June 26, 2014

Tipping Wait Staff in Ecuador: Should You or Shouldn't You, and How Much?

In the US we wouldn’t think twice about NOT tipping our waiter or waitress; we just do it because it is the appropriate thing to do. Most of us know that a waiter or waitress earns half of their wages or more through the process of tipping and so receiving an appropriate tip is an absolute necessity, otherwise he or she wouldn’t be able to make ends meet.
 

It’s different in Ecuador. Some or most of the restaurants are family owned and operated and can support the wait staff (family) as they still live at home, and actually they are in their home; eating out in Ecuador is like going to someone’s house and eating in their dining room. In fact the kitchen they’re cooking your meal in is most likely their home kitchen too!
 

When you tip the wait staff you’re tipping the family. When you tip in the Ecuadorian restaurants you are probably tipping the son, daughter, niece, or close family friend. However, let’s just say it is a hired server, all the more you should be aiding in their small minimum wage they are receiving. 

There’s nothing wrong with tipping in Ecuador 10% to 20% of the bill, but not more than that.  We’ll talk about how much to tip in a bit.
 

There are VERY good reasons to tip wait staff in Ecuador, here’s why?
 

1. The wait staff provided you with good service
2. You want to return and receive good service again
3. The wait staff was congenial
4. You appreciate restaurants in Ecuador
5. You feel you want to tip
 

The practice of tipping between Ecuadorians has not been formally introduced into the local culture too much, however you cannot say Ecuadorians NEVER tip as some of the nicer Ecuadorian dining establishments automatically add a gratuity to the bill, between 5% and %15, which means Ecuadorians do tip!
 

Then what we should be saying and thinking is: Ecuadorians will not tip when they don’t have to…that’s interesting. However, on the other side of the coin we see that Ecuadorians do tip, when they have to as gratuity is added to the bill in some restaurants.
 

What is really happening in Ecuador is sometimes Ecuadorians tip and sometimes they don’t. How fair is it, do you think that Ecuadorians only tip in the finer dining establishments and not in the mom and pop restaurants, where clearly the tip is probably much more needed? How much sense does it make from an ethical perspective?
 

It seems to us that in an Ecuadorian service business, and especially a family owned and operated one, a tip of 10% would truly be appreciated from the patrons. Perhaps if the locals started tipping 10% of the bill then they would not raise their menu and almuerzo prices. Eh? Just a thought.

Tipping in Ecuador by Ecuadorians and Foreigners is Appropriate
 

So then we foreigners can’t say, “Oh they don’t tip in Ecuador when clearly they do in some restaurants when it is automatically added to the bill. Bottom line is, no matter where you eat, unless it is buffet style, tipping 10 to 15 percent of the bill is absolutely appropriate. To keep saying it is not part of the culture is trying to get out of tipping the wait staff and that is just not appropriate.
 

How Much Should You Tip?
 

Only tip what is fitting, which would be about 10 to 15% percent of the bill. Anything over 20% of the bill is over-tipping and out of place. For most family run restaurants fifty cents to a dollar is plenty. A couple can easily eat out in most restaurants in Ecuador from $5 to $10, both of them.
 

Over tipping by throwing around $5, $10 and $20 dollar bills on tips is not normal behavior and as such will not be received with appreciation by the server as they did not earn it. However, they’ll be excited about receiving a whole days wage from you, but they will not respect you more for doing it, as it is in very bad taste.
 

And this goes with tipping any service business in Ecuador. Tip what is fitting but don’t play the “I’m a rich American” and show off by giving a big, ridiculous tip. Believe us it will go unappreciated, or worse, it could make you a target as some have discovered, and you’ll be wasting your money and your ego. In a country where a typical day’s wage is only $20, you’d be ruining the place.
 

How Should You Tip?
 

Always hand your waiter or waitress the tip directly in their hand. Never leave a tip on the table as it can get taken by passerby's. NOTE: We’ve witnessed other waiters take a tip on a table that they did not serve, so it is best to directly hand your server the tip to make sure they actually get it.

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