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Machine offering tips about tips help, but not always popular in Charlottetown

Some newer models of debit machines include tipping options.
Some newer models of debit machines include tipping options. - Stu Neatby • The Guardian

Island resident Van Ngo says she values the customer service industry, but she thinks tipping should be a personal choice.

Ngo is not a fan of the new debit/credit machines restaurants are now using that highlight three tipping options: 10 per cent for good service; 15 per cent means great; 18 means excellent.

“This situation is kind of awkward and a little bit unpleasant,” says Ngo. “As a customer, I see that it’s somehow forcing us to tip a certain amount of money, maybe more than what we intend to do."

Bailey Drummond, who has worked in several Island restaurants for more than 10 years, says there is a lot of room for interpretation when it comes to tipping.

“A lot of people don’t realize that when you tip your waitress or not, a portion of that person’s tip still goes to the kitchen. And we get paid minimum wages at most of the places,” she says, adding a tip should never be less than 10 per cent of the total cost of the meal.

She also doesn’t think the amount of the tip should be tied entirely to how a server performs at his or her table.

“I have people who come in and I serve them three times per week and I know that no matter how much their bill is – $10 that day or $50 that day – the tip is still going to be one to two dollars,” Drummond says.

She thinks the debit machines that display the tipping options help set standard expectations for customers and wait staff.

“I think it is helpful for some people to have those options right in front of them because I think … not a lot of people know what the tip expectations are,” she said.

Ngo prefers the model found in some local establishments and in countries around the world where the gratuity is factored into the price of the meal.

“In Japan, for example, providing the best quality is the blood of the business, and what they do is included in the price already, so no tips are allowed,” she says. “I think that’s fair, although it also depends on a country’s tipping culture.”

Bailey Drummond pays her bill at Leonhard’s Café and Restaurant in downtown Charlottetown using a debit machine that suggests percentages for tips. - Cindy Nguyen
Bailey Drummond pays her bill at Leonhard’s Café and Restaurant in downtown Charlottetown using a debit machine that suggests percentages for tips. - Cindy Nguyen


A recent Canada-wide survey conducted by Dalhousie University suggests that most Canadians (56 per cent of respondents) are also in favour of including tips in menu prices.

There are still people, like John Simmonds, who prefer to leave a tip that reflects both the food and the service he receives when eating out.

“I think tipping is fair. You want to show some extra support for the server who serves your table that day. If you can afford to go out to a nice restaurant to eat, you should be able to afford to tip your server, too,” Simmonds says. “But that’s not always the case if either the service or the food is terrible – sometimes both.”

Simmonds says the debit machines with the three tipping options make the process awkward, since it is possible the server can see which button the customer selects.

“You could imagine how uncomfortable it was. If you picked 15 per cent — meaning good — you would feel you’re pretty cheap,” he says.

Drummond agrees.

“I think putting adjectives next to the percentages isn’t good. It makes some customers feel poorly about themselves if they can’t afford to tip 20 per cent for example,” she says.

“Speaking from experience, it does feel bad when you get a poor tip when you feel like you have done a good job serving your customers. But I believe servers should be grateful no matter if they get at two-dollar tip on a 70-dollar bill or two dollars on a 10-dollar bill.”

She says since the COVID-19 pandemic led to extra health restrictions, there has been extra work for every server.

“We have to sanitize everything that goes on a table, make sure everybody has their masks on when entering the building, make sure their names and telephone numbers are put down for contact tracing and count the number of customers in the restaurant to make sure we’re not over the limit,” she said.

“So, I feel like we should be compensated for it. But at the same time, people aren’t making as much money as before, so I have a lot of mixed feelings about it.”

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