Tipping is a relic of oppressive colonialism, sayresearchers at Dalhousie University in Halifax.
Angus Reid surveyed 990 Canadians online on behalf of the university’s agri-food lab to look at how the pandemic changed attitudes towards tipping.
In a press release, the authors say they examined the “social norm” of tipping out of “concern for those working in an industry hard-hit by the pandemic” as it looks to return to normal. Simultaneously, decolonial, racial and gender equity actions across Canada present a unique opportunity to question what we want to return to.”
The authors say tipping is all about the “warm glow” caused by “feeling connected with those receiving tips (relatedness), perceiving the impact of tips (competence), and feeling free in making one’s choice to tip (autonomy).”
The authors said this framework “helps us deconstruct tipping as an inherited artifact of colonialist ideals and power structures. While relatedness in tipping provides us with social rewards, it does so within the realm of servitude with a troubling history of racial oppression. Competence, or perceiving the impact of tipping on those receiving tips, relies upon assumed power of those with money and the assumption of the other being in need. Autonomy, or the feeling that there is free choice in tipping amounts, contributes most harmfully by placing financial stability in the hands of others as optional, and dependent upon their goodwill. Issues of class, race, gender and sexuality all come into play and have been studied in other publications.”
The Western Standard asked Riddle what decolonialist tipping might look like, but she declined to guess.
“As a white, privileged settler — a recent settler from the US at that —I have not lived and do not fully understand the experience of those that live with the impact of colonial attitudes or policies,” Riddle said.
“As we move our research forward, we will need to include those perspectives in order begin creating a vision of what change might look like. I do bring the perspective of having worked in food service briefly and as a 2SLGBTQ+ person, so in time I can contribute from this perspective. However, we still need more research to fully understand the issues facing restaurants and how tipping is contributing to issues of revenue control, equality in wages, staff rivalry, discrimination in all forms, career management and sexual harassment.”
