Life

PROULX: I'm sooo over tipping

Shaun Proulx argues it's time to relegate tipping to the dustbins of history.

Shaun Proulx argues it's time to relegate tipping to the dustbins of history.

SHAUN PROULX/ 24 HOURS

In Edmonton last month, owners of year-old Cafe Linnea announced that after a year as the city's first no-tipping restaurant, it was "untenable" to continue with servers receiving higher wages (built into food cost). Reverting to industry standard, they've lowered prices - and staff wages - with the onus on customers to make up the difference.

What is it about the hospitality and service industry versus myriad other industries in Canada (people-facing or otherwise) - that permits such wage skirting? In Australia, tipping is rare. Down Under, service industry pros are treated as such, ergo: paid properly.

Up here, our pass-the-hat system feels extra insulting in our sad "not my department /we'll be there between 9 and 5 /you bother me just being in my shop /I'll have someone look into it" service world. I doubt tipsters even know what a tip actually is, which makes tipping a self-defeating practice negating the very reason it exists.

Sixteenth-century Brits gave a "vail" at the end of a stay in a mansion to the owner's servants for going above and beyond; T.I.P. is an acronym for to insure promptitude.

When tipping arrived in North America (murky origins suggest nouveau riche Americans wanted to show off being abroad by demoing genteel European etiquette,) a New York Times editor predicted tipping would spread like "evil insects and weeds." And he was right. Today, even though it is untenable for me to dine or dance in a winter coat, I'm meant to tip someone to hang it up and return it to me.

Is tipping your doctor next? (20% if you like their diagnosis; 10% not so much?) Even the percentage basis tip system itself is flawed: does a sommelier work more to open and serve wine if it costs $50 versus $500? According to the research of one professor at Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration, even service excellence doesn't matter: perceived variation in quality service only results in a 2% tip variation. Other Cornell findings: women get larger tips than men (sexy girls making more than dowdy); white servers make more than black; black diners tip less - which on average means inferior service is provided to them.

In other words, tipping is sexist, body fascist, and racist; yay! In England, tip's birthplace, gratuity's gone soggy.

Finer establishments have a higher expectation of one, but plenty more expect nothing. Just back from a two-week stay there, I experienced both sides and it all seemed quite tenable. It also seems tenable in China, Japan, and Hong Kong (where gratuity is insulting - now these are people who get it). Most of Europe adds gratuity into food cost and if this is something you still balk at, like Cafe Linnea's customers must have, do ask yourself why.

Listen, serving is hard. I respect what servers do so much that, knowing myself well, I'd food fight my first rude customer. But you know what else is hard? A lot of other jobs. I know of not a single person who doesn't do the best they can with what they have, all day every day.

Including me. And so, on that note, Mr. Branco (my favourite editor ever) I think this was a pretty OK column (did it all myself ). And filed a day early! So I'll ask you to just insert my PayPal link here ______ so readers can slip me a tip too, and, of course, you are always welcome to tip, as well.

The Shaun Proulx Show airs on SiriusXM Canada Talks channel 167. He is the publisher of TheGayGuide Network.com and leads a #ThoughtRevolution about busting through personal limits on ShaunProulx.com.