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Tipping's tipping point? Discourse around gratuity reaches fever pitch: 'Gone way too far'

Tipping prompts are showing up at counters as well as sit-down restaurants — with many going up to 30 per cent

Man holding a tablet with tipping screen inside a restaurant
Man holding a tablet with tipping screen inside a restaurant

Reddit threads in Ontario over the last week have users riled up over an impossible to ignore trend: Tipping.

The days of a customary 15 per cent tip on a meal feel far behind. Now, it’s not unusual for suggested tips on a card reader to start at 18 per cent and go up to 30 per cent, with these prompts showing up at counters and sit-down restaurants alike.

Many are trying to understand what’s considered appropriate and what’s flat-out outrageous when it comes to tipping employees from different parts of the service industry.

Internet wonders: Should everyone who asks get a tip?

In a post titled "Can I stop tipping for picking up food?", user Noradd_123 wondered why people working in coffee shops need to be tipped.

“Wouldn't you just have that as part of your costs for the coffee?” they wondered.

The poster also questioned why fast food servers required tips when “they aren't having a waiter serve you.”

Some in the comments were also confused at the expectation of tipping when picking up an order from a restaurant. Others pointed out that dining establishments often have a tip-out system, where tips are tallied and divided amongst front and back of house staff.

“Have you ever worked in a restaurant?” user internetcamp asked. “Tips are split amongst the workers. All of them. You’re not tipping someone for handing you food. You’re tipping the people making the food.”

Commenter gohomebrentyourdrunk wrote that most people tip out of societal pressure more than anything, rather than rewarding good service.

The people who are tipping 0 per cent

Another Reddit post picked up on a Globe and Mail article, titled “Yes, restaurant tipping has gone too far.” Written by personal finance columnist Rob Carrick, the article finds it reasonable to tip based on the dining experience and acceptable not to tip at all at fast food joints or coffee shops.

“Coming out of COVID, I feel like a lot of restaurant operators may have tried to get more tips into the system to help their staff,” hospitality consultant David Hopkins told the outlet. “But now, it seems like it’s gone way too far.”

Many Redditors justified why they don’t leave big tips.

“I tip 10-15 per cent if it was good service or they actually did something (like delivery service)... 0% if it wasn't (good service),” user AvalieV wrote.

“To tip 20 per cent, the service has to be exceptional…I have tipped 18 per cent in the past and didn’t get even a thank you, so back to 15 per cent," user Zylonite134 wrote.

User thepickledust shared that they had recently been asked for a tip from a car-towing service.

"My car got towed the other day from a private lot and when I went to get it out, the machine had a tip option starting at 18 per cent."

“Anyone can bring bread to a table. What a lot of people can’t do is deliver hospitality.”Wayne Smith

An expert explains: Service vs. hospitality

Wayne Smith is a professor of hospitality and tourism management at the Ted Rogers School of Management. He says the marketplace will eventually help settle the “what’s appropriate to tip” debate, though it’s currently unclear where it will land.

He says that tipping on a bill's total is antiquated, especially with inflation and cost of living increases straining Canadians' finances. His philosophy is that a tip should be based on value added.

“It’s the difference between service and hospitality,” Smith tells Yahoo Canada. “Anyone can bring bread to a table. What a lot of people can’t do is deliver hospitality.”

In provinces like Ontario, where servers are paid a recently increased minimum wage of $16.55 an hour, many feel it’s hard to justify paying a tip on top of that.

“If there’s a minimum wage and they’re making more money, shouldn’t the tipping come down a little bit?” Smith asks.

Smith predicts restaurants could soon be divided into service and non-service sections, similar to the smoking and non-smoking sections of the past. So, sections will be divided into one where people can order online, pick up and not tip, and another for customers who would prefer a classic dine-in experience.

“As prices rise, and the wages are parity, how does the marketplace handle that,” Smith says. “There’s not going to be one answer that will make everyone happy.”