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Should you tip your French waiter? Here’s what you need to know ahead of the Paris Olympics.

The Americans are barely clear about when and where it’s appropriate to tip in the United States, not to mention the customs applicable in France. As they prepare to join the 15 million people around the world heading to Paris for the next Olympic GamesAmerican tourists could benefit from knowing proper tipping etiquette in the City of Light.

Although changing tipping norms at home have US consumers are frustrated with how often they are asked to tipa completely different set of unspoken rules govern tipping expectations abroad – and some French restaurateurs may be eager to take advantage of foreigners’ ignorance.

In restaurants in France, bills automatically include a 15% service charge to cover waiters’ wages, and so waiters are not dependent on tips to make a living as they are in the United States. Instead, it is up to the customer’s discretion to decide whether the service was good enough to warrant an extra tip of a few euros, called a “tip,” which literally means “for a drink.”

Another cultural difference: All types of service personnel, including waiters and salespeople, are generally less customer-oriented than in the United States, in part because good service does not come with the type of reward monetary that accompanies it in the United States. in other words, don’t expect your food to arrive quickly or with a smile.

“The expression of service is not necessarily fast and attentive like it is here in the United States,” said Erika Rodriguez, an operations specialist at travel site Going.com, who has spent the last four summers in France. “That’s not to say it’s a bad experience, but they want to make it clear that they are not your servants. They are very direct.”

Are restaurants benefiting from it?

It’s no secret that European establishments prefer American tourists over tourists of other nationalities, precisely because they are inclined to tip so generously. And some visitors to France report that restaurants try to extract extra money from tourists by encouraging them to leave the same type of tip as in the United States.

The trick was so common in St. Barts during her last visit that travel guru Melissa Biggs Bradley, founder of travel agency Indagare, called it a “St. Barts scam.”

“All the restaurants were asking people if they wanted to leave tips without recognizing that tipping is built in,” Bradley told CBS MoneyWatch.

Going.com’s Rodriguez noted that in Paris, this is a tactic more common at tourist spots than at restaurants that draw local crowds. “They bring you a credit card machine with tipping suggestions comparable to the amounts you leave in the United States,” she told CBS MoneyWatch.

Bend the rules

While it’s far from illegal, experts say it amounts to taking advantage of generous diners unfamiliar with foreign customs.

Brian Warrener, who has studied tipping standards in Europe and how they differ from those in the United States, said in France he discovered what he called “a little bending of the rules.”

“Especially in places where many Americans travel, restaurants will include a line at the bottom in English saying tipping is not included, even though there is a 15% service charge,” Warrener told CBS MoneyWatch . “So they’re clearly trying to communicate with people who may not be familiar with tipping forms in France.”

He noted that some operators are using tablets to accept payments that include prompts for tips of 15 to 30 percent, a practice he said is becoming more widespread in anticipation of visitors arriving in Paris for the Olympics.

“In the United States it would be an inflated tip, but in France, where tipping is not part of the compensation, it is a benefit,” Warrener said.

Bradley from Indagare offered tips for avoiding the tipping trick. “If you’re paying by credit card and asked to leave a tip, ask if the service is included,” Bradley said.

Be warned: “They might try to fake things, but they can’t say ‘no’ when they do. They might say it’s a matter of whether or not you want to give me something in exchange for good service. But it’s absolutely standard, so the assumption should be that you’re paying for the service,” he added.

How much should I leave at the restaurant?

Since service charges are already built into the total cost of a meal, servers don’t expect much more. However, it is common to leave a little change if you have a coffee or a meal, to reward good service. Rounding up a bill from 13.50 euros to 14 euros, or leaving a few euros is usually enough.

“What Europeans tend to do when they get good service is they round up the bill and say, ‘Nice job, here’s a little something extra,'” Warrener said .

He adds that as a general rule, it is the responsibility of tourists to familiarize themselves with the customs of other countries before taking a plane abroad.

“If you go to France and don’t understand the tipping culture and assume it’s like the United States, they make it easy for you to make a mistake for their benefit,” he said.


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