Is anybody else sick to death of being constantly expected to tip? It’s getting to the stage now where tipping is automatically expected when virtually nothing has been done to earn it.
Tipping: A European Perspective
Before I go into too much detail, let me just say that I am from the UK and I only moved to North America in 2012. Back in Europe, tipping is very different than it is here in North America. When you are provided with a service that might be worthy of a tip in the UK, tipping is entirely optional. If you order a meal and the waitress is a delight, goes out of her way to give you excellent service and generally improves your experience at the restaurant, sure you might tip her for the stellar service you have received, but you might not. By no means is a tip ever expected, and when you do give one it is particularly appreciated as the member of staff knows they have done an excellent job. This encourages them to provide excellent service to the next customer, and the next etc. You see, there is a motivation to give good service, otherwise, no tip! Simple, right? The better you are at your job, the more you make in tips.
Tipping: The North American Perspective
Switch back to North America and it’s completely the opposite. Tipping has become so ingrained in society here that it’s now expected, regardless of the quality of the service you receive. In fact, I remember when I first arrived in Canada. I read about tipping and was told poor service should equate to a 10% tip, average service 15% and good service 20%+. Really, poor service gets a 10% tip? How about you get nothing. If I give shitty financial advice to somebody, I don’t get a reward, I get reprimanded.
The Frustration is Real
What really bothers me about this culture is lately I’ve seen a lot of people here in Vancouver who work in the customer service industry and they’re earning upwards of $60k, $70k or even $80k a year. They then go and declare about $5k in tips to the government and the rest is all tax-free. They continue to claim how hard their job is and how they deserve these tips. Oh really? You deserve to be earning more than most teachers, nurses, police officers, firemen, soldiers and many other skilled workers for pouring a few drinks with a smile and being nice? Do you deserve all this in a job that requires no education and no technical skills whatsoever?
What is even more frustrating is the vast amount of industries that have taken advantage of tipping these days. What used to be an appreciated top up to a server’s pay is now expected in all sorts of industries. Taxi drivers, hair stylists, baristas, valet drivers, bartenders and pizza deliverers. What have these people done to deserve a tip other than just doing their job?
If I go and order coffee from a barista, I walk up to the counter, place my order and carry my own drink to the table. I then clean up my own table when I’m finished. What has this person done to earn a tip? Poured me a drink?
Again, looking back at Europe I’ve certainly never tipped the majority of the industries that expect a tip here. I might have tipped a waiter/waitress if they were very good at their job, but almost never tipped bar staff as they frankly do very little in terms of customer service.
If anything, tipping is creeping into our lives more and more here. Not only are more industries expecting tips, they are expecting higher and higher tips. Whilst 15% used to be a good tip, people are now expecting 20% and even 25% in some cases these days. We held a function at work the other week and the mandatory tip was 25%. Seriously? That’s literally more than I pay in income tax.
It’s genuinely concerning the way the tipping culture is going here. Who sets these rules as to who deserves and who doesn’t deserve a tip? I’m an accountant and therefore I am providing a service. My services could end up saving you or your business hundreds or thousands of dollars. Is it okay if I ask for a tip for giving you good service? No? Why?
What other industries are going to begin asking for tips next? Am I going to be asked for a tip from the cashier at Safeway, or perhaps the sales staff at Best Buy?
When I bring up these issues with people here in North America they always have the same kind of responses. So let’s look at the common arguments I see as to why people deserve a tip, and try to debunk them.
I need my tips to survive on, without them I’d be broke!
I can’t disagree, the wage you are on might not be enough to pay you a living wage. Here in BC I know the minimum wage is actually lower for people working as a waiter/waitress than other minimum wage jobs.
But none of that is my problem! Why am I expected to compensate you on top of your wage just so you can get by? Why is your employer allowed to pay you less than the minimum wage of other industries, expecting their customers to top up your wage, just so they can increase their own profits?
It baffles me why governments here allow service industries to pay a minimum wage lower than everybody else. They know schmucks like you and I will cover the salary of service based employees so they allow businesses to pay wages below minimum wage.
Don’t get me wrong, I feel for waiters and waitresses, their pay should be better than it is but it shouldn’t be on my shoulders for making it so. It should be on their employers, who have to abide by their government. When both government and employer enforce regulations that ensure you get paid a pittance, you should be lobbying them, not expecting customers to dole you out.
Restaurants can’t afford to pay their staff more, their profit margins are too thin, they’d be put out of business!
All I have to say to that is bullshit. Unless there is some miraculously different economic environment in North America than Europe there is no reason a restaurant here would fail by paying a normal wage to their staff. In Europe they seem to manage just fine. Would some restaurants fail? Sure, but there’d plenty of other, better restaurants replacing them. That’s the world of business after all.
Fine, but if they increase our wages they’ll have to increase the price of their goods and services anyway
Let’s assume you’re right and that these businesses would all have to increase the price of their services. I’d much, much rather you be paid an acceptable wage and have the cost of my service increased as a result, without any expectation of a tip. At least I don’t then feel like I’m being duped into covering your wage by paying “optional” tips.
On the other hand, part of me finds it hard to believe. Again, looking back at Europe the prices charged in restaurants/bars etc. there are similar, if not cheaper than what I’ve experienced here and they pay their staff a fair wage. I know it’s impossible to really compare the price of something in Europe and North America. But I can’t help but feel it’s possible to increase the wage of servers here without a huge knock on effect to the customer.
The quality of service will go down if you remove tips!
First of all, tipping should be appreciated, not expected. Tips should be earned through good quality service.
If anything, the tipping culture in North America should lead to poorer service. Servers don’t have to put in much effort here as they will be tipped either way.
In Europe, servers have to put in the effort to provide quality service, otherwise they will not be tipped at all. As such, common sense dictates service in Europe should be better than service here as staff actually have to try and earn a tip.
I work hard! I deserve a tip
Okay, now we’re scraping the barrel. Let’s put aside the fact that most service industry jobs are pretty low skilled and as such shouldn’t be earning much more than minimum wage anyway.
Let’s assume you are a really good waiter/waitress that deserves a decent salary. Great, go and ask for a raise like the rest of society. If you are so good at your job, there won’t be anybody who can replace you easily and your employer will give you that raise. If you are easily replaceable, you might not get it as you don’t have a skill set that equates to a high paying job.
Overall, I’m a firm believer in capitalism. When the government starts dictating who gets paid what by setting lower minimum wages for service staff, and employers are then given the power to demand tips from customers to subsidize their payroll, the free and open market is getting manipulated. People should be paid what they’re worth without intervention. Period.
I’m genuinely kind of confused why everyone here is so willing to tip. Even for average service and even in industries that don’t deserve a tip. Personally, I think a lot of it is just culture. Tipping is expected and people feel embarrassed if they don’t do it. Gradually, more and more employers start to take advantage of this and ask for tips even when it isn’t warranted.
To my North American readers, are you content with the tipping expectations here? Am I some miserable scrooge for finding the whole culture absurd? To non-North Americans, do you agree or disagree with my thoughts? As a European in North America I feel like a bit of an odd one out!