Service charge and VAT


Dear Hillary,

We are often in Thailand and the one thing that completely confuses me is the subject of tipping – when and how much? If the establishment charges a “service” fee, should you tip as well? What do you do as someone living there, for example? I believe that the wages are not high for some of the people in bars and restaurants and they need the tips, but I do not want to throw money away either? What’s your tip about tipping?

Terrie Tipper

Dear Terrie Tipper,

There are three situations here – Service Charge or no Service Charge and VAT on top. If the establishment adds on 10 percent (the usual amount), then as far as I am concerned – that’s the tip. There are some places that no doubt pocket the Service Charge, but that’s not anything of our doing, nor can we change it. That is something between the employees and the owners to work out. However, if I feel that the waiter or service provider has gone well beyond that which could be expected, then I reward with a little extra something for that person, irrespective. You know the sort of things I like – a little fawning, groveling and lots of compliments. In an establishment that has no standard add on Service Charge, then it really is up to you. Small change left over or up to 10 percent is quite normal. The Thai people are grateful for anything you leave them. It all adds up by the end of the day. VAT is a charge between the establishment and the government, so that is fixed.