Some thoughts on tipping

I am sitting here writing a paper on our tipping research and have hit a bit of a wall.  I thought it might be worthwhile to do a quick purge of a a couple of issues that have been raised with me lately that I have been thinking about.

One of the most common complaints that I get about tipping relates to uncertainty about when to tip.  Its become a social norm so in a sit-down restaurant we know there is an expectation that we will tip (although it is no longer clear how much we should tip – I hear 20% in Toronto now and fail to understand why as prices go up we should pay a larger percentage of a larger bill but we will leave that for another day).  One of my students stayed in a B&B last week and was conflicted about whether to tip there after breakfast.  My wife insists I tip the dog groomer – I am not present during the grooming so no idea when its particularly good service or not and she’s self employed so not giving the staff an extra bonus – which confuses me.  I tip the woman who cuts my hair.  I don’t tip at Tim Hortons.  There’s a lovely woman at the University Centre who cleans up the tables where everyone eats.  She’s very pleasant and quick to clean my table when I am there for lunch (and I don’t tip the Hospitality services staff at the cashier or the sandwich counter.  This inconsistency is both stressful and profoundly unfair – all of these people are providing service.  The more I think about it, the more I think there has to be a better way.

The second point relates to the increasingly common tip-shaming phenomenon.  Several high profile people and companies have been “shamed” when leaving small or no tips.  Drew Breese the NFL quarterback was outed because he didn’t tip at a take-out counter – I usually don’t either.   A bank in New York was shamed when they ordered $170 of takeout from a food truck and didn’t tip.  It gets a bit to my first issue – is this somewhere we are expected to tip? – but is largely the belligerence of the expectation of a tip.  This really puts an end to the illusion that it is a reward for good service.  Pay an extra amount or be publicly humiliated?  I don’t think that’s good for the industry.  It might guilt more of us into tipping but it may also make us think twice about being customers at all. 

This tipping issue really needs to be addressed comprehensively in an industry wide discussion.

More to follow.

One thought on “Some thoughts on tipping

  1. Hi Mike, I think these are great questions that may not be easy to answer, but I do think it is worthwhile to point out North Americans have one of the strongest if not the strongest tipping culture. When you travel to Europe or Asia this is clear. And this discrepancy seems strange to me. Although, I admit we do generally enjoy better service than other countriesin the world, but I’m not sure if that has to do with training/hiring practices or tipping from customers.

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