Why Tipping In Israeli Restaurants is Ludicrous

If you’ve ever worked in the service industry, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about in this post.

I’ve created Michelangeloesque masterpiece foot long subs, brewed a mean cup of coffee, served bloody steaks and chocolate cakes, and poured drinks so stiff your eyes will cross (is that a real analogy?).

I’ve broken glasses and plates (less than you would probably expect), wiped down a gazillion dirty tables, cleaned up the dry cereal that a snot-nosed little kid ground into the carpet, handled angry customers, been understaffed, overworked, and underpaid.

I’ve smiled, apologized profusely, laughed at terrible jokes, been hit on by men older than my father, comp’d meals, and re-made the drink that was supposed to be “70% regular Coke, 30% diet Coke” because “it tastes more like 60/40.”

And I did this all with a smile on my face and sympathetic head tilt because I was working for those tips.

With all of this experience, I like to think that I’m extra sympathetic to those that work in the service industry.

Food took a long time? That’s fine—the server looks like he’s busting his butt and it looks like they’re short-staffed.

Quality of food less than desirable? It’s not the server’s fault—they didn’t make the food.

Takes a long time to receive a menu or drink? It’s ok—the server apologized profusely for the wait and worked hard to pay extra attention to our table for the rest of the night.

Long and slow-moving line at the coffee shop? No worries! The guy at the register greeted me with a smile and didn’t rush me through my order.

See a pattern here? All have great service and in my opinion, earns them a great tip.

But all bets are off in Israel.

The majority of the service that I’ve received in Israel has been bad. Terrible, in fact.

“But Cara,” you may be thinking, “it’s just the culture and you’re in a different country. You can’t expect every place to have similar levels of service as what you’re used to.”

Sure, I agree. The culture is different. Perhaps a bit more aloof and less attentive. But I don’t like feeling obligated to give a tip simply because you took crankily took my order, plopped food down in front of me, and ignored me for the rest of the night.

Wherever you go, it seems like you’re inconveniencing the person working there. I’ve stood patiently waiting at a counter to place my order while the person working there glanced at me, then proceeded to finish the long conversation that they were having with their coworker about something far more important.

“Hello, do you have an English menu?” I inquire.

Person rolls their eyes at me and hands me a menu without a word of acknowledgement.

Standard. Expected.

I’ve had a lot of bad service; here are a few that have happened in my time here in The Viv (not sure what “The Viv” is? Check out this post on doing laundry):

  • Sat at a table for more than 5 minutes without ever having anyone come to over to us, bring us a menu, or give a glass of water.
  • Requested the check at an empty bar, waited a few minutes while the bartender walked around, watched him print the check off and leave it at the machine, pour himself a glass of orange juice, drink said glass of orange juice while nonchalantly leaning against the wall, then re-requested the check from the bartender.
  • Charged $4 for a glass of hot water with lemon (it was labeled as “tea”). This has happened more than once.
  • Watched our bartender pour himself and his fellow employees FIVE shots of Jameson in the 45 minutes that we were there. How he wasn’t dead by the time that we left is beyond me.
  • Been asked to “wait 10 or 20 minutes” to place our order because the kitchen is busy.
  • Chased after because the tip wasn’t high enough and the manager wanted to know what was wrong with the service (it turns out that the group we were with didn’t calculate the tip correctly).
  • Waited to get seated at a restaurant and the hostess told us “5 minutes.” Three minutes later, she said “5 minutes.” This happened a lot. Flash forward to 45 minutes later, and we got seated. I got waters for the table and she said “you should’ve asked me–I can help you with anything” but when I asked for our check, she said that she had to get our server.
  • When we paid our check, we gave enough bills/coins to get a bill back (like when the total is $2.51, you give $3.01 to get 2 quarters back instead of a bunch of pennies, nickels, and dimes). Instead, she brought back the change that we gave her and the change from us paying the bill.

Just last weekend, I went to a restaurant with Kyle and his coworker while we were in Jerusalem. I was hopeful because Jerusalem is a very touristy city and perhaps they operate differently than what I’ve experienced in other places.

We sat down in a virtually empty restaurant. There was an abundance of staff available. It took a while for a server to come to our table (probably because he was in the middle of a good conversation). Then when we placed our order, he did not use a pen and paper… which is totally fine, if you can actually remember the order. He repeated our orders back to us (almost 100% wrong) and we corrected him. We didn’t have high hopes about him getting our orders correct.

Kyle’s coworker asked for a Coke Zero and the server brought a regular Coke. I asked for a glass of hot water and he brought a bottled mineral water. When I returned the unopened bottle of water and requested the hot water that I ordered just minutes before, he stared at me and said “you wanted a hot water? You ordered a mineral water.” (I most definitely did not.) He did not apologize or entertain the idea that maybe, just maybe, he made a mistake. We were still charged for the mineral water.

When our food came, our server had only gotten two of the orders wrong (but at least the food was delicious).

And finally, a few more words of advice for you when you go to a restaurant in Israel:

  • You have to specifically request the check or else you’ll be sitting at the table forever. This is something that I actually like; you don’t feel like you’re rushed out of there so that they can turn the table over and give it to the next people.
  • A “salad” is diced cucumber and tomato.
  • The service charge has to be added to the bill before they run your credit card. This means that you have to tell the server how much tip you would like to add onto the total. Super awkward.

I hope that this post helps you even a little bit if you decide to visit Israel. Happy tipping!

…or not.

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2 Responses to Why Tipping In Israeli Restaurants is Ludicrous

  1. Kelly Hoffman says:

    Living vicariously through Cara! The best way to travel. Thanks for your insights and entertainment! Stay safe and have fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cara Miller says:

    You should hop on a plane and come visit! I’ll take you to the best laundromats and pita places!

    Like

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