TIPPING—From a Mexican’s Point of View
I read a piece in the October Ojo about tipping and I think that it needs to be talked about more, because even Mexicans like myself don’t know much about how to tip or when to do it. I have talked with some people in Mexico about this. One day I was discussing the theme with a great friend of mine who is a really sweet person from Zacatecas. His words were these: Any person who performs a service for you deserves a tip. For me this revelation was like when a Zen monk finally is able to understand the puzzle of a koan– wow — and my friend is not a wealthy person, he repairs bicycles for a living so every peso counts.
I asked him to give me an example, and he said, “When I go to buy shoes, if the person that is helping me is helpful and friendly I’ll give him a tip.” I had never thought of tipping for this service, but now it seems that after showing me twenty pairs of shoes, anybody deserves a tip. When you look at it that way, there are more people that deserve a tip than you may have ever thought.
In the States in restaurants, the norm is twenty percent, but here most people tip from ten to fifteen percent if the service was good and in a timely manner. In Mexico a wealthy friend of mine tips ten percent and no more. For me it depends. If the bill is small, I often tip more, for example in a taco place if the bill is 50 pesos I might leave 7 to 10 pesos, about twenty percent. Most people don’t tip at all in taco places. In a regular restaurant if my bill is 400 pesos I will leave 40 to 50 pesos (about ten percent) depending on the service and quality of the food.
In a supermarket if the bagger is a kid I give him two or three pesos; if it’s an older person five to seven pesos. These people don’t get paid by the market, they only get tips. In a hardware store I will tip the one who loads my truck or delivers to my house. Tip your hairdresser and any other person that you want to remember you the next time, so you will get that extra attention that you might need.
In some cases you may need to be discreet about tokens of your thanks, for example with public employees. In this type of situation, only non-monetary gifts are appropriate, and they should be given after the business has been concluded. In the gas station, if they clean my windshield I’ll give five pesos. If they’re not friendly and just pump the gas, no tip. The kid who cleans your windshield at a stoplight: If you said no to them and they still cleaned it, don’t give a tip.
The main thing to remember is that most Mexicans will not get offended if you offer them a tip. Most service jobs are so poorly paid (and some are not paid at all) that workers are delighted to receive a tip. If ever somebody should decline a tip, don’t insist and just thank him for his help.
One last thing, if you’re afraid that by tipping well you’ll look like a bourgeois rich person showing off, don’t worry about it – they’ll already be thinking that after you paid 47 pesos for a latte and 30 pesos for a muffin!