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Tipping in the UAE: A Second Salary for Service Workers

DALL·E 2024 01 09 12.47.10 A server in a restaurant in the UAE happily receiving a generous tip from a customer. The server is a young Middle Eastern man wearing a neat profess

The tipping culture in the United Arab Emirates has evolved into a significant financial support for service sector workers, often equating to a second salary. While not mandatory, tipping is customary, reflecting customer appreciation. The absence of a fixed tipping amount or consensus means practices vary, with some offering 10-15% of the bill, while others might simply round up the amount​​.

Abdul Waheed, a Careem captain, shared how factors like cleanliness and personal hygiene influence customers’ tipping habits. He recounted receiving a Dh1,000 tip for a timely intercity service​​. Similarly, waiter Benga Tamen Ivo at Couqley highlighted the role of personal connection in receiving substantial tips, mentioning a memorable Dh700 tip from a couple, which led to a lasting friendship and repeated patronage​​​​.

In the digital age, tipping has adapted to online platforms. Umair Ali, a Washmen delivery driver, noted the prevalence of digital tipping, yet emphasized the value of personal interactions. He recalled a generous tip received during Christmas, reflecting the sentiment that such gratuities often go towards additional expenses or supporting families back home​​.

The distribution of tips varies by company policy. Some establishments distribute them equally among staff, while others allow individual retention. Delivery apps, for instance, offer a tipping option during payment, with 100% of the amount going to the rider​​. Careem’s general manager, Antonio Al Asmar, highlighted their app’s feature enabling customers to tip drivers easily and conveniently, either digitally or in cash​​. Washmen’s operations manager, Sundus Awan, discussed the app’s fair distribution system for tips, emphasizing their role in supplementing drivers’ incomes and supporting comfortable living standards in Dubai​​.

At Couqley, assistant restaurant manager Duncan Kabiru noted that prioritizing customer care naturally encourages tipping, with a fair distribution system among restaurant staff​​. This illustrates how tipping in the UAE not only reflects customer satisfaction but also significantly contributes to the livelihoods of service sector workers.

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