Skip to main content

Stockbyte/Getty Images

If you look up the etiquette for leaving a tip, pretty much the only thing you won't find is a consensus.

Everyone seems to have their own set of rules and rationale for each situation. Tipping is of course standard for table-service, but many people get upset if they get prompted to leave a tip in the digital payment terminal for counter-service.

We are warmer to the idea of a tip jar and on the occasion that someone impresses with their customer service behind a counter, we are happy to leave a tip. But the opportunity for that employee is somewhat limited as the interaction is very quick, so counter tipping doesn't happen often. Even worse is when you call in a take-out order and get the tip prompt on the terminal when you're simply picking up the food.

Story continues below advertisement

Using the automatic tip that is added to the bill of larger groups as a guideline, the standard tip for table-service is 15 per cent. We have the flexibility to adjust that up or down but it's worth considering what the server is responsible for, and what is beyond their control. If the food is bad, that doesn't warrant a lower tip. Conversely, if the food is great, that doesn't warrant a larger tip. Presumably the menu prices will reflect the food quality, location, and ambiance of the restaurant. From a consumer's perspective, the tip should be based on the service.

Last week I had two separate cab drivers earn themselves no tip within minutes of getting into their cab. Both took personal calls and spoke quite loudly for the majority of the trip. How else do I justify leaving a tip for the great drivers who help with luggage, engage in polite conversation when appropriate, and don't drive like they're trapped in a pinball machine? If the tip is a reward that moulds behaviour, I certainly want to encourage what I like, and discourage what I don't.

That's our prerogative, right?

Apparently not, according to some. I've often heard the argument that tips are necessary for the recipient to earn a decent living: the hourly pay in many food retail jobs is low, so servers rely on tips to bolster their earnings. Servers may rely on tips, but that doesn't mean they should expect one. It just means that they have a greater incentive to provide good service. I'm happy to tip 20 per cent or more - when it's warranted. But I'm also not afraid to forego a tip for poor service.

The notion that tipping should be mandatory in order to make it financially worthwhile to be a server suggests the economics of that business are wrong. If the restaurant can't afford to raise the hourly wages and pass on the increase to customers, that restaurant isn't good enough.

Conversely, when tipping is mandatory, that's effectively the same thing as raising prices. But it precludes the great servers from making more money since their exceptional service wouldn't be rewarded as much. Even worse, it could be rewarded at the same level as poor service.

Give us your two cents on tipping. What's your philosophy? Do you have any rules of thumb? For example, some people tip a percentage on the food total before tax, and then a flat rate per bottle of wine when eating out. Others just tip 15 per cent on the total no matter what. Some never tip for delivery or counter service. Do you?

Story continues below advertisement

Leave your tipping tips in the comments section below.

Preet Banerjee, a personal finance expert, is the host of Million Dollar Neighbourhood on The Oprah Winfrey Network. You can read his blog at WhereDoesAllMyMoneyGo.com and follow him on Twitter at @preetbanerjee.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter