Done Like Dinner

Are you tired of being pressured into paying exorbitant tips in restaurants? Let me know what you think.

Done Like Dinner

Andrea Freedman

As if dining out is not expensive enough these days, it is now recommended by some Toronto restaurant proprietors that the socially acceptable standard gratuity be increased from fifteen to twenty percent, often calculated on top of tax.

The service does not always warrant even a fifteen percent tip, never mind twenty, but most people, myself included, would not dream of not leaving at least something for the wait staff, no matter how mediocre the service.

Restaurant dining with a group can be awkward. If anyone would dare to ask for separate bills, thus leaving a separate gratuity of their own choosing, many of their friends would want to hide under the table in embarrassment.

Sometimes people almost make a pretence out of showing that they are leaving a generous tip, regardless of whether or not their dining companions feel comfortable with it. For one night people get to feel like big-shots, throwing extra money on the table that they might just regret having spent the next day, after the wine wears off and they are short a few dollars for something they really need.

People who have experienced life as a waiter or waitress may feel that once they themselves can afford to go out to nice restaurants, that it is their duty to tip generously. While their empathy is commendable, not everyone they go out to restaurants with has worked as a server themselves, and thus may not be as over-zealous when it comes to tipping as they are.

Tipping nowadays also comes with a rounding-up assumption. By that I mean that if everyone puts in their money, complete with an over-the-top gratuity, one person in the group will inevitably suggest that everyone put in just a little bit more to make the total a nice round number; anything less would seem tacky. Everyone then feels obligated, some feeling shamed into leaving extra money that they do not really want to part with, even if it is just change that could have been saved for a coffee.

I can hardly believe it when I think of all the money my husband and I used to spend on going out to expensive restaurants. These days, I can hardly bring myself to go to a restaurant. Even if it is not somewhere fancy, it always turns out to be fairly expensive, often for sub-par food. While I agree that tips are what constitutes a large part of a restaurant server’s livelihood, I personally think that a twenty-percent gratuity, especially if we as diners are now going to be made to feel that our gratuity is inadequate if we do not succumb to the new higher tipping pressure, is too high.

Just because someone is out to dinner, does not mean that that person is rich or is able to easily afford that dinner. Perhaps they had to sacrifice something else to be there. Nowadays it is not uncommon for restaurant outings to be limited to special occasions and obligatory social gatherings; in these tough economic times, even spending that money is not always easy. Of course when most people go out to a restaurant, they are prepared to include a tip, or they would not bother going out in the first place. However, to try to force people into including a larger tip than they already are accustomed to is, pardon the pun, distasteful. Like it or not, the proposed ‘twenty-percent is the new fifteen percent’ can make quite a difference to the overall bill and it just may make the difference in the future as to whether people choose to dine out or not.

If it turns out that this twenty-percent implied mandatory gratuity idea snowballs enough that it actually becomes the norm, I for one will be eating at home a lot more. Unfortunately, if expected tip increases are to become the way of the future, the middle class as we know it might cease to regularly patronize restaurants, leaving dining establishments filled with only the rich or corporate executives with unlimited funds or expense accounts at their disposal.

What’s next? Twenty-five percent? Thirty? As long as everyone goes along with the political correctness of ridiculously exorbitant tipping, there is no end to how expensive dining out will be. If a line is not drawn, sooner or later less and less people will be going out to restaurants, period. Perhaps if a decrease in customers equalled a greater loss than gain from the suggested new twenty-percent gratuity, wait-staff would then feel grateful for the former fifteen-percent that they took for granted. Just a little tip for you.♦

Copyright © 2013 by Andrea Freedman

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About andfreed

I am a Toronto based writer of articles, columns, essays and novels.

Posted on January 16, 2013, in Weekly Thoughts and Observations and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. http://www.slate.com/articles/life/culturebox/2013/08/tipless_restaurants_the_linkery_s_owner_explains_why_abolishing_tipping.html

    http://blogs.laweekly.com/squidink/2013/09/abolish_tipping.php

    A couple of articles on tipping. Tipping puts the responsibility of someone’s wages in the hands of the customer. It’s the only job that relies on this. We should tip generously no matter how poor the service. We don’t pay less for other things when poor service happens.

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  2. Isn’t the definition of tip “to insure pleasure” which is why I never understood why you pay it after service?

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  3. Phil and Gloria Freedman

    Hi Andrea:
    That was fabulous and it should teach some people how others feel when they are too embarrassed to leave the tip they can afford when going out to dinner with them. They should be happy to have their friend’s company, not worry about the size of the tip.
    We have stopped going out to dinner where we can’t ask for separate cheques without making the others feel like this is an outlandish request.

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  4. You are 100% right about tipping. As far as I am concerned tipping is subsidizing the restaurant owner who can get away with paying a substandard wage on the assumption that the server will get tips. This seems to be a North American custom.

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