What Is The Right Amount To Tip? Givers And Receivers Do Different Math On Gratuities

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Whether tapped out on tipping or generous with gratuities for food and drink, patrons and servers don't always see eye-to-eye on tips, say experts. (Shutterstock photo)
Whether tapped out on tipping or generous with gratuities for food and drink, patrons and servers don't always see eye-to-eye on tips, say experts. (Shutterstock photo)

MONTREAL - Everybody's got their two cents' worth on tipping.

Whether tapped out on tipping or generous with gratuities for food and drink, patrons and servers don't always see eye-to-eye on tips, say experts.

"A tip is our way of saying thank you for doing a great job," says etiquette expert Margaret Page.

As soon as it becomes expected, then it's part of a person's wage or salary and it's not optional, says Page of Etiquette Page Enterprises in Vancouver.

"And that's not the intention of the tip," she adds.

Page said a 15 per cent tip is the standard for a good meal and 20 per cent for a really good meal with "exceptional" service. She said the tip is added before the tax, which of course goes to the government.

Tipping has been making headlines recently after those on the receiving end, who got nothing for their efforts, acted on their discontent.

A woman who left no tip gained Internet notoriety after spending almost $140 at a restaurant and writing: "Single mom, sorry" in the space reserved for the tip. A photo of the bill was posted on social news website Reddit by her server.

The photo of the woman's bill has gone viral and been viewed more than 600,000 times, sparking much online commentary about her behaviour.

She did write on her credit card bill, however, "Thank you, it was great."

"Oh, that's just wrong," said Giuseppe, a waiter at an upscale Montreal restaurant known for its service.

He acknowledges that the tip is always at the customer's discretion, but he does expect between 15 and 25 per cent for the service that he gives.

"Service is about trust," said Giuseppe, who didn't want his last name used or his establishment identified.

"We are building a relationship."

Tipping was also in the news when a Pizza Hut employee in Des Moines, Iowa, became so upset after a woman didn't give him a tip that he allegedly pulled down his pants and urinated on her front door, a local TV station reported.

The woman apparently said she didn't have the money for a tip. It was reported the delivery man was fired after his manager viewed the incident on security camera footage.

Website tipthepizzaguy.com says drivers should be tipped because they bring dinner to your door.

"Your tips are greatly appreciated. It's what keeps drivers moving," the website says, adding drivers should get a gratuity even when there is a delivery fee, because that fee goes to the business.

Associate prof. Bruce McAdams estimates that tips from full-service restaurants bring in $6 billion a year to the Canadian economy, based on a 15 per cent tip rate. But he noted it has to be questioned how much is being declared and how it is distributed among staff.

In Canada, there's an expectation that restaurant tips be between 15 per cent and 20 per cent, he said.

Tipping, however, is a "social norm," said McAdams, who teaches at the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Guelph.

"We tip because we don't want to look like a cheapskate or it's expected," he said from Guelph, Ont.

What about those tip bowls at coffee shops and fast food restaurants?

Page said it's not necessary, but it's always nice if customers want to drop some spare change in the bowl.

Rodney, a regular at a pub in Old Montreal, says his tipping "depends on what change I have."

While it isn't the same level of service, Rodney said he does tip $1 for every beer he drinks because "it just seems fair."

Technology is also playing a role in tipping at times.

On wireless payment terminals used for credit cards, the tip has been automatically set by some restaurants at 20 per cent and consumers haven't readily accepted it, Page said.

"I can tell you almost immediately in Vancouver that those restaurants reset their terminals."

For those unsatisfied with their restaurant experience, Page said refusing to tip doesn't send a clear message because some customers just don't tip and not all cultures have the practice of tipping.

"If you're really unhappy, you need to let the management know or let the waiter or waitress know why you're unhappy."

Please be civil, she advises.

"What's critical in this is your tone of voice."

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