Saturday, December 30, 2006

Tipping at Restaurants & Clubs

I was out with a friend last night at The Laugh Resort comedy club in downtown Toronto. The comedy was good and the price of admission for two hours of stand up comedy entertainment of $15.00 was excellent.

However, I was disturbed when I received the bill for one pint of Rickard's Red beer which came to $6.66. No, I wasn't disturbed by the "666" price, although that is weird too. But the fact that there was a 15% charge on there for "service." Why this charge? I can only think of two reasons:

1. The Laugh Resort was charging me for having to hire a waitress to take orders and bring drinks to the table instead of me getting up and going to the bar myself. But then again, wouldn't I be tipping the waitress for this service instead of being forced to pay this service charge?

2. Forced tipping. This gets to me every time. The fifteen percent charged goes to the waitress as a guaranteed tip for serving me. But why should a waitress, or waiter for that matter, receive a tip if they provided bad to mediocre service? This concept offends me every time and I avoid places as much as possible that have a guaranteed tip or a "gratuity" automatically added on to the bill either at a flat rate or as a percentage. Sometimes this gratuity is added on to parties of six people and over.

I believe, in the case of The Laugh Resort, that the "service charge" is probably option #2. However, it did say on the bottom of my bill that "tips were not included." If tips are not included then what is the charge for then? I assume it can't be option #1 above as there was no notification (i.e. sign or verbal indication) that I could find anywhere in the club.

So on the basis of it being a "forced tip" then I'm going to assume the fact, in case of The Laugh Resort waitress, she made exactly twenty-six cents. Also, obviously the waitress either doesn't want any more of my money or the club is shafting their waitress/waiter staff in tips. Shafting? Sure, I was willing to leave the comedy club waitress a two dollar tip after I left. Why two dollars? The beer came at a reasonable time and, when serving other tables around me, she made sure she didn't block the view of my or other tables of the main stage. But I guess she doesn't need any of my money if there was a 15% charge on the bill.

Forced gratuities or tipping makes me sick. Wait staff should be tipped based on the service level they provide. If the food is slow or cold, if a waiter is grumpy, etc. then the tip should reflect that. Sure if the food is cold or slow it might be the kitchen and some would argue that perhaps it is not the fault of the wait staff. But I argue that if the establishment doesn't provide a decent kitchen, then the wait staff should indicate this to the owner of the business through either complaint or resignation. Also, some restaurants and clubs share the tips that the wait staff collect with the kitchen staff as well. So everyone should loose money in terms of poor service. A restaurant or club is a team employment environment. To be successful each person must work as a team to make sure the customer is satisfied. Failing "the team" idea means a customer is less likely to return and provide even more business and possible tips for the staff. So there should be incentive for the team to work together to ensure customers are happy. Thus, tipping should not be "forced" because if "the team" provides great service, the customers will overwhelming ensure "the team" knows their appreciation through the tips left behind.

Gratuities and tips automatically added to the bill only give me one impression: The owners of the establishment do not believe their employees will give satisfactory to excellent service to their patrons. This is because if the owners did, obviously there would not be a need to force customers to tip or provide a gratuity for possibly bad service. With this in mind, why would anyone want to work at a place where the owners of the business do not believe in the staff? That is what I left The Laugh Resort last night thinking.

FootnoteThe Laugh Resort closed by at least October 2008.

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