Tipping at Restaurants & Clubs

I was out with a friend last night at The Laugh Resort comedy club in downtown Toronto. The comedy was good and the price of admission for two hours of stand up comedy entertainment of $15.00 was excellent.

However, I was disturbed when I received the bill for one pint of Rickard’s Red beer which came to $6.66. No, I wasn’t disturbed by the “666” price, although that is weird too. But the fact that there was a 15% charge on there for “service.” Why this charge? I can only think of two reasons:

1. The Laugh Resort was charging me for having to hire a waitress to take orders and bring drinks to the table instead of me getting up and going to the bar myself. But then again, wouldn’t I be tipping the waitress for this service instead of being forced to pay this service charge?

2. Forced tipping. This gets to me every time. The fifteen percent charged goes to the waitress as a guarenteed tip for serving me. But why should a waitress, or waiter for that matter, receive a tip if they provided bad to mediocre service? This concept offends me every time and I avoid places as much as possible that have a guarenteed tip or a “gratuity” automatically added on to the bill either at a flat rate or as a percentage. Sometimes this gratuity is added on to parties of six people and over.

I believe, in the case of The Laugh Resort, that the “service charge” is probably option #2. However, it did say on the bottom of my bill that “tips were not included.” If tips are not included then what is the charge for then? I assume it can’t be option #1 above as there was no notification (i.e. sign or verbal indication) that I could find anywhere in the club.

So on the basis of it being a “forced tip” then I’m going to assume the fact, in case of The Laugh Resort waitress, she made exactly twenty-six cents. Also, obviously the waitress either doesn’t want any more of my money or the club is shafting their waitress/waiter staff in tips. Shafting? Sure, I was willing to leave the comedy club waitress a two dollar tip after I left. Why two dollars? The beer came at a reasonable time and, when serving other tables around me, she made sure she didn’t block the view of my or other tables of the main stage. But I guess she doesn’t need any of my money if there was a 15% charge on the bill.

Forced gratuities or tipping makes me sick. Wait staff should be tipped based on the service level they provide. If the food is slow or cold, if a waiter is grumpy, etc. then the tip should reflect that. Sure if the food is cold or slow it might be the kitchen and some would argue that perhaps it is not the fault of the wait staff. But I argue that if the establishment doesn’t provide a decent kitchen, then the wait staff should indicate this to the owner of the business through either complaint or resignation. Also, some restaurants and clubs share the tips that the wait staff collect with the kitchen staff as well. So everyone should loose money in terms of poor service. A restaurant or club is a team employement environment. To be successful each person must work as a team to make sure the customer is satisified. Failing “the team” idea means a customer is less likely to return and provide even more business and possible tips for the staff. So there should be incentive for the team to work together to ensure customers are happy. Thus, tipping should not be “forced” because if “the team” provides great service, the customers will overwhelming ensure “the team” knows their appreciation through the tips lefft behind.

Gratuities and tips automatically added to the bill only give me one impression: The owners of the establisment do not believe their employees will give satisfactory to excellent service to their patrons. This is because if the owners did, obviously there would not be a need to force customers to tip or provide a gratuity for possibly bad service. With this in mind, why would anyone want to work at a place where the owners of the business do not believe in the staff?

That is what I left The Laugh Resort last night thinking.


9 thoughts on “Tipping at Restaurants & Clubs

  1. Confused, here: I agree with you. What’s a 15% service charge, if not a tip? Presumably, when they say it’s not a tip, that’s because the server will see none of it, poor girl.

    Additionally, 26 cents is nowhere near 15% of $6.66.

    Me, I’d have given the girl a tip. She’s probably struggling her way through college or whatever, just as you did a few years back. It’s not her fault the management has this policy, and it’s certainly not her fault they can’t do the math – and she’s not going to get a penny of the charge, anyway! Why should she pay for the decisions of management – who won’t suffer a moment’s concern because of your action.

    Then I’d have written a letter of complaint to the management.

