The Tipping Point

Comments 20 by Rebecca Bollwitt

In restaurants I usually tip fairly well. My calculation trick was always just to look at the receipt and double the GST, more often then not I would also round up from there. Since the GST has fallen so many times I actually have to do more math myself but I try to keep it around that amount. Someone once told me that the tips are shared with those in the kitchen, so even if your waitress wasn’t the brightest, if you had an amazing meal it would still be fair to leave a gratuity.

I also always tip my hairdresser, and a cab driver. There’s no way I would want to attempt to cut and dye my hair like this, or if I did it wouldn’t look half as good. As for a cab, you’re taking the cab because a) you want to get there faster or b) you don’t have a car/can’t drive (at that time or at all) – either way they are truly providing you a service that you have sought out.

When I was in Vegas on another flash-visit of a weekend last summer I felt really uncomfortable about tipping. I got off the plane at the airport and it seemed like everyone from the tarmac to the hotel room had their hand out. First off, I rarely carry cash and second, I hadn’t yet changed any money to US dollars. I scraped together what I could to tip the shuttle bus driver but everyone else was out of luck – hence the rudeness that I was then surrounded by for the rest of the trip.

Photo credit: kk+ on Flickr

Yesterday morning I checked out of my hotel myself, using the TV in the room. I wheeled my 21 inch upright suitcase down to the lobby with my laptop bag resting on top. Like an eagle swooping in on his prey the bell hop/valet dude came running up and took the bags from my hands – startling me. He said in one breath, “I’ll call you a car madam, where are you going? It may take a while, please have a seat in the lobby”. And with that he was out the door, loading my bags onto a wheeled cart and I just stood there in the lobby peering out, like a child looking in at the puppy in the window of a pet shop. My laptop bag contained my Macbook, my wallet, and my iPhone, and it was all sitting out there in -20 degree temperatures.

I could have run after it but I was too tired and didn’t want to make a scene.

I didn’t ask him to call me a cab or to take my bags. I purposely bundled up and put my scarf around my head and over my face anticipating the 3 minutes it would take to flag down a vehicle that would take me to the airport. Instead, I was almost sweating in the lobby, watching my captive luggage as he disappeared with it all and sped around the corner. As soon as it was out of my site I rushed through the doors and there he had arranged a “car service” for me – $50 flat he said. Since the cab from the airport to the hotel was around that much I didn’t protest, I was too tired.

He loaded my bags into the trunk (I had to ask for my laptop bag) then he stood by the door of the car, waiting for me to pay him. The man who is paid a salary by the hotel, who swooped in and grabbed my bags against my will and called me this car I really didn’t want to take, was asking for a tip. Incidentally I didn’t have anything other than what I would now have to pay the driver of the car. I ducked in and we took off for the airport. I opened up my bag to make sure nothing had frozen over.

Later on when I was boarding the airplane I arrived at my seat, which was on the aisle, in the middle. The man sitting in the middle of the three seats looked up at me, “are you here?” pointing to my seat. As soon as I replied with a yes he said, “may I help you with your bag?”, “sure”. He unbuckled his seatbelt and lifted my wheeled upright luggage piece over his head then we both proceeded to try and cram it in the overhead bin. “Is there anything precious or fragile in here?”, “no”. So he tried everything he could to get this bag put away, and succeeded. I thanked him and we both sat down and buckled in for the flight.

He didn’t once put out his hand and ask me for a tip.

The man on the plane was far more helpful to me than the man at the hotel yet I was required to pay one of them for his ‘extra service’. We don’t reward chivalry with monetary donations, although sometimes there is an ulterior motive, but the man on the plane just helped me probably cause he knew I’d be there a while, struggling to get the bag in place, and he didn’t want his row-mate to be a burden on other passengers who were trying to get by.

I am made to feel shame when I don’t tip but it seems like everywhere I’ve traveled recently I’m obliged to pay someone extra for something I really didn’t want, ask for, or require.

So here’s the question, you can help me out with or make me feel like a bad person for asking… when should we tip and when did tipping (for everything) become compulsory?

