The tipping point for Caitlin Green came when she was buying formula.
“I was asked to tip for an online formula order,” said Green, a new mom and radio host in Toronto.
“I wasn’t using Instacart or tipping someone for delivery. It was just a regular online order and I was asked to tip at checkout to ‘show my support for the team”.
She added, “I feel like I’m being tipped every turn.”
Tipping fatigue is hitting consumers as requests for tips increase and spread to new businesses amid the rise of automated payment machines and preset tip suggestions.
At the height of the pandemic, many Canadians increased their tips for essential workers like restaurant staff and delivery drivers in recognition of the health risks they were taking serving people.
Yet with most pandemic restrictions lifted and inflation driving up the cost of everything, some people are feeling uncomfortable about the pressure to tip more, including in businesses where tipping was never used. not traditionally expected.
Tip amounts also appear to have been affected by inflation.
Tip prompts on some POS terminals increasingly suggest amounts ranging from 18-30%, although another amount can be added manually.
This is often in addition to taxes and higher menu prices overall.
“It seems now 15% are rude,” Green said.
“There has been a huge drop in service, at least from my experience in restaurants since the pandemic, which I fully understand why this is happening. But the prices are also more expensive and then I am asked to tip of 25% as a preset option.”
For some, it’s a fair price to pay to ensure that hard-working hospitality professionals earn a living wage.
For others, the decoupling between tipping and service leaves them unsure of how much to give, especially when it comes to a purchase that previously didn’t involve tipping like an online retail order.
Halifax resident Greg Rozon said service has gone down as menu prices and tipping expectations have risen.
“Everyone has these machines with automatic tip requests even if the service isn’t great,” he said. “I always try to tip well. But it kinda sticks in my throat.”
For Judy Haiven, the cure for tip fatigue is simple: pay workers a living wage.
“Tipping is demeaning,” said Haiven, a researcher at the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives and a retired professor from Saint Mary’s University. “They should be removed completely and workers should be paid a fair wage.”
In Halifax, she said a living wage would be around $23.50, more than $10 more than the current minimum wage of $13.35 an hour.
Part of the problem is that managers often collect tips and distribute them however they choose, Haiven said.
“In most provinces there is no law that says tips are the property of the employee,” she said. “It’s not about tipping the kitchen staff. Often the employer takes half of the tips and splits the rest as they wish.”
It’s a practice that leaves some customers wondering where exactly their money is going.
“There’s no transparency,” Green said. “When I’m asked to tip to ‘show your appreciation for the team’, I don’t even really know what that means.”
Removing tips would also ease some of the emotional labor associated with working in the service industry, Haiven said.
“Maybe they won’t ask you how your day was or your health, but it would be incredibly refreshing to walk into a restaurant and know the person is being paid well,” she said. .
Still, as long as workers rely on tips to make a living, Haiven said consumers should be prepared to tip.
Henk van Leeuwen said tipping has become more intentional during the pandemic.
“I’ve always been a decent tip, but it was more in line with the experience I was getting while sitting in a restaurant or the quality of the service or the meal,” he said.
“But that changed during the pandemic. Frontline workers in restaurants were kind of a lifeline, taking risks so we could order takeout, and I decided I’d start giving the highest tip amount each time.”
Although van Leeuwen said he was not wealthy, he said he had the privilege of eating in a restaurant every week or two and considered tipping his duty.
“I tip as much as I can and it’s not about service anymore. It’s about supporting workers and supporting my community. It’s a small way I can help.”