  2. I never did the math, on it. Your right the charge was no where near 15% of $6.66.

    I did struggle through university. But if management was going to treat me like this I would change jobs. If management cannot clearly explain what the charge is without forcing the customer to ask, then why work for them? What else aren’t they telling you the employee and/or customer?

    A complaint to management? Perhaps I just might send them this blog entry.

  3. Tipping is different worldwide, but only in North America is it considered manditory. When we go out as a group, we often see a service charge for 8 or more on the bill. My wife completed her interior design degree and paid for it by bartending at the local pub near our house. She made more money there working 24 hours a week then she would have as a full time designer, go figure. In Australia you are only expected to tip if the service is good and in the UK you are not expected to tip at all. I wonder how it came about here in North America.

  4. I can’t remember the total bill but once in Montreal we got yelled at by a waiter for being $1 off on our tip (the meal was over 200 as it was for 4 of us) I suspect the tip was $29 not $30.

    Isn’t that a great way to ensure we NEVER go back to the Restaurant du Vieux Port Montreal.

  5. Michael, you are absolutely right! “The owners of the establisment do not believe their employees will give satisfactory to excellent service to their patrons. This is because if the owners did, obviously there would not be a need to force customers to tip or provide a gratuity for possibly bad service.

    Forced tipping only leads to rotten service – ergo fewer customers – ergo reduced profit. You can always draw a line through that portion of your bill and reduce the credit card amount you write on the charge slip to the amount of the actual bill. ($6.66? What was it, the Devil’s spawn?) If the management makes a fuss over your altered payment, ask to speak to the manager and explain your though process above, asking her/him if that’s the way the club want’s you to refer to it when talking about your experience there with your friends?

    Also, there is a fairly simple process to challenge any amount paid by credit card if you have reason to believe you were forced to pay it under duress.

    In spite of that, I join with the misanthrope in bringing you best wishes and New Years greetings.


  6. My bottom line: If she gave you good service, tip her. If she didn’t, don’t. If you have a problem with the management’s policies, take it up with them, don’t take it out on the poor server.

    If I were that server, I wouldn’t see a man of integrity, taking the moral high ground. I’d see a cheapskate who saw an easy way out of a decent tip.

  7. I absolutely LOVE this post, and am so relieved that there’s someone else besides me who’s also outraged by this recent trend of *mandatory* tipping.

    How times have changed! Twenty years ago, this type of thing was unheard of. Tipping was a longstanding tradition in which customers would always reward for good service. It was up to the customer.

    But we live in a bratty new age of entitlement, where everyone DEMANDS a reward. It’s sickening. If one waitress at a restaurant is extremely helpful and friendly (while her colleague just goes through the motions of delivering a meal) I want to know exactly why the friendly waitress deserves as much of a tip as the one who didn’t really smile and just *did her job*? Why? because she’s making $3 an hour? Well, why is that my problem? I’m not management, so why do I have to now pick up the slack because management is now choosing to cheat its employees? GMAB.

  8. Tips are more than gratuities it is the way that restaurants make up for shitty wages. I would suggest a tip for all, but a bigger one when you feel so inclined. Personally I think that making the customer responsible for the incentive for good service is downloading, and although this is an age old tradition, I think it is one that should go the way of the dodo. wages for service should increase and mandatory tipping be eliminated, where as, voluntary tipping should remain.

    This is another example of where society places too little value on a service. Why should some service industry persons like bus drivers and bank tellers get paid a better wage than a waitress or waiter, Why should some have to literally go cap in hand to make up for their employers lack of respect for the work they do?

    I say until the industry fixes this nonsense, pay the tip, but let’s hope we evolve past this antiquated tradition. We used to have to pay ushers tips for better seats at theatres, and the cleaners of public washrooms were paid at one time by the patrons. In the past waiters and waitresses worked solely for tips, we don’t here people defending that nonsense why this.

    The nature of work has evolve the means of pay has as well. vestiges of an unfair and unequal past like this have yet to be scraped from the sides of the barrel of the service industry.

    I have also heard that tipping makes workers work harder, well so did sweatshop piecework labor and that we made illegal.

    Pay your employees a living wage and if this does not incite them to work well, hire new employees that will work well.

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