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20 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. MegTuesday, January 22nd, 2008 — 8:33am PST

    Same as you, I always tip waitstaff, my hairstylist, and cabbies. I also tip spa service people (manicure/pedicure), and takeout delivery guys and put some change in the little Starbucks thing. I don’t stay in hotels too often, but when I have, I’m pretty good about saying, “Nope, I can do it.” They do give you a look, but eh… I don’t care. 😀 I’m definitely built to pack a couple bags on my own!

    I get in trouble with my friends all the time for tipping on bad service (15% at that point), but I don’t think the kitchen deserves to suffer for a lame server. It’s not like they’re going to know I got bad service… they’ll just know I didn’t tip. If service REALLY sucks, I’ll phone the next day and speak to the manager (making a scene at the time doesn’t really get me anywhere, unless the server is rude, not absentminded. Then I don’t care.) That’s way more effective than not tipping, and gets results.

    Otherwise, I pay a pretty flat 20%… 25% for when it’s awesome.

  2. Miss604Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008 — 8:41am PST

    Yeah take out, spa service, tip jars at my fave coffee place etc. all get some dough – and if they’re amazing… a blog post too 😛

  3. KevBoTuesday, January 22nd, 2008 — 9:02am PST

    I tip when its something that I couldnt do myself.

    I tip the cabbie, when I cant drive ie, sick, drinking, go to a place where I will be drinking, but I dont tip them on a normal day when Im just being lazy, because I could have did it myself.

    Wait staff. I use to be one and I held the same opinion I did then as I do now. I dont tip them as if they are worth the extra money they will get paid it by the employer. I understand that wait staff minimum wage is the bottom of the barrel everywhere, BUT, if the staff is worth more they CAN get it from their employer. I have seen it in other people, and I have done it myself.

    Hairstylist. I tip for the simple fact that I tried to cut my hair once and it ended up in me being bald for a month or so. Nuff said.

    I only tip people who I ask to do something for me, not someone who volunteers their time and effort.

  4. Adam NoelTuesday, January 22nd, 2008 — 9:11am PST

    Ah, the “tipping” issue. I don’t think there will ever be anything set in stone about when to tip or how much.

    It becomes tricky when you base tipping on whether or not you yourself could have performed the task provided by the tippee. If your waiter/waitress only brings your order to the kitchen and your food to the table, anybody could do that. Though, “could do that” is different from “would do that” and even more different than “want to do that”. Maybe someone who seeks out a waiter/waitress should be more obligated to tip than someone who “wants to do that” themselves. But then the question comes up, obligated by whom?

    Tipping has become compulsory. And it is totally out of hand in your ‘bell hop/valet dude’ example. The argument I’ve heard the most for tipping is that that individual “wouldn’t make that much money otherwise” or that they are “working for tips”. A valet is probably required to escort everyone outside, carry their bags, and secure a cab just as a waitress is required to bring you food in a timely manner. In either case not doing their job runs the risk of a complaint. I’m sure there was a time where the two extremes were complaint – no complaint, where no complaint might mean better pay at work. Unfortunately, for nearly every type of service, with the addition of tipping, those extremes have turned into complaint – big big tip.

  5. ElizabethTuesday, January 22nd, 2008 — 9:17am PST

    You should try living in Mexico! You have to tip for EVERYTHING. This includes kids that bag your groceries, flag men who help you back out of parking spaces (I hate this btw because they just stand in the way and you know they’ve never driven a car in their life anyways), delivery for gas, water, or any type of service man that comes to your house, loading your groceries in your car and taking the cart back to where it belongs, the regular such as restaurants and salons, car washes, and sometimes you even have to tip because your car has been unharmed and someone “watched it” for you.

    Like previous commenter said, if it’s something I can’t do, I tip. If I’m appreciative I tip. If I don’t want to tip, then I don’t accept the service. Which means I tell the grocery dude I can load my own groceries, and I can back out of my own parking space thanks. As for taxis, I only tip if they do something above and beyond like opening the door and helping load or unload your luggage.

    I think whether to tip and how much is a struggle for a lot of people. You don’t want to appear as “cheap” yet you also don’t want the assistance that’s forced upon you either.

  6. Adam NoelTuesday, January 22nd, 2008 — 9:17am PST

    Sorry, to add and pose a question. Would you tip your dentist or doctor because you “can’t do it yourself”?

