“Go back to your country,” “but I don’t care about you –” such rude things that people say to me as a foreigner in Canada make me deeply sad and fairly depressed. But these remarks are not the instances of racial hatred, the fortunately rare occurrence here in Canada. My story is something different – it is an attempt to provoke discussion and get you, dear reader, thinking about the way you live. Let’s talk about tips.
I must first confess my sins: I stopped giving gratuities to taxi drivers when I opted for Uber. Not only that, I stopped leaving extra money at beauty salons when I was forced to tip for a horrible manicure, which damaged my nails for 6 months afterward. Additionally, I stopped tipping at restaurants when a waitress collected two charges from my table, both by cash and credit card, without admitting her mistake. Even after a complaint and a refund of the sum on my rescued-from-the-trash receipt, the generous “pourboire” was still in fact left to the discretionary of a dishonest server. Trust me, the issue here is not about the money, it is that we have stopped thinking why we give tips and, therefore, stimulate a vicious cycle of unfair wages.
Please, give me just one reason why I should tip you.
This is the phrase that helps to start the dialogue with either a delivery man or a restaurant staff. I have to admit, these uncomfortable conversations commence only after personnel takes a skeptical look at the receipt in the first place and then checks on me, awarding me, a client, with hatred. I have never heard a valid answer to my question. Most of the time, serving or delivery personnel stumble on and simply repeat the “pity-me-I-am-unfairly-paid” mantra.
How does restaurant know if the service was good? Speak!
Mother nature gifted you with a marvellous ability to talk, communicate via verbal and body language. Especially in Montreal, where you are privileged with a bilingual server, why not to exercise it? If the food was not good, a visitor can slightly point out the improvements that can be made to the waiters and the cook. If you are a shy customer, there are numerous Yelp-like review platforms that not only allow one to anonymously criticize any chef’s restaurant (even the restaurant of the almighty chef Gordon Ramsay is subject to criticism), but also encourages customers to express opinions and make a substantial contribution to the free market state of a local food industry.
You do not pay your mother-in-law for a Thanksgiving dinner.
Dan Ariely, a professor doing research in both psychology and behavioural economics, writes marvellous books, where he breaks down the hidden obscurities of our world into two crystal clear worlds governed by social and market norms. In one of these books, he points out the pointlessness of tipping; one does not offer money to his mother-in-law for a nice Thanksgiving dinner, and neither does one give a hearty “Thank You” for a tire change at an auto repair. He writes:
“When social and market norms collide, trouble sets in. … A guy takes a girl out for dinner and a movie, and he pays the bills. They go out again, and he pays the bills once more. They go out a third time, and he’s still springing for the meal and the entertainment. At this point, he’s hoping for at least a passionate kiss at the front door. His wallet is getting perilously thin, but worse is what’s going on in his head: he’s having trouble reconciling the social norm (courtship) with the market norm (money for sex). On the fourth date he casually mentions how much this romance is costing him. Now he’s crossed the line. Violation! She calls him a beast and storms off. He should have known that one can’t mix social and market norms.”
Therefore, be careful and avoid crossing the line between being nice socially and being paid for acting nice. Once we recognize the two vastly different worlds we constantly live in, we can figure out why we feel bad when we tip for being served, thus when we monetarily evaluate how kind a waiter is.
In my country, it is rude to pay gratuity.
Doctors are not paid gratuities based on whether or not you like your diagnosis. In Japan, France, Italy, and Australia (among other countries), actually consider tipping to be rude. Having lived in some of these countries, I have to admit that money standing between you, your server, and a nice casual chat ruins everything. When I do not pay tips, I usually try to play the “in my country, they do not tip” card. However, instead of curiosity, genuine kindness, and interest from my unfairly-paid acquaintance, all I receive is rude attitude and stubbornness to challenge the social norm at least once just to test its validity.
Have you seen our wages? We can barely make our living!
The more I tip you, the more I encourage your employer to pay you the minimum salary. For me as a restaurant guest, the bill will end up to the same total cost anyway, whether my entree is $2 more expensive, or the tip is 15% from the entire amount. (by the way, percentages are lame, and Esquire makes a great point on that). Can anybody challenge the fact that a guaranteed moderate salary is better than a wage that allows employees to make ends meet only if customers are generous? With that said, Quebec has raised its pay bar up to $10.35 since May 1st 2014; don’t get me wrong, I do not believe that you deserve a wage like this.
These jobs do not require any skills. Why would employers pay more for unskilled labour?
This argument is pure BS. Let’s take Japan as a factual counterargument. Whatever kind of job you do, you are respected by the people around you for the set of hard and soft skills which you master in practice. If someone thinks restaurant staff does not deserve to be paid more than the minimum wage, they are severely mistaken. Working in a restaurant takes physical endurance, tremendous patience, flawless memory, rapid thinking, and verbal communication artistry – all necessary to get a better understanding of a customer. Do you possess all of these? Will you be able to distinguish between and accommodate for the needs of the frequent customer, who knows what she/he wants and wants it fast, and a visitor, who needs 20 minutes to discuss all menu options with the waiter before she/he decides to order the “garden salad” for the 50th time?
As a society we have to admit that, unlike in other countries, servers in North America are considered to be entry level jobs with no growth opportunities, and, thus, monetary incentives are the only means to motivate an uninterested worker (Management 101: intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation). Whether a restaurant manager decides to pay staff extra for great overall performance or to maintain the status quo of the “tipping” culture, the burden is still on the consumers.
How much did I save already?
My savings since the inception of this experiment have totaled to $70 already, which is the potential 15% gratitude from all my dine out/delivery/taxicab cheques. I really wish I gave out these money as the recognition of a product or service’s true value. I really do! If a staff is able to give me just one reason why I should tip, I will! I am not frugal, and have never intended to be rude. If you happened to serve me or deliver me food, I am genuinely sorry. I want to apologize for the hard feelings an interaction with a customer like me brought, but also to remind you how rude you turned out once you found out my experimental “no extra money” policy. As a waiter, how would you react if I were to tell you that I do not tip right before I make an order? I actually doubt that you would suddenly become rude for the rest of my dining experience, or even spit into my food.
We all strive for the best outcomes – at least for ourselves. One can search for and find plenty of practical guidelines on “how much” and “where” to tip. However, it’s harder to find resources exhaustively explaining why we tip. As clients, we will still pay the same amount of money, whether it is directly included into a bill or mandatory “optional” tip. Hopefully, the future university graduates never leave university baffled with the a dilemma at the “tip” of everyone’s tongue. Having taken this burden and having conducted this social experiment myself, I still cannot comprehend the anger I receive for not evaluating people in money terms, especially if I do not yet earn money myself. So, let’s start a conversation right now.