Will the new minimum wage stop the outrageous tipping imposition?

By Angelo Persichilli

The Hill Times (15 January, 2017)

 

Tipping
The Hill Times photograph by Sam Garcia

There’s a lot of talk these days about the increase of the minimum wage to $15 an hour. This legislation will affect all industries, but we’re mainly focusing on the restaurant industry.

 

I would like to talk about another aspect of the restaurant industry, the tipping, and how, or if, this new legislation will have an impact on this increasingly unacceptable tradition.

I have nothing against tipping if it is considered a monetary evaluation of the service received, left completely at the customer’s discretion. Unfortunately, the tip is becoming the substitution, not the supplement, to the server’s salary.

Misleading advertising is not legal, but restaurants’ menus are misleading. For instance, the actual cost of an advertised $50 dish is between $65-$70 because in addition to the price, there is the 13 per cent increase of the HST, and a 15 per cent to 20 per cent tip as well.

It’s unfair to the waitresses and waiters because it generates more cash money not subject to taxation, and removes the discretion of the customer to exercise a judgment on the quality of the service received.

Many times, tips are not money for the waiters, but tax-free money for some owners using the waiters to collect them. The increase in tips often coincides with the lowering of waiters’ salaries. One waiter once told me that his tips were his salary, not an extra bonus for good service.

This procedure leaves the workers fi nancially vulnerable and their salary to be negotiated between them and the customers, not the owners.

Furthermore, customers have no means to express their judgment on the quality of the service received.

And this should be the real purpose of the tip. The only discretion left to the customer is to choose between 10, 15, 18, or 20 per cent.

Once I had to wait for almost 20 minutes for the waiter to take my order and another 45 minutes for the meal to be served. The waiter, busy like hell, didn’t even have the time to bring us water, despite repeatedly being asked, and we had to wait 15 minutes to get the bill.

I decided not to leave a tip.

The waiter looked at the receipt and gently said, “Sir, you forgot to leave the tip.” Very politely I told him that I didn’t forget, I just didn’t want to leave a tip because I didn’t like the service. The owner approached me, apologized for the service, but he said that the tip “is a must” and not related to the service. I felt upset with him for his arrogance, but also bad because I realized I was punishing the waiter for the decision of the owner not to hire more people.

In fact, the waiter was punished twice because he was working more and making less money, while the restaurateur benefited twice because he could reduce the salary for his workers, and not pay the tax on it.

Other restaurateurs don’t even ask you to choose the percentage. When there is a large group, the 20 per cent tip is automatically included.

This story is not about the amount of the tip and, of course, there are honest and fair restaurateurs treating their workers properly.

But some decide unilaterally to put their hands in our pockets by exploiting the waiters and without telling the customers, in advance, the real costs of the meal.

If they need more money to run the business they should increase the prices and inform the people, in the menu. Misinforming the customers with a hidden, not taxable, surcharge is not acceptable.

The question is how the minimum wage legislation will impact this legalized abuse by some restaurateurs of the waitresses, waiters, and the customers.

Angelo Persichilli is a former Stephen Harper Director of Communications, a former GTA-area citizenship judge, a former columnist for Toronto Sun and Toronto Star and a former political editor at Corriere Canadese, Canada’s Italian-language newspaper based in Toronto.

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