Mandatory Tipping

Tip JarDuring a trip to NB once while we still lived in BC many years ago, my wife and I went to St. Andrews by the Sea.  It is a beautiful small town frozen in time  – around 1890, I’d say.  During our visit, we had dinner at a lovely little hotel down on Water St. whose name escapes me now.  It may very well have changed names by now anyway.

The reason I remember that meal is that there was a little tent-card on the table explaining that a 15% gratuity would be automatically added to our bill.  The card directed that if we had any feedback on the service (which in a normal hospitality business would presumably be indicated by the size of the tip), we should write it on the form provided and leave it on our table.

I understand why they operated this way.  St. Andrews is overrun with bus tours every summer.  I worked at the Algonquin Hotel there one season (where most of the tours stay), and I can tell you that the mostly elderly people on those tours do not tip very well, partially because they get used to staying places where a group gratuity charge has already been built into the fee for the tour.  So when the oldsters venture downtown to dine at this other establishment, they forget to tip.  So to protect the employees, management has decided to make sure they remember.

Well, this is wrong on many levels.  I cut my serving chops in Montréal, where service is GREAT, and servers get paid GREAT.  “Waiter” is an honourable profession there, and the best waiters at the best places make some serious coin.  Inferior waiters (and bartenders) get tipped poorly, and either get better, or get another job.  The small-c communist system at work at that St. Andrews establishment would eventually guarantee that every server would sink to the lowest level of effort that would still ensure they received the same compensation as everyone else.  There is no incentive to be excellent.

And a good server, who regularly makes far more than 15%,  would never go to work there in the first place.


One Response to “Mandatory Tipping”

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