  7. Duane StoreyTuesday, January 22nd, 2008 — 9:35am PST

    I ranted about this a while ago too. More and more places/people expect to have a tip now, most of them are places that traditionally never required one. I’ve gotten used to telling bell boys to leave me alone over the years, but it does seem like everyone has their hand out nowadays. I hate tipping waitresses and waiters, even though I do. Service usually sucks wherever I go. I’m waiting patiently for a new restaurant where I can order on a touch screen and just have someone bring it to me when it’s ready.

  8. JeffTuesday, January 22nd, 2008 — 9:48am PST

    The thing that gets to me about tipping is that you are expected no matter the service. I was at the bar the other night, somewhere that I go at least once a week, and the girl that was serving me, and has served me many times before, was horrible. She would disappear for 20-30 minutes and either myself or someone else at the table would have to go to the bar for another. This is a place that I usually tip a min $10 for the couple of hours that we are there, and mine is not the only bill. This time I was not going to leave any tip, but felt like I HAD to, so I left a couple bucks. Still why did I feel like I HAD to? The service was horrible, so why tip?

    Then there is the question what is the normal in other areas. They say that in NYC that you tip for everything, but like your experience I find that they expect it even if they are actually making the situation harder for you.

  9. RaulTuesday, January 22nd, 2008 — 10:21am PST

    I could find a dozen ways to disagree with Elizabeth (having lived in Mexico myself, and no, you don’t tip for everything) but that’s not the point. In Mexico, as a matter of fact, I tip rather generously (e.g. to the 25% mark). In Canada, I actually don’t tip anyone other than the waiting service, and dropping my spare change in the Starbucks change jar. Maybe bad form on my part.

    For example, in Mexico, if you just say “no thanks, I’ll bag my groceries”, that’s ok. If you get your groceries bagged and you don’t have change, all you have to say is “sorry I don’t have change” and smile and nobody will complain. However, one day when I refused to tip the cab driver here in Vancouver, he actually asked me “aren’t you going to give me a tip”. What the heck?

    I find that the degree to which tips are forced is much higher in Canada than any other country I’ve ever visited or lived in. And God knows I’ve lived in and visited many! I love tipping, I hate tipping when it’s forced upon me.

    And if you review my restaurant reviews, you can tell where I’ve tipped generously and where I have simply refused to tip (yet had to do it because I was going there with friends).

  10. bzTuesday, January 22nd, 2008 — 10:23am PST

    I wrote a thing on this back in my MySpace days (since deleted) .. you dont get a tip for doing your job.

    It’s your JOB to heat milk and pour coffee.
    It’s your JOB to get my meal and bring it to my table.
    It’s your JOB to stand in the freezing cold and pump my gas. (okay, that one sucks – maybe we should throw a toonie or two to the gas jockeys on a day like today)

    We are taxed to the t*ts, why must it be upon me to voluntarily tax myself again to subsidize wages?

    Do you tip me when I play your request on the radio? No. It’s my JOB.

    Do you tip the bag boy at Safeway? No. It’s his JOB.

    Do you tip your favourite blogger? Well, maybe – some people have tip jars, and it’s not their JOB, it’s their hobby and they should be rewarded.

  11. TawcanTuesday, January 22nd, 2008 — 10:23am PST

    I think tipping should be an optional thing not mandatory. You shouldn’t need to tip for horrible services. It’s simple as that. I agree with you, if they’re volunteering their services, you shouldn’t tip either.

    The whole tipping 10-18% thing is just ridiculous IMO. Couple of my friends are planning their weddings and told me that for the catering you’re suppose to tip like a 15% gratitude on top of your catering bill. If the bill is in the high thousands range, you’re almost tipping close to a thousand dollar in tips! That’s just insane!

  12. ElizabethTuesday, January 22nd, 2008 — 11:39am PST

    Raul, when I said that “you have to tip for everything in Mexico” I didn’t necessarily mean that everyone HAD TO. What I did mean is that tipping is far more normal and accepted/expected in Mexico. Do I tip for everything? Absolutely not. But I do tip for a lot more things than I would in Vancouver. In addition to tipping for a lot more things, this tip is often as little as 1 cent depending on the “good deed” and is always accepted with a smile.

    When I was visiting friends and family back home in September, I remember wondering if I should tip the girl who put air in my tires at the gas station. In Mexico I would tip and wouldn’t think twice about it. When I was in Vancouver, I was confused and thought maybe the girl would be insulted if I did that. I tipped her anyways and she was confused yet happy.

