Saturday, September 12, 2009

Your Tipping Point?

Since returning from Asia I have thought a lot about our mandatory tipping policies in North America. Everywhere I go I am being accosted by tip jars, tips being added into my check and being outright asked for a tip. Asia has a pretty strict "no tip" policy (although it's definitely catching on, especially in tourist frequented areas) and in fact they will chase after you to return the money if you do leave a tip! Needless to say, it's been difficult to adjust to adding on that extra 10, 15 or 20 percent again. Frankly, I'm getting a little annoyed.

Before I sound too much like a miser, I don't mind tipping if there is something to tip for. If someone has really done an exceptional job or if they have done a good job and are clearly very busy (I am talking about waiters/waitresses here). What I object to is the attitude that tipping is mandatory and expected. Isn't tipping a bonus or a reward? If so, why do so many people feel entitled to receiving one? It's getting worse too. In the past I was only expected to tip my server, my bartender, my pizza deliverer. Now everyone has a jar sitting in front of their cash register! I feel bad for the fast food workers but really, should I be tipping you? How about the people at the cupcake shop- sure you served me my cupcake in a timely fashion but does it really merit a tip? Should I be monetarily thankful to you too? I was under the impression that you were already getting paid to do your job and that it was coming out of the money I paid for the product.

The argument here is that these sorts of jobs have poor salaries and that these workers are depending on their tips in order to make up the difference and survive. Why are consumers picking up the slack for employers who refuse to pay a decent wage? I think that's the real issue here. With inflation rising and wages staying the same, especially for unskilled work, it is getting harder to make ends meet. I can see the appeal of trying to get a few extra bucks but it feels a bit like begging. Also, what about the jobs that deserve tipping and don't get it? When was the last time you tipped the poor furniture delivery person? These guys just carried your new couch up 4 flights of stairs and maneuvered it into your labyrinth of an apartment and all they get is a smile and thank you? How is that fair when you just handed the pizza guy an extra $5? It just doesn't make much sense to me (which is why I often don't tip the pizza guy and I do tip the furniture delivery guy).

I think that we should question tipping. What is it's purpose and is it really helping anything? Maybe if we only tipped when it was really deserved then there would be more pressure on some employers to increase their crappy wages. Possibly I am just really out of touch and cheap and should go back to Asia? What do you think?


drowsyrabbit said...

Absolutely love this blog entry! I agree so much. Tipping used to be completely unheard of the UK but now it's getting more and more normal. However, there's no established etiquette for it here so I'm never very sure what to do.

As you say, particularly good service seems like a useful rule of thumb. Doing the job you were paid to do anyway... not so much.

Carter said...

In B.C. no one is going to be dining out once this HST comes into effect.
It will be way too expensive, especially if we have to tip on top of the tax!

I really loved it in Japan when I didn't have to worry about tipping. It was so much easier because, well, you know I can't do math and I never know how much is appropriate.

On the other hand, one of my friends was always adamant about giving huge tips because she came from a family that ran a restaurant and that was really important to them considering their wages were low.

Rebecca said...

*applauds* I agree. I worked at Pizza Express and they refused to pay minimum wage, claiming that tips would compensate. *gahs*

Simone said...

Agreed--I don't mind tipping if the service is really good however, I feel like lately most of the service I've had in Toronto is really quite terrible, yet we're still "expected" to tip. It makes me feel resentful when this happens!

Why am I here??? said...

My dad used to own a moving company and on a good day they got a cold drink thrown their way.

Go to a bar and buy a cold drink and you are expected to slip your waitress a looney.

Tipping, I just don't get it. Another reason to love my Korea ;) hehe

Megan said...

On one hand- service may be suffering in some areas, but I'd be inclined to also take a look at the way people treat their service staff in general. I've found in working in the service industry, the "you owe me" attitude or the entitlement behavior has become the norm, and I've found myself reading restaurant reviews where the person writing is ranting about some restaurant, and their description of what went on really sounds as though THEY were being unreasonable and rude to start. Check out: as she blogs about her experience as a chef and the stuff people try to pull. Makes me laugh! (and want to tip better)