ArchieComic Fan brought up some really good points. When I've traveled overseas to places like the U.K. and New Zealand, the natives don't tip. And they don't expect tips (according to my friends who live there. I'm paranoid about tipping/not tipping 'cause I don't want to be considered an "Ugly (Cheap) American" so I either ask friends/locals or read up on the customs of wherever I'm going). BUT, what's happened is the locals are getting used to Americans coming and automatically tipping, so while they don't expect tips from tourists from some other countries, now they expect it if you have an American accent.
Same with cab drivers. I had one old English cabbie tell me the fare at the end of my trip, "5 pounds. Not including tip." Something he'd never tell a Brit. And I thought that was obnoxious. It made me not want to tip him (I did anyhow) even though I always tip cabbies. (And I always tip cabbies and servers at super cheap restaurants more than 20%--usually at least a couple dollars more--cause if your breakfast comes to $6.75, I'm not going to leave just a $1.35 for the poor server.)
UncleDavid's spa seems to have a good way of operating. A lot of people don't know how much to tip for hair/massage services etc. anyhow, so if they're told tip is automatically included, then they know going in what the total price is and don't have to worry about it. (UncleDavid, I will say that someone gave me a gift certificate for a massage as a present and when I tried to tip the massage therapist, she refused to accept a tip from me because "she had already been tipped in advance" by the person who gave me the certificate. I was pretty amazed at her honesty and that made me want to tip her extra even more--but she refused to take it. (But I did make a point of specifically requesting her the next time I booked a massage and that's where she finally accepted a tip from me.)
But as a consumer, I (in general) have no idea who is paid minimum wage and who isn't (outside of the food service industry, I mean). Does the kid working at McDonald's make any more than the barista at Starbucks? 'Cause I don't see any tip jars at McDonald's (yet). But there are tip jars at Starbucks...and I don't think either employee is doing any more or less work. (Although I'd rather work at Starbucks.) Is the guy who drives the ice cream truck now going to have a tip jar? How about the vendors who sell hot dogs on the street?
People who deliver flowers. Aren't you supposed to tip them? I always do. But no one else in the office seems to.
I remember reading about a case where a restaurant sued a customer for refusing to pay the 18% tip. (The restaurant had it on their menu that all parties of 6 or more would automatically be charged an 18% tip.) The customer won the case 'cause the judge ruled that the restaurant can't force customers to pay tips.
I don't tip the baggers or the cashiers at the grocery store but I do tip the boys who sometimes help me bring the bigger items to my car. (And yes, it's always a teenage boy, not a girl.)
Anyhow, I'll stop now 'cause I think I'm confusing myself at this point...but this is very very interesting. If we have any members from the UK or Latin America or Asia, I'd love to hear their customs there.