    Tipping should be optional and is obviously a personal decision. I don’t think there are any steadfast rules. Some people over tip, some people under tip.

    And as for those tip jars in coffee joints or other stores, sometimes they are put there because people keep asking, “Where is your tip jar?”. Not because they expect the tip necessarily.

  13. JennyTuesday, January 22nd, 2008 — 11:48am PST

    I imagine he helped you because while standing over you he could see down your top, that’s all the tip he needed 😉

  14. RaulTuesday, January 22nd, 2008 — 1:05pm PST

    Excellent response Elizabeth. My mistake, I had totally misunderstood what you meant 🙂

    And it’s true, it’s so nice to give a tip AND have it accepted with a smile 🙂

  15. fotoeinsTuesday, January 22nd, 2008 — 1:20pm PST

    As I understand things here in Chile, the young’uns who bag my groceries are unpaid. If so, I’ll give `em between 100 to 500 pesos, depending on how much I’m buying and/or the final bill.

    However, the “tipping” for folks who washed my car (with dirty water) or “looked out” for my car (without my asking … i.e., they didn’t fuck up my car) really put my shorts up in a wad …

    I don’t mind things on the European continent where servers are paid and tipping is optional (below about 50 Euros IMHO). On the one hand, just rounding up to the next Euro takes some acclimatizing (re. feeling the compunction to tip); on the other hand, knowing a few Euros tip on top of a 50+ Euro bill felt completely right after a time.

    Then again, the expats among us used to feel at times that “customer service” was at times non-existent, or, at worst,”customer dis-service” … because they knew they were being paid. “Es gibt kein Kundendienst, sondern nur Verkäuferscheisse.”

  16. Ian BellTuesday, January 22nd, 2008 — 2:53pm PST

    The flat rate to the airport is $46, not $50. So the driver tipped your bellman for you by paying him a commission. He got his piece of our action either way, Reb.

  17. BillWednesday, January 23rd, 2008 — 12:48pm PST

    In the US, service people (wait staff, bell staff, etc.) in most places get paid minimum wage or less (“tip credit”). Theoretically, tips + hourly pittance => minimum wage. Even if that’s true, YOU try living on just-over-minimum wage, working on your feet for long shifts, and putting up with people who often have no concept of what “kindness” or “courtesy” mean and who treat you as a menial sub-sentient monkey.

    I tip. A lot (relatively speaking). It isn’t going to kill anybody who can afford to stay in a decent hotel or to have a decent meal to spend a few more bucks. [/rant]

    Maybe they pay better in Canada.

  18. SeanWednesday, January 23rd, 2008 — 5:18pm PST

    I used to have a job where I made minimum wage + tips. I made a point of getting a better job, then a better job, and a better job after that. I could have stayed in my “just-over-minimum-wage” job if I’d wanted to. But that would have been my choice and the consequences would have been mine to deal with as well.

    Tips are for service above and beyond the requirements of the job.

  19. The (Lost) Art of Customer Service » Vancouver Blog Miss 604Thursday, June 5th, 2008 — 7:01am PDT

    […] with their decision to deal with the establishment. Also, customer service is not all about tips, a steady and repeat customer-base is to be valued most and it can be gained no matter the nature […]

  20. MeganWednesday, June 10th, 2009 — 12:01pm PDT

    I REFUSE to tip just because it is expected. I’m an American, I’ve worked in industries where there is tipping, and I honestly HATED the tip jar. I was being paid over the minimum wage, and I was aware of the wages when I took the job. I didn’t deserve to be subsidized just because I was working in an industry where I served someone.

    When I receive exemplary service, I will tip, because it is a BONUS, and not a guaranteed “on top of your salary/wages” amount. I also RARELY carry cash, so they get a heartfelt thank you, and that’s generally it.

    As for the car service/Taxi, they don’t get tipped. We have a verbal contract that for a pre-arranged amount, they will drive me to a location. I don’t tip a plumber because he is doing his job for the specified amount. I don’t tip delivery people.

    What tipping does is legitimize substandard wages.

    Oh, and when I do tip, I am generous. I just don’t believe in doing so because it’s a custom.

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