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THE COST OF living has gone up and we’re now feeling the pinch at the dinner table. According to the Toronto Star, the National Post, and Maclean’s online, Toronto’s tipping customs have been rocked and customers are now expected to pay a 20 per cent tip for services instead of the usual 15.
“Eighteen to 20 per cent is easily the norm. Some people tip 25 per cent,” says Janet Watson, an Alberta-based etiquette expert, quoted by the National Post. “Fifteen per cent is the bottom line here.”

The reasoning behind the shift stems from inflation and the low wages restaurant workers receive. Ottawans can also expect the change to occur here, however unwelcome the adjustment may be for our bank accounts.

Frequent restaurant diner John Taylor, third-year psychology student at the U of O, expresses his dissatisfaction toward the suggested tip hike.
“Surely walking my food from the kitchen to my table is not so meritorious that it deserves a whole 20 per cent,” says Taylor. “This increase in tip expectation seems to put further burden on the customer, who is just as effected by the increasing costs of living—and if such a payout is to be expected, then all I can say is that I expect good service. At the very least, let me get what I pay for.”

Taylor is far from alone with his sentiments toward tips. Most believe a tip of 20 per cent or more should be reserved for fantastic service, and use the right to withhold a tip because of bad service. As students are expected to pay for tuition, books, rent, and other miscellaneous expenses, the 20 per cent gratuity doesn’t seem practical.

While the change in tipping norms is being met with much resistance, waiting staff would argue an increase is needed. Long-time local waitress Taryn Lytle sheds light on the issue from another perspective.

“The thing people don’t realize is that servers are paid less than minimum wage,” she says. “Tipping is what servers survive on. If you can afford to go out for dinner, you can afford to tip your server. If you can’t afford to tip, eat in.”

Lytle also believes servers shouldn’t face the brunt of customers’ dissatisfaction. She cautions patrons to remember the waiter or waitress isn’t the one who cooked the food, and if there’s a problem with the service, customers should speak up—there’s no need to sacrifice the tip.

The war waging between wait staff and customers concerning tips may be brewing to a boil, and some have suggested solutions. Ideas have been brought up over increasing the waiting staff’s wages and modeling ourselves after countries like Japan and Australia, where some servers receive a $19.50 per hour salary.

—Kajahni Tharmarajan