Tip shaming negatively affecting tight student budgets

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Moii Cafe on Cambie Street has a jar out to encourage customers to tip. Photo by Kristyn Anthony.

Reported by Kristyn Anthony

Ace Cabebe remembers the first time he was shamed for not leaving a gratuity after grabbing a quick meal with a friend.

The Langara College student had stopped at a restaurant in Metrotown and after paying for his meal, the server spared no shame in commenting on how she felt.

“She asked how the food was, and then said, ‘What? No tip?’,” Cabebe remembered. “I was so shocked I just walked away.”

The expectation behind tipping at restaurants

In North America, there is a tip expectation from those employed in hospitality. Often, hourly rates are lower than minimum wage and incomes are supplemented by tips – the dollar amount left in addition to the price of a service provided.

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Maria Gouthro, 30-year veteran of the food service industry. Photo: Kristyn Anthony

“There’s a multitude of reasons why people don’t tip and it’s not always about the service and it’s not always about people being cheap,” said Maria Gouthro, a 30-year veteran of the industry.

Gouthro, who works for DMH Services, a hospitality recruitment agency, said she sees tip shaming all the time, both on the job and on social media. She believes it’s rooted in entitlement, fed by what she calls ‘mob mentality’ particularly when shaming people publicly.

“It seems like it’s okay to do that now,” Gouthro said. “In my experience, I find it’s a generational thing.”

If you don’t have the budget, don’t buy it

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Restaurants find creative ways for customers to leave tips. Photo: Kristyn Anthony

David Hardisty, assistant professor of marketing and behavioural science at UBC said he sees both sides of the coin.

“Students can sometimes be on a limited budget, but if you can’t afford to tip, then don’t buy it,” he said.

Cabebe now feels a sort of pressure when returning to spend his money at the same business where he was tip shamed.

“I do know every time I come back, she’ll always ask the same question and I leave something out of pity,” he said. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, wow, the service is so good,” it’s that I know she’ll be begging for a tip.”

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