How generosity and satisfaction became standardized
By Davie Wong, Sports Reporter
Going out to eat has always been a favourite pastime in the hearts of many Canadians. Whether it’s grabbing a quick lunch, or going out for a fancy and elaborate dinner date, restaurant dining has always been a part of life. However, it is pretty much universally understood that when you dine at an actual restaurant, the service will be much better compared to fast food.
In fact, it seems that the higher the cost of the goods served at these restaurants, the better the service is. Is it a direct causation? Well, not exactly.
You see, the inflated costs at fancier restaurants means you are paying for a lot more than just the cost of the materials used to make the meal. The cost of the dish is dependent on a large number of variables, ranging from the quality of the ingredients used, to the amount of time it took to prepare the dish. Only a very small portion of the cost goes to the people serving you and the people cooking the food.
In fact, as a former worker of the serving business, I can confirm that cooks and servers in Canada almost always make near minimum wage. Servers of alcohol make even less than the standard minimum wage. The real money comes from the tip, or gratuity, and even though it is supposed to be a purely generosity-driven concept, it has evolved more into a standard fee than reward.
The word gratuity stems from the word gracious, which means to be kind and compassionate. Tips were originally given to service providers as a means of thanking them for the service. The size of the tip usually indicated how satisfied the customer was with the service provided. However, tips were always considered generous in nature, no matter the size.
Now, that’s all changed. Instead of being seen as a gift, tips are seen as a mandatory custom. It is considered rude and disrespectful in many restaurants to not leave a tip. Even when one does leave a tip, they are judged by the amount that they have left. Patrons that leave low amounts for tips are met with less-than-pleased staff and are almost always ridiculed among the staff after they leave. Patrons that leave high tip amounts are seen as valuable and customarily receive better service from staff if they ever return.
It has gotten so standardized that governments, whether local or federal, have begun taxing this source of income. In Canada, the standard rate of tipping is between 10 and 15 per cent. Since when has showing appreciation had a standard rate?
The sad reality is that we have taken the idea of showing kindness and gratitude and warped it to the point where it no longer shows these. Tipping is now a sign of prosperity and wealth, and people are now judged by the amount of money they left behind, rather than the reason they left it.
It has gotten to the point where restaurants have begun establishing “service fees” instead of taking tips to avoid treading into murky tax-legality issues. A service fee is literally defined as an extra charge assessed for a service provided. This is primarily used when there are a large number of people in a dining party or at more posh restaurants where the waiters earn more than those in casual-dining restaurants. This fee is added on to essentially force the party to pay gratuity, no matter how they’ve viewed their dining experience.
It is amazing how the human psyche can take something like generosity and turn it into an expectation. Tipping has always been, and always should be, based on the satisfaction and generosity of the customer.