Why 15 per cent tipping is garbage
By Jillian McMullen, Staff Writer
I believe that if you don’t tip your server 20 per cent, then you shouldn’t be going out.
I suppose providing some credentials may help to validate my opinions over my opponents (Hi, Duncan). Yes, I’m a server myself, so my opinion is inherently biased. It is also, however, well-informed.
“Everyone needs to work six months doing [insert job here] so that they really ‘get it’,” is something you’ll hear coming from pretty much any worker in a customer-oriented job—honestly, it’s because it’s true. You don’t truly “get it” until you have to live it or, in this case, depend on it. I was aware of tipping standards prior to my current serving job from close friends who had been working in the industry for years, but I never understood why. Now that I depend on whether or not patrons find me charming enough to pay my rent, the “why” is much more significant.
What is the standard? I know most people believe industry standard is 15 per cent. I was admittedly taught the same thing. However, despite what you have been taught, I am writing this to affirm the standard for tipping your server or bartender is not 15 per cent, but rather 20 per cent for adequate to good service. Ask anyone working in the service industry and they will tell you the same thing. This is not to say the customer’s discretion should not be factored in. If you are provided with sub-par or bad service, of course you should tip less. Trust me, your server will get the message if they see ten per cent on their bill. However, if your server was welcoming and friendly, your food came out right, your water glass was attentively filled, and you still don’t tip appropriately, you’re just being cheap.
Okay, so why? I would say most people know a server’s hourly wage is less than provincial minimum wage because the difference is supposed to be supplemented by tips. Factor in the cost of living in Metro Vancouver and tipping becomes especially important even just to make a living wage. Again, I don’t think that’s lost on most people. What I think is most important to understand about tipping and what I think most people don’t realize is a significant portion of a server’s tips don’t go to the servers.
At the restaurant I work at, I tip out the busser two and a half per cent and the kitchen three per cent of my sales, meaning I give up five and a half percent of my tips every time I work. I’m happy to do that because they are the people who make my job possible: I wouldn’t be able to clear and clean every dish without my busser and I wouldn’t even be able to serve anything without my cooks. They, however, get a higher hourly wage than I do. If you don’t tip appropriately, I can literally lose money by serving you.
Yes, tipping culture is precarious and the expectation varies across region and industry, so it sounds harsh saying you should stay home if you don’t tip 20 per cent. The fact of the matter is there is an unspoken agreement between servers and patrons: Patrons are provided with a service and servers are provided with a tip in return for that service. If you don’t hold up your side of the bargain, you have no right taking up space in someone’s section or a seat at someone’s bar.