me, the attitude that we in the western world know what's better for the poor, third-world countries because we are smarter and richer. That this execessive tip will lead the vendor to make assumptions about all westerners, and therefore all of India (or where-ever) would be ruined by this change in attitude.
Now, obviously, I don't run around paying double for everything, and I haggle and bargain in my poor Spanish and even poorer Chinese when when travelling. But I don't think that the occassional stupidly excessive tip is going to ruin it for everyone else.