Will Tipping Become the Norm in Korea?

  • english.chosun.com

    September 12, 2023 13:29

    The practice of tipping is only gradually making inroads into Korea and meeting plenty of resistance along the way.
    KakaoT, the Korean version of Uber, has introduced a "gratitude" feature to its Blue service since July, which comes with higher fares as taxi-drivers cannot refuse calls. When customers are guided to rate a driver, a tipping window appears on the screen, allowing passengers to choose between W1,000, W1,500, or W2,000. The amount is then transferred in full to the driver (US$1=W1,331).
    It is not mandatory, so passengers can choose not to tip, but the feature has drawn criticism in a country where no tipping culture exists. Online reactions have been negative, as they have in some other cases, amid fears that what begins as an option may soon become an obligation.
    A recent survey by platform OpenSurvey asked 1,000 people about their perception of the feature, and 36.7 percent had a "very negative" view. While tipping is seen as up to the customers, they may fear a drop in service quality if they do not tip, and soon the practice will become entrenched.
    Now the Wall Street Journal, from the heartland of tipping where service workers must make their living from tips, has noted the development.
    It reported last week that one famous bakery which placed a tipping jar at the checkout counter had to remove it after strong criticism online.
    The newspaper noted the example of a high-end Japanese restaurant in Seoul which has "private dining rooms where patrons, in a showy offering in front of fellow attendees, often hand servers W10,000... at the start of the set-course meals" to ensure VIP service. But the owner of the restaurant feels it "would be wrong for her customers to feel obligated to pay a gratuity."
    As the practice of tipping spreads, some Koreans have expressed concerns, posting comments like, "I thought tips were given in places where the employee's hourly wage is legally lower than the minimum wage. I don't understand why they ask for tips in Korea, where the minimum wage is obligatory."
    Many argue that with service charges already included in the price and food costs steadily increasing, a tipping culture is the last thing hard-pressed consumers need. But others argue that if consumers are satisfied with the service, giving a tip is acceptable.
    Relevant Korean regulations state that businesses in the food service industry should charge according to the price list. Tipping is not mandatory, but as a gesture of goodwill it is not illegal.
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