Providing a livable wage shouldn’t be the responsibility of customers
So you’ve just ordered an overpriced sandwich and a $7 latte. An overworked cashier fiddles with a greasy iPad and flips it around to show you three preset tipping options, with the lowest one starting at a whopping 20 per cent. We’ve all been in a situation like this, and it can be difficult to figure out just what the proper course of action is.
My belief is that it doesn’t — or at least shouldn’t — matter what you tip, and that no one should be judging others on the basis of how they tip. I don’t know how tipping came to be so ingrained in our culture, but things have reached a point of critical mass. Ordering coffee? Tip. Ordering food? Tip. Bartender? Tip. Budtender? Tip. Hairdresser? Tip. It just never ends.
Gratuities — or what started as a way to give thanks for service that goes above and beyond — have now become expected no matter the service type or level. According to a 2022 poll, 33 per cent of all Canadians believe that food servers deserve to be tipped all the time, regardless of the quality of service. That proportion stands at over 40 per cent for consumers in the 18–34 age range.
I, and probably many others, relate to tipping pressure. I remember toughing out an experience at a particular restaurant in my hometown on Salt Spring Island. The food was subpar, everything was overpriced, and the service was laughable enough to verge on being disrespectful. So then why, after everything, did I still leave a 20 per cent tip? Societal pressure, that’s why. No one wants to be the “cheap” friend who never tips, and ending a date without leaving at least something for the server is never a good look. But in truth, these ideas only exist because we’ve been conditioned into thinking that tipping is something that you have to do, not something you choose to do.
We are lucky to be living in a place as beautiful as Victoria, but this privilege doesn’t come cheap. Victoria is the third most expensive city in the country, and that probably won’t be changing any time soon. Housing is expensive, food is expensive, and living itself is expensive. I sympathize with the service workers being paid only the minimum wage to deal with the public (who, in general, can be pretty terrible). Everyone deserves to make a livable wage, but why is the burden of providing that being put on me, a student just trying to afford a lunch out every once in a while?
The poll from earlier shows that nearly 70 per cent of Canadians think that there would be no need for tipping if food servers were being paid better. Unfortunately, though, that’s not going to happen. Why would business owners ever choose to raise wages (which need to be paid out consistently) when customers can be the ones to pick up the compensation slack without any real commitments?
I understand feeling more inclined to tip in places like America, where the minimum wage in many states can be as low as only a few dollars an hour, particularly for service positions. But here in B.C., consumer guilt shouldn’t apply because no matter what job you’re doing, everyone is at least getting the same (albeit low) minimum wage. Also, why do some jobs deserve tips while others don’t? Figuring out where to draw the line is very difficult. Do I tip if I’m picking up takeout? What if a barista is just handing me something already prepared?
At the end of the day, I’m not going to stop tipping, no matter how bad the service is, and no matter how much I hate the concept of it as a whole. I will still grit my teeth and do the mental math to figure out what 20 per cent of my bill is every time I go out, simply because I feel like it’s the right thing to do. I hope that tipping culture will someday change for the better, but I’m not holding my breath in the meantime.