Friday, July 27, 2007

Tippecanoe and Tyler, too.

My experience is that Canadians often tip minimally, and the service in Canadian restaurants reflects this.
Americans tip better than Canadians, but they also expect better service.

So when Canadians visit the US, the wait staff are annoyed with them because they tip 8%.
When Americans visit Canada, the wait staff are annoyed with them because they seem spoiled and demanding.

Low- or non-tippers often get tetchy about being made to feel obligated, and excuse their (in)action by saying that it's the restaurant's job to pay the staff enough so the customer doesn't have to tip. As if all contextual clues as to proper behaviour are irrelevant except the fact that a particular price was printed on a menu.

Lemme explain how it works: if you didn't ever have to tip, the restaurant would have to pay the staff more. Who do you imagine would pay that extra cost? Correct: you would. It would be built into the cost of every dish, instead of added at the end of the bill for you to see the way many places do for large parties.

Imagine you non-tippers got your way, and all the prices were higher to reflect the decent wages waiters now made. I guarantee your dining experiences would be less enjoyable, because waiters would have much less incentive to give you good service.
Now imagine someone comes along and says "A lot of your meal experience depends on your server. In recognition of that, we're going to pay them less, reduce the cost of your meals, and let you pay the server directly, in proportion to the meal cost and in reflection of his/her service." You'd be tickled. Or at least, I would.

Now, if you receive lousy service, say something. And don't tip if you don't want to. But if you got good service, the right answer is 15% -- suck it up and pay it, MacTavish.

Related note: tip jars for service that is minimal (ringing up a donut) are stupid. The service person's contribution to the transaction is miniscule. I regularly ignore those, and feel under no obligation to contribute anything other than a few coins if I find it convenient.


At Sat Jul 28, 10:18:00 AM PDT, Blogger Bend Oregon Restaurants said...

I can agree with most of this. I'm curious as to what the standard level of service is to acheive the 15% tip. At many of the restaurants that I frequent, I have been tipping 20% and have basically bought my way into extrodinary service. But when I go to a new restaurant and after the meal realize that I don't think I'll be returning, I have to consider the tip based on the service.

If the waiter/waitress simply took our order, and brought our food, is that worth 15%? I find myself getting very critical of the service. Then I throw down 15 - 18% and then take off. Now if the service was great...personal, attentive, quick but not rushed... then I'll tip 20% or more.

At Sat Jul 28, 11:24:00 AM PDT, Blogger si said...

well, i generally leave 20% for good service. i'm not so sure if it's generosity, or more likely, ease in calculation for my calculator-dependent brain.

i think you know that i'm terrible at simple math anymore -- makes people nervous when they deal with an accountant that has trouble with adding/subtracting/multiplying. in line with this post and my comment -- i accidentally left a 50% tip when i was in anaheim for a conference recently. it wasn't that big of a deal -- $30 bill and i gave a $15 tip. (discovered it on my copy of the credit card slip later.) and, in my defense, i had been in a lot of higher-priced restaurants earlier where a $17 tip would've been a bargain. but it does make me wonder how often i'm unintentionally generous or stingy.

At Sat Jul 28, 11:30:00 AM PDT, Blogger si said...

oh, and totally agree with the tip jar at the register. especially at starbucks, where coffee is becoming more of a luxury (price increases announced again)!

At Sat Jul 28, 11:39:00 PM PDT, Blogger Left Coast Sister said...

Everyone should be required to wait tables at some point in their lives. It's hard, sweaty, stressful work if you ask me. And the rest. industry has enough power to pay *less* than minimum wage in some states. I made $2.50/hr at my last waiting job, because they assume your real cash is coming from tips. And sometimes people don't realize that and leave less than 15% for good service, which stinks.
Tip jars are stupid. Esp at Starbucks.

At Thu Aug 09, 06:31:00 PM PDT, Blogger prrrof said...

I'm late to the game...BUT WHAT ABOUT SIZZLER??? The tipping there gives me enough angst to avoid the place. (Okay, maybe I have other reasons, but still.) Hand one: they're not getting taxed on it, since someone else takes your order. Hand 2: someone performs nearly all server duties--yet should you tip? Ahhh!

And yes: waiting tables is hard, character-building work that everyone should to do appreciate them. We're a lucky lot that knows what it feels like to put on an apron with restaurant smells forever implanted into it...


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