Tipping, beggars, over-pricing: questions

Tips, double-pricing, beggars, children-beggars, children-sellers. Yes, no, yes or no? Poverty, South-East Asia (SEA), Vietnam, Cambodia. Questions to which I don’t know the answer. Several moments a day which I don’t know which is the right action to do.

Children-beggars if given money it will just increase the number of beggars and remove them from school or school-related-work. Beggars in general, if you provide them money, it will mostly not go to them but the the leader of organized-beggars groups who sends them to the street to ask for money. These leaders are known to exist.

But what to do when you are in the terrace of the restaurant, eating and someone comes to ask for money. Or points to one of your toasts and asks for it? Giving the toast will help the children/person future? Will it change something? Is it not better to support an organization who will help them in more long-run and try to remove from them the feeling that they can make a living of asking food or money from the tourists? Where I’m talking about (Phnom Pehn, Cambodia) there are such organizations where beggars can ask for a meal. Nonetheless it is a very disturbing moment when you have a children in front of you (even if usually in distance you see a “parent” bit more well dressed who have sent the children alone to beg).

Over-pricing just annoys me. In SEA is a constant problem in buses sometimes also in others means of transport. Your guidebook usually says which is the normal price. Just in case you ask a local which is the price. You see the locals paying X. You are then asked 3 times X. You contest, you might manage to pay 1.5 times X. And then you go in a cramped and hot bus for which the really fair price is X. What to do when you know being over-priced? Accept? Contest? I know I’m the rich in a very poor country, but I try to think: would I do the same in my country to a person which I know earns 10-times more money than me? No! Indeed I accept to pay for the quality and when there is the possibility to pay a reasonable/fair price for a quality bus, I’ll pay and choose it instead (for instance, when there are 2, 3 and 5 usd buses, I rather take the 5usd knowing it will have AC and will not gather passengers around for the next 30minutes while leaving the city). But I do not accept to pay more than the locals when the quality is bad, which is often the case.

Tipping, either in the “taxi”-like or at the restaurant… I tend not to tip, except when the service (and/or food) is better than my expectations for the current local prices. Most of times in SEA people do not expect tip and are very thankful you have used their services (so far was like this in Phnom Penh). But sometimes, I don’t know if because of the American culture of tipping, they get annoyed when you don’t leave anything. This happen sometimes in Vietnam. Two times during this trip I was even directly asked for tip, which is the thing I find the worst. Tip is a gratuity which you give if you feel it, not something to be asked for.

I know that their salary is very small and a tip could help them, but I’ve the opinion that it should not be expected and the clients should be respected either if they tip or not. My own way to tip is to go back to the restaurant or use the same service again, giving it this way more profit in general.

At this article the matter of tipping or not in 3rd world countries is discussed already for 2 years. There is no big conclusion.

More ideas or comments?

2 thoughts on “Tipping, beggars, over-pricing: questions

  1. Ahhh now this is always complicated questions, as can be seen both by the points you brought up and in the article you linked to.

    As for me, I do usually not give money to beggars neither in Geneva or elsewhere, although it can depend – I sometimes give to the ones here who look partly mentally ill or run down in general as I feel they do not really have a choice as they are too run down to get social help etc. But I always try to stay away from giving money to anyone that might be used by illegal group or organised crime, and for sure children usually falls into this cathegory. I agree that giving money to these beggers will probably just increse the number of beggers and hence increase the number of people, and often children, who are abused in this way by being forced to beg. But it's a difficult question. One solution, as mention in the article, is to give them food – something they can actually enjoy and which their 'boss' want have any use for.

    Regarding tipping. I would not tip 100% (as is done in the article). However, I would probably usually leave a tip as I do here, as I do in Sweden, and in most other countries I travel in. Depending on the country the tipping culture is different. In Geneva, 5% is usually deemed more than enough. In Stockholm my brother thought me cheap when I only tipped about 7% for a quite expensive dinner (Swedes usually tip between 10 and 20%!). In the US, tips are customary as the salaries are really minimal as the tip is counted in (this used to be the case in Sweden for example as well until about 15 years ago).

    So I guess it all depends on the country you're travelling in. However, I think I would almost always leave at least a small tip as long as I am happy with the service and the food. If not, of course I wouldn't. That's the whole idea with tipping.

    No going back to the place again is nice! And it does help the restaurant/taxi driver/bar to survive. But it's not the same thing as tipping. And what's wrong in doing both? A tip doesn't have to be big, but I find it nice to give something to show my appreciation.

    As for over-pricing, I understand your point fully. But perhaps you should see it as someone wrote in one of the comments to the article you linked to: it's like our discounts for young or retired people, or handicapped, or…. You are 'healthy', so you can afford to pay a little bit more. Haggle down the prices, but don't let the fact that you pay 50% more for a cheap ticket ruin your day!

    Take care! Ahhh I'm sooo longing for when I leave on this kind of trip myself… soon, soon 😉

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