The Tipping Point

The Tipping Point

We are dining out – brunch/lunch/dinner at a café/diner/upscale restaurant. Mostly this is a pleasant experience but sometimes – thankfully not often – it makes me feel like chopped liver.

Picture this. Our server approaches the table, comments on the weather, asks my husband how his day is going and asks what he would like to drink, then turns to me and says, “What would you like?” while staring over my left shoulder. During the meal, she asks my husband how his meal is, checks to see if he needs more coffee, and away she goes. “What about me?” I think as I stare into my half-empty coffee cup. When my coffee is gone, I place the cup a bit closer to the edge of the table. “For Pete’s sake,” I say to my husband, “Drink your coffee so she’ll come with a refill.” This usually works although on a couple of occasions, the server has come back with coffee for him and walked away. We progress through the “Is there anything else I can get for you?” stage with more pleasant chit-chat, not with me, and she places the bill on the table. Is it the assumption that the gentleman is going to pay the bill? Surprise, I have the debit card and you’re out of luck, honey. Harsh? I don’t think so.

When tipping, I never know how much to leave, even after our usually good experiences. A tip, in my understanding, is for good service. I usually tip by percentage – 15 per cent regardless, more for excellent service. I almost always leave a gratuity but if the service has been terrible, condescending or rude (see above) I don’t feel obligated.

The thing I struggle with, though, is the uneven playing field in restaurant service. Simply put, 20 per cent of $25 is a lot less than 20 per cent of $150 and very often, the person serving brunch or a clubhouse sandwich in a diner works just as hard and is often more pleasant than the snooty waiter that can pour drinks from three feet away and carries a whisk broom to tidy up my space.

I am also expected to tip on the whole bill. “Why am I tipping on the GST?” I wonder, knowing that the restaurateur isn’t going to take that into consideration, therefore if I don’t, the server’s tip is five per cent smaller.

So we will continue to tip as we see appropriate while wondering if the guy at the Calgary Tower would be impressed with $5 and ponder the pleasure the server at the diner would feel after receiving $30.

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