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Tipping – how do you feel about it?

September 21, 2022

Attitudes towards tipping change around the world with North Americans being the most prolific tippers.  Tipping, according to the Beefeaters at the Bloody Tower of London, began with people on death row paying the axeman to ensure the axe was sharp and their head would come off in one swipe. A myth, also from the Beefeaters, suggested that the Duke of Monmouth was so cheap that he refused to tip the axeman, who took six swipes to remove his head (with a blunt axe) – apparently, he was dead by the sixth.

One might understand paying a little extra for a less painful but inevitable death, but you are not being killed by the waiter in a restaurant.  Folks in the service industry are paid to do a job, providing a service to the customers of the establishment.  Until January of 2022, Ontario had a subminimum wage allowance for servers, waiters, and bartenders, of $12.55 per hour.  With minimum wage for other employees set at a higher value many customers felt a duty to tip for service.

How do you tip, why do you tip, and how much do you tip?  As noted above tipping was predicated on the idea that one might receive special, exceptional, or better service.  The idea of tipping was extended to provide a “sympathetic income” for workers who were legally underpaid.  These days, most people use virtual payment methods such as credit or debit cards, cash is used far less often that in years gone by.  Using a POS system, you will be given an option of how much you wish to tip – the automated tip options used to be in increments of 5, starting with 5% then 10% and 15%.  Now, they have gone up to start at 18%.

Who are the biggest tippers?

Apparently Germans come out on top for tips, even ahead of the USA and Canada.  Other Europeans, including Brits are less likely to dutifully tip, preferring to tip for excellence in service.  In North American countries, tipping is considered to be a norm, so much so that it is an expectation even when the service was terrible.  And should you think the Brits are stingy, wait until you see Italians in action (according to the linked article.

How much should you tip?

It is not unusual for people to argue about how much an appropriate tip ought to be, and, although less common, there is an expectation among some folks in the service industry that they are entitled to a tip.  Neither scenario makes much sense.  First of all, when you go out for dinner you are paying for your meal to be prepared and brought to your table, that is a reasonable starting point from which to consider extra payments.   

You should expect the staff of a restaurant or bar to be polite and to do their jobs in a timely, hygienic, and courteous way.  Tipping is traditionally associated with more than simply performing routine work, it for going above and beyond – but how much is the right amount?  Some folks like to use a percentage of the bill, but is that the untaxed amount or the taxed amount?  Some people tip at a flat rate, $5.00, for example, regardless of service quality.

It’s your decision:

Whatever you decided to tip, we recommend not doing it out of a sense of duty, but rather doing so with consideration to your own financial situation.   Servers in restaurants can make a lot of money, especially in busy restaurants.   A family of four could easily pay $150.00 on dinner, not including a tip or taxes.  If you tip at 18% (the lowest suggested on POS devices) that’s a tip of $27.00, far more than the wage the server is being paid in wages.  Keep in mind that while serving you and your family they are also waiting on other tables.  If they are serving four tables of four in the same hour – they would receive $108.00 for the hour on top of their salary.

Tipping for takeaway:

Tipping for takeaway is a whole other animal, and rarely associated with quality of service or purchases – mostly it is sight unseen.  You go to pick up your pizza and being a great tipper, you pay 25% of the bill so your food cost goes from $50.00 to $62.50 then you get home and find they gave you a Hawaiian instead of a Deluxe with pineapple.  Mistakes are harder to reconcile when you can’t see your purchase until you get home.  In this example, you are paying a bonus for something sight unseen.

Tipping as we can see, is an expensive “option” and for many people it is unaffordable but still done.  Don’t feel badly if you can’t afford to tip – in busy restaurants the servers may be making more money than you are – so enjoy your meal and let your server know you appreciate them even if you can’t afford to tip.  This is especially important to keep in mind if you must pay using a credit card and you cannot afford to pay using another payment method.