James Fallows posted a comment on tipping from a reader in Australia:
We do not tip in Australia. We find it demeaning to the tipper and the tippee. We have a relatively egalitarian society (compared to the US), and social safety nets that preserve the dignity of the poor, the sick, the hapless and the downtrodden. Yet we are an aggressive capitalistic society, like the US. Why then, are there these differences?
Tipping, to us, is an insult. It insults our egalitarian core. It reminds us that we once were servants to undeserving masters. We have abandoned this relationship, and I can assure your readers, that levels of service (eg in restaurants), in Australia, are not seriously diminished by the lack of tipping.
I agree with Fallows’s assessment — that this certainly rings true — but the real point is not tipping, per se. It’s orientation, or rather orientation lock.