Wear your boots when it rains. Everybody wants something from you. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. They’re all tips, sure. But that’s not what we’re talking about here.
Unless you haven’t dined out in a restaurant in the last decade or so, you know that a 15 percent tip is the norm. Not everyone tips 15 percent—some people tip more, some less. Others calculate the tip according to the level of service they receive. And some people don’t tip at all—generally these people belong to the “tipping is subsidizing the wages of waiters and waitresses because their employer is too cheap and stingy” school of thought.
There’s a long and somewhat convoluted history of tipping. There are hints of it in the medieval feudal system—lords threw pieces of gold to peasants from their horses to ensure themselves safe passage. Messenger boys in England in the 19th century were given money to deliver packages before there was a postal system. And somehow, this practise evolved into giving a restaurant server the total amount of your bill before tax multiplied by 15 or 20 percent. Go figure.
Today, a tip is a loonie thrown into a bowl at a coffee shop, a few crumpled bills left on the table or a few digits added onto a credit card slip. But one Halifax server (we’ll call him Jeff) says a tip means much more than money. “It’s recognition of having made someone’s dining experience pleasurable,” says Jeff. He’s been waiting tables in Halifax since ’91.
Jeff has a few tips for SuperCity diners himself. “I expect people to respond when I say good evening, hello and goodnight. I want people to say thank you—it’s just common courtesy,” says Jeff.
So that’s what servers expect. What about the served? What’s the best reason to leave a tip according to SuperCitizens? We’re an easy to please bunch. We’ll laud—and reward—a friendly smile and a good sense of humour. A server who knows about the menu. An accidental nipple slip (no comment). Someone who is quick and efficient, makes several trips to the table to ensure we have everything we need. Running next door to grab us smokes is a bonus, but we don’t want our server to ask us a question when our mouth is full.
Sarah Kramer, a senior Nova Scotian diplomat who dines out regularly, says she’s a generous tipper because she’s been there. “I used to serve tables and I can remember how big a thrill it was when I got that 20 percent tip,” says Kramer. “It’s no skin off my nose—just a few dollars more to make it 20 percent rather than 15. And I feel good because I’ve made them feel good.” —Jillian Brown