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Andrea Montgomery: In defense of tipping

A pile of carefully shined and rolled cutlery. File / Global News

Every now and then the practice of tipping comes under scrutiny and people overwhelmingly claim to hate the practice altogether. Tristin Hopper of the National Post has highlighted some of his concerns about tipping.

I admit it is kind of a drag to have to cough up a few extra bucks on top of your bill at the end of the night.

It sure can feel like an unnecessary expense, especially when it is your barista or other type service asking for a tip. But, as a broadcaster who is also a server, let me break it down and remind you exactly what you are paying for when you are tipping at a restaurant.

READ MORE: Tips for tipping: When should we tip and how much?

Going to a restaurant with your friends, family and kids, and being allowed to spend an hour or two with your feet up is a luxury.

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Coming in to my restaurant and sitting in the section I am serving should feel like you are getting a much needed break — a chance to breathe at the end of a long day or a respite from work. I am working so you don’t have to.

READ MORE: Tipping: Here are the best and worst cities and provinces in Canada

My job is as follows: I greet you and ask about your day and make you feel welcome in our establishment.

I fetch your drinks and take down your orders correctly. I take special time to be an expert in the menu and know dietary substitutes should you have an allergy or are simply doing keto.

I input them into a computer system which translates your specific wishes to cooks on the line and verbally check with the cooks if your wishes are super specific.

I watch to see if you need your drinks refilled.

I deliver your meal and then run for extra seasonings and dips you may want.

I ensure you have clean cutlery — which I also shine and roll into clean napkins — and then I clear the table as you finish your meal to ensure you aren’t leaning in your leftovers.

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And when you leave, I clean up after you and your kids.

READ MORE: Edmonton restaurant changes policy after trying no-tipping approach

On average, I visit any given table 6 or 7 times in a night, more if people are particularly thirsty or need additional tweaks to make their meal perfect. In that time, I am juggling the wants and needs of 1-8 people and can have a section of 6 tables or more.

When you come to a restaurant you are paying not only to avoid cooking, but to avoid all the cleaning and carrying of things back and forth that comes with it. On top of the food, you are paying for all the people preparing the meal, table and setting so you do not have to.

Is being the front-man for this operation not worth more than $15 an hour?

Click to play video: 'House tipping practice triggers debate between restaurants and workers' House tipping practice triggers debate between restaurants and workers
House tipping practice triggers debate between restaurants and workers – Sep 7, 2018

WATCH: House tipping practice triggers debate between restaurants and workers

What does a consumer pay for other services that give them a break from the day-to-day tasks that come with running a household and keeping their family fed? Lawn cutting is $40-60 a week. Snow shoveling is $150-190 a month. A one-time house clean for a one bedroom house is at least $120. Even a dog walker can run you close to $50 a walk.

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Anyone who has kids or has hosted a family dinner can attest to how much work hosting and serving a meal to family and friends actually is.

So I ask again, is serving your family — with their specific substitutions and wants and needs — and cleaning up after you worth more than $15 an hour? If you hired a cook and a server to do the same job in your home, what would you expect it to cost?

READ MORE: Calgary Earls location eliminates tipping, replaces it with 16% ‘hospitality charge’

But lucky you customer, you actually don’t have to pay me $30 an hour, because the restaurant is subsidizing the cost of my presence by paying me an hourly wage.

You actually get the opportunity to choose how much I deserve based on the quality of service you have been provided. The power is yours.

At the end of the night, I turn around and pay 5 per cent of the sales I have made back to the house which is divided among the kitchen and support staff. This supports their wages which are often minimum wage.

I also tip out the bartender, who has dedicated a significant part of their night pouring your drinks just how you want them.

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READ MORE: Who actually gets the tip you leave? House tipping gets heated in service industry

If you do not tip me at all I still pay out of my pocket at the end of the night for your service.

Without tips I am unsure what this total service would cost you, but I imagine most Albertans could not afford it. I am not an economist, but I shudder to think at the repercussions that would echo across the province if we all collectively stopped tipping.

Like it or not, tipping drives the ability for restaurants as we know them to stay in business.

READ MORE: Calgary pub goes on sale for fraction of purchase price as dining industry shifts

On the topic of minimum wage — the increase of which has thrown many service industry ecosystems into flux — most servers would admit that $15 an hour is too high when compared to what the other positions in the restaurant are making.

When there are no customers in the restaurant my job consists of sanitizing things, simple cleaning and rolling cutlery. None of these tasks seem to be worth $15 an hour.

And the sudden forced rise in minimum wage is seeing support positions cut, hours slashed and menu prices rise.

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READ MORE: Examining what the new minimum wage means for Albertans

Another consequence is many customers tipping less because their meal is costing more. Regardless, the service — what I do — remains the same.

So I ask again, what would you pay for someone to take over the cooking, cleaning, and serving duties of supper so that you can just relax? I believe it is worth closer to $25 an hour than $15.

And if that is too much, you can always just eat at home.

LISTEN: Sue and Gord discuss tipping on The Morning News

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