FWIW - I love to tip for good service (I've been a waitress in my student days
) I'm not too keen on "service charges" that are added on in some restaurants in the UK. I prefer to get my bill as a total of the items that I have selected for that particular meal, and assess my own tip.
I love France - they include a service charge in the price of the individual items. That way you know where you stand, and you can leave a few euros for exceptional service.
My personal biggest gripe about eating and tipping in the US is that there seems to be an unwritten law that you must tip a minimum of 15% even if the service is crap!
Now before people jump on the bandwagon of "Oh but they are only paid a minimum wage, they work for tips". Then let them work for tips! Smile occasionaly, be informative, be enthusiastic, let the food arrive on time. Basically, earn your tip!
I had a recent experience in Old Ebbitts in DC where a group of us (me the only Brit) where we were drinking at the bar. First of all we had to wait a good 10 minutes for a drink when the bar was very quite, and when we ordered Raw Oysters and Clams they turned up steamed. To top it off, the replacement raw goods took over 30 minutes to turn up. However, when the bill was presented, the person who was paying the tab added a 18%tip. I was amazed and asked him why he thought the crap service we had received deserved a $40 tip. His answer? "That's the way it is here".
I'm sorry U.S. Egulleters, I think that you are often being taken for a ride just because "That's the way it is".
(Who made me the Deity on tipping