Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Are they crazy? I’m not tipping 20%

The National post has a piece by Nida Siddiqui and Tristin Hopper about The Westerly and The Ace, two new restaurants in Toronto’s west end, prompting their customers to pay a 20% gratuity when paying on handheld electronic terminals. Wow!

The Westerly’s co-owner Tom Earl reportedly allowed, “Nobody’s demanding that anybody tip anything.” Sure, right, so long as you don’t plan to go back there any time soon—somebody is likely to spit in your soup if you do. But it’s nice of him to tell us, don’t you think?

As the Post’s article points out:

… 20% tips are ‘customary’ in large U.S. cities such as New York. But while Toronto servers earn a minimum hourly wage of $8.90, waiters in the Big Apple only earn $4.65 per hour ‘because their total compensation includes expected tips,’ according to the New York State Department of Labour.

Time was when 10% was considered generous. Now 15% makes you a cheapskate? Well I beg to differ and refuse to pay more than 15%. Besides, the whole tipping thing has gotten out of hand.

Some patrons tip 20% on top of the tax on their bill: that’s a whopping 22.6% of the basic food and beverage charge. And what about smaller establishments where owners sometimes serve at the tables? Since when did the owners decide they should get tipped? About the time they found out that owners of barber shops and hair dressers were collecting tips like they were taking their due, I guess.

When menu prices in restaurants go up, dollar amounts of tips go up also, though service staff don’t give any better service or work any harder.

Nor is the expectation of a tip in any way proportionate to the quality or level of service in many establishments. Regardless of wait-time, amount coffee slopped into saucers, lack of timely beverage refills, the main course appearing on the table well before the appetizer, salad or soup has been consumed, you’re still considered a deadbeat if you don’t leave a decent tip.

Some places now add the tip (gratuity) to your bill automatically—that’s the height of cheekiness. An especially galling practice when you have had to endure the pathetic efforts of poorly trained, sloppy service staff.

I spent many years in  the hospitality industry and never liked the tipping tradition. Perhaps it’s past time service staff were paid a proper wage and prices were adjusted accordingly, then we could just pay the bill as tendered.

Until then, I’ll continue to carefully calculate 15% on the pre-tax bill, but only if service was, at least, satisfactory. For bad service, expect about three cents.

That’s the way I see it.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell


  1. Tipping is out of control. In the old days 10% was the norm. Then people started saying 10-15%. Then it was 10-15 on the whole bill, including GST. Now 20%...that's ridiculous. I'm with you on this one.

  2. My wife and I were in a restaurant for lunch. The bill was $24 and I handed the waitress two $20 notes and she asked me if I wanted any change That has happened a few times and each time I don't leave a tip. Has this happened to anyone else?

  3. I smoke so I no longer dine out.
    When I dine I like wine with my meal because of DND Nazis I don't dine out.
    I refuse to sacrifice an hrs pay to park my car or to share public transit with junkies & crackheads so I don't dine out.
    All the best restaurants and Chefs left BC after the initial smoking ban passed so I don't dine out.
    What Tip?

  4. Take care when paying with credit cards that the tip is not already calculated and added to the bill. If the establishment has dim lighting or is quite busy near the cash, you may realise too late that you have tipped twice, once with cash at the table and again on the card.
    This has happened to myself and friends but usually only once and lesson learned.

  5. Indeed. As the American case shows, the whole notion of 'tipping' is often used as an excuse for resturaunts to pay their employees less. It shifts the cost of paying wages from the employeer to the customer, which really isn't right for either the customer or the employee.

  6. I'm usually a fairly big tipper if the service warrants it. Treat me like I'm the only customer of that establishment, and you'll get at least 15% of the after tax total.

    But imply to me in any way that you're expecting that tip from me (rather than working to earn it), and you will not get a dime.

  7. When we were in Toronto 9 years ago, we attended a "bachelor supper" at a restaurant. The group was about 10-12 people, and the wait staff was horrible. Brought the wrong things, the food took forever, drinks weren't refilled. When the bill came, they had automatically tacked on a 15% tip. I leaned in and asked how much without the tip. The non-related members of the group wouldn't think of tipping less than the suggested despite the horrible service.

  8. That's way too much. We currently pay a 15% tip plus 12% HST,for a total of 27% over and above the meal.

    Lessee,at my favourite local pub/eatery,bill for two is usually about $60,plus 15%+ 12%= 16.20= $76.20

    That's the limit of my patience and wallet,sorry.

    At 20%,the food and service had better be first rate.

  9. For me, tipping is still tied to the service I receive. I don't calculate any particular percentage of the bill. If I receive what I consider to be 'average' service, I will probably tip in the 10% range. When I receive service that I consider to be great from someone who is attentive and professional, then I may go to the 20% level. On the other hand, for bad service, I've walked out without leaving any tip.

    As long as it remains a discretionary process, I will tip according to service levels, otherwise, why not just built it into the meal price. If it's discretionary, you have to 'earn it'.

    I've traveled to New Zealand and Australia a couple of times recently, and I must say I found their systems quite refreshing. All prices include all taxes and nobody leaves a tip. What you see on the menu is exactly what you pay. I didn't find that the service was any worse than it is here, despite the fact the staff there are not working harder to try and earn a tip.

  10. i leave any restaurant where a fixed tip is required. if the waiter/waitress gives exceptional service and the food is also exceptional then the tip will match.

  11. I'm Australian and live in Vancouver. I do tip as it is part of your culture which I respect but I will tip for good service. Individuals choose what they do so if you choose to work in hospitality then don't expect to be paid like a brain surgeon. Does anyone tip the guys at 711 or macdonalds who are also minimum wage. At least they ask if you would like anything else. I have a moving company and we can work a 8-10 hour day and my guys would be over the moon with a $20-50 tip on a bill of $1000 (5-10%) after moving people valuables items in what for many is a stressful experience. So I take issue with arrogant and ignorant attitude when a meal out should be an enjoyable experience not one where you ate held ransom to an industry practice where the customer subsidises the business wage bill

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