Columnists in the National Post have been offering their two cents on tipping. Within the last month, both Robyn Urback and Jonathan Kay have argued in favour of it, while Andrew Coyne rightly argued that the practice needs to end.
As Coyne argues, tipping “has nothing to do with the quality of the service.” It has become an automatic formality, where adding an extra fifteen per cent to the bill seems as natural as signing your own name at the bottom of the receipt. In a recent trip to the pub, my friends and I were shocked by the carelessness of our server – wrong orders, spilt drinks, tardy service – yet we all still added a pourboire (albeit smaller) when the night came to a close. The practice is so engrained that it never crossed our minds to abstain completely. If our tip truly depended on the quality of service, this would never have been an issue.
I learned about this the hard way on one of my first forays into Montreal’s nightlife. After waiting at the bar for ten minutes for watered-down, overpriced drinks from a rude waiter, my friend and I decided she didn’t deserve our “voluntary” boost. We took our drinks and left, with the bartender’s furious voice leaving a trail of ‘you cheap shits’ – or something to that effect – on the way to our seats.
Urback’s piece argues that “when you remove tips, you eliminate a direct, almost immediately gratifying incentive to provide better service.” From my own personal experience, gratuity is taken for granted in the service industry. Truly good servers will provide quality service because they enjoy their jobs. Eliminating tips and increasing their actual wage would not affect that. Again, as Coyne eloquently put it, “servers aren’t paid tips because their wages are low; their wages are low because they’re paid in tips.” The onus would now be put on managers to ensure their employees deliver satisfactory results, not on the customers that usually tip the standard rate despite everything – which actually reduces the quality of service further.
The model of tipping supported by Kay should still be encouraged, however. He says when a customer feels a service provider has gone above and beyond expectations, or the customer feels the amount of work put in didn’t reflect the actual cost – as Kay describes about his recent taxi ride – then the customer should feel free to tip in order to satisfy the true cost of the service. I’ve done this myself. But it should be at the customer’s discretion, not up to convention.
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