Tipping point / by Didier Young

I recently posted an old photo of a restaurant on my Instagram page. I was running low on photos, and it was a photo I never posted before so I figured why not right? The food looked delicious and the location was relatively pretty, yet I refused to geotag or tag the restaurant in the photograph. Why you may ask? Simply because that photo reminded me of the horrible service that I received at that restaurant that day.

Let’s be frank, service is one of the key reasons that we give in to consumerism. Even when you are out shopping, and you stumble upon a store with arrogant sales associates (every Hermes store in the world), no matter how much you wanted the product you’ll find out that your desire to shop at that particular store has been considerably dampened by the experience you’d had there. The same applies to the hospitality industry. Sure, we go out to enjoy good times with our friends and fantastic food that we wouldn't dream of even trying to reproduce in our kitchens but is that enough justification to spend more than three times the value of the meal plus tips, if the service you were receiving was not up to par? After all, this is all about an experience. There is a reason why restaurants spend so much money on redecorating in order to create the perfect atmosphere.

In North America, we tend to tip our waiters and waitresses without thinking much about it. Giving out 15-20% tips depending on the quality of the service. Yet, what happens when the service is absolutely atrocious? When we went to the restaurant I aforementioned, my reservation was disregarded so we still ended up waiting for over an hour for a table, our waitress acted like she was doing us a favour instead of doing her job properly and even the rest of the waiting staff, including the floor manager, seemed unhappy to be there and clearly didn't try to mask the fact. Afterwards, I emailed the restaurant and posted an honest review on my Instagram. I never received a response to my email and their Instagram account untagged themselves from my photo. They didn't even try to apologize for the horrible service they offered us that day and yet, because we were a group of ten people and thus counted as a “party”, there was an auto gratuity included to our bill. We did not get to choose how much we wished to tip. We were only told how much to tip.

Is this perhaps why we received such atrocious service? The waitress already knew that she would make her tip no matter what happened, so she simply didn't care enough about us? After all,  the same issue happens in Europe. The concept of tipping isn't something that is prevalent there. The gratuity that we are expected to give in North America is already included into their wages. Let’s also be frank: no one goes to Europe and raves about the service in their restaurants. Since we are expected to be shelling out extra money on our meals in North America to reward service, shouldn't we have a stellar experience?

Do not get me wrong; when the service is amazing, I have no issue with tipping. Small things like always refilling my glass of water or clearing off the table the moment we are done are things that do not go unnoticed. The question being asked today is whether you should tip at all if you received horrible service? I’d be curious to know what you think about the subject, so definitely let me know what you would consider your tipping point.

-Didier