Don’t blame the customer when the industry is the culprit
By Duncan Fingarson, Columnist
Before anyone jumps down my throat, I want to say that I know service industry workers have a tough job. I’ve been there, I know how it is making a low monthly wage. A lot of servers and bartenders depend on tips to survive, and I think that’s terrible. However, I don’t think the onus for that should fall on the customer.
Tips are—at least as far as I’m concerned—meant to show gratitude for good service. If I’m happy with what I got, I’m far more likely to give a good tip. I’m fortunate to be in a position where I can do that without worrying about it too much.
There are a lot of people who can’t afford to give a good tip all the time. There are people who must save up to go out, putting together a couple dollars here and there until they have enough money to treat themselves. I don’t think it’s fair to tell those people that they should either increase their overall bill by 20 per cent or just stay home. It’s important to have something to look forward to, and it’s important to do something nice for yourself every once in a while.
I have a lot less sympathy for the people who go out all the time and never tip well, even if they could afford to do it. That’s a different matter entirely, but it does still ignore the root of the problem, which, in my opinions, is the existence of the tipping wage. In BC, we are lucky, this isn’t as bad as other places; the Liquor Server minimum wage applies only to people who serve alcohol as part of their duties, and sits at about a dollar below the standard minimum wage. In the US it varies by state, but the federal minimum is $2.13 per hour.
The difficulty is that this is a problem that’s not so easy to solve. Restaurants typically have thin profit margins. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing the prices go up a little if it meant the servers got paid a fair wage. I’m not an economist, though, and so I don’t know if it would be enough to make up the difference for the people on the ground.
I don’t think tips should go away. I also don’t think they should be mandatory. A tip should be a bonus for a job well done, not a required part of income. It shouldn’t be viewed as a necessary part of going out for dinner, and nobody should begrudge the less fortunate their one nice thing, even if they can’t tip 20 per cent.