By Fabian Mayer, March 26 2015 —
Leaving a 15 per cent tip at a restaurant is the norm in Canada. While tipping is customary, we’d be better off without it.
Servers are paid minimum wage or less and rely on tips to earn their living. In countries like Japan and New Zealand, servers are better paid and the tip is included in the cost of food.
This is a far better system. The practice of tipping is inconvenient, unfair and facilitates discrimination.
The otherwise pleasant experience of eating at a restaurant is punctuated by the unsavoury moment where you must evaluate your server’s performance and figure out how much to add to the bill.
Servers can legally make less than the minimum wage. This creates an unfortunate situation where customers have power over whether a server can afford rent or tuition.
Aside from being awkward, tipping is inconvenient. The many apps designed to make calculating a tip easier attest to this.
One common argument in favour of tipping is that servers wouldn’t have an incentive to provide good service without it. This isn’t the case. Servers would have the same incentive all employees have to do good work: keeping their job.
In fact, the overly friendly and attentive service our system encourages can be annoying. The first bite of most meals at a restaurant is accompanied by the phrase “how is everything tasting so far?”
But there are deeper problems with tipping. Studies from Cornell University show that tipping is largely affected by appearance, including race.
Having a server’s pay influenced by race is easily the most sinister part of tipping culture. In the United States, black servers receive around 10 per cent less in tips per interaction than their white counterparts.
Given our cultural similarities, there’s little reason to believe Canada is much different.
It’s uncomfortable to realize that a server’s salary is often linked to their appearance. Getting rid of tipping would ensure that servers are paid the same regardless of their looks.
Obviously, racial discrimination is a societal problem that can’t be solved by getting rid of tipping. But we can take away one of the ways ethnic and racial minorities are hurt by discrimination.
The restaurant experience would be better if we got rid of tipping. And more importantly, one avenue of discrimination against people based on their looks or race would also be eliminated.