The Gallivanting Gourmand
Greg Duncan
Greg Duncan
is a freelance writer based in the Montreal region. He is particularly keen about good food. In his day job, Greg is the executive director of the Quebec Community Newspapers Association.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 10.06.04


Say, have I got a tip for you

If this rant classifies me as a cheapskate, so be it. I have a gripe that has been bubbling just under the surface that I must vent.

First, a little background.

Everyone knows that tipping is one of those napkin-figuring exercises that comes at the end of a restaurant meal and that there does not seem to be any hard and fast rules to the same.

Some say 15 percent of the total bill is the common appropriate rate while others say that inflation dictates more.

The 15 percent rule works easily enough here in Quebec, as it is an easy to add together the total of the GST and PST that has been charged to your bill.

This method negates a lot of head scratching and will actually give a figure of roughly 15.5 percent.

Some folks will leave a percentage of the total bill after taxes have been added, meaning that your are actually tipping on taxes.

This is erroneous methodology in my opinion. The taxman gets enough out of me already as it does restaurant staff that must declare tips and, in many cases, have them withheld by their employer.

What has been bothering me for some time is not the advent of leaving a tip to a friendly and prompt waiter for good service. What I can't stand and yet sheepishly succumb to is the money grab at fast-food and coffee outlets.

Why should I leave a tip at a place where I have essentially done all the work myself?

Lets see, I walk up to the counter, grab a tray, put utensils on it, place my order, wait, receive my order and seat myself. Of course I've poured my own coffee and soda too. Yet, that pile of change conspicuously strewed across the counter signals that someone wants a tip and they want it now.

Listen, just because I order a dozen doughnuts and you've placed them in a box does not entitle you to a tip, in my opinion.

The next thing you know we will be tipping for doughnuts that we have baked ourselves. You want fries with that?

The only sentiment I can deliver that would support the notion of tipping in these low-service establishments is that often they are staffed by students who indeed could use a little extra cash.

But you know what? So could I.

At a lineup where I choose my own sandwich toppings, I'd rather put 15 percent back in my pocket. I don't need a stupidly sized gallon of soda as part of a 'trio' either. While you're at it just charge me for the sandwich, please, and hold the fries.

As a warning to all just look what can happen if you decide to buck the tipping rules as reported in the American press recently.

A New York man has been arrested for not leaving a big enough tip at a restaurant.

Humberto Taveras, 41, from Long Island, faces a misdemeanor charge of theft of services.

He had refused to leave a mandatory 18 percent service charge added on for parties of six or more at Soprano's Restaurant in Lake George. Restaurant owner Joe Soprano said the menu stated that an 18 percent charge is added for parties of six or more.

He said the waitress told Taveras' party of 12 that the tip was automatically included. Soprano said the party should have left $93 in total, but left just $80.

Taveras claimed his party didn't see the notice on the menu and was not told about it. He said they weren't satisfied with the food, and intended to leave a 10 percent tip.

"They chased us down like a bunch of criminals," Taveras was quoted as telling the Glens Falls Post-Star.

Soprano insisted that didn't happen. He said he just asked police who were outside to come in and straighten things out.

Here then is perhaps why there is confusion over tipping worldwide. The definition just seems to support the wanton handing over of hard-earned cash.

Tip: The popular explanation of the origin of tip, meaning a gratuity, is that it is an acronym meaning "To insure promptness." This is incorrect.

Tip is underworld cant meaning to pass on, to hand to, especially to pass on a small sum of money. It dates to at least 1610. The verb meaning to give a gratuity dates to about a century later, and the noun dates to at least 1755.