HOW TO: TIP IN BEIRUT

Tipping in Lebanon can be awkward – no one seems to know exactly what constitutes an appropriate amount.

Expats have their own tipping baggage (I always revert to the standard American 15-20%, even in Beirut), and Lebanese don’t always agree on what’s standard. To make matters more confusing, unless they’ve actually worked in the service industry, no one seems to know how tipping here works. Are servers paid minimum wage (which, from what I can tell, is still just $448/month)? Do they actually get their tips, especially if they’re paid on a credit card? Unlike in the US and Europe, there isn’t much discussion around it.

Because Google proved particularly unhelpful, I turned to Facebook for answers. Twenty four people completed my highly unscientific survey, and I was able to pull a few solid pieces of wisdom from it.

UNSCIENTIFIC TIPPING STUDY

Brief: I wanted to find out what other people around here tip.

Method: I asked my Beirut-based Facebook friends ten questions about their tipping habits, which they answered anonymously.

Participants: 18 female responses and 6 male (we lost several more men when they got to questions about manicures, but let’s just assume our margin of error accounts for that). About 58% of participants were Lebanese; the rest were foreigners, including British, American, French, and Belizean. The expats have been in Lebanon anywhere from 6 months to “forever.”

Survey:

HOW MUCH DO YOU TIP…

On dinner
This one was almost unanimous, although some people add a bit more if the service is exceptional. One diner admits to leaving a lower percentage “if the total bill is big.”

Conclusion: 10%

On delivery
Another almost uniform answer. One participant did mention that he/she tips, but only if there’s no delivery fee included in the bill. I once asked a delivery guy if he actually gets that added fee, and he told me no, it goes to the restaurant to cover “delivery-related expenses.”

Conclusion: A flat LL2,000, with 10% of the total bill coming in at a close second.

In a bar
There was no clear-cut answer for this one. Answers ranged from “I don’t tip in bars!” to one generous participants who gives LL5,000 (about 40% at your average dive bar) per cocktail.

Conclusion: If I had to pick a number, I’d say LL2,000 per drink at the bar, which was the median answer. Alternatively, if you’ve got a table, 10% of the total bill sounds like a safe figure.

On a manicure
After the recent New York Times exposé on manicurist exploitation, I lurked the online discourse around salon workers’ rights. Tipping was a big topic. One thing I took away from it was that even Americans, who are so accustomed to tipping for everything, have no idea if/when/how to tip for manicures and other salon or spa services. It comes as no shock that people are just as clueless in Beirut.

Conclusion: Sorry my polished friends, but I don’t really have one. Nearly half of all participants who get manicures tip nothing. Those that do tip – a little more than half – throw down an extra LL5,000.

On a “brushing,” or blow-out
Far less people get brushings than I thought.

Conclusion: Same as above, either nothing or LL5,000. A second conclusion is that you should really look into brushings.

On a haircut
Because this study is based on accuracy, I just lumped all salon workers into this question: stylist, shampooer, person who dries your hair. Holy shit, that was a mistake.

Conclusion: I don’t even know where to begin, but this is what I can extrapolate from this mess of a question:

People pick and choose who they want to tip and there’s no real formula to it. Some participants only tip the person who does the brushing; others tip only the shampooer. Several people leave a few bills with the salon owner or cashier and hope that he/she distributes it suitably. Tips, in general, range from LL5,000 per person to 10% of the total bill.

One participant says she feels awkward tipping so she doesn’t, and another points out “I haven’t noticed Lebanese customers tipping individuals in the few salons I’ve visited…” But the most confused answer was “I don’t tip anyone — should I?!” I wish I could answer that.

How do you tip? And do you have insider knowledge of how service industry workers are paid? Your comments are welcome.

Image courtesy of StockSnap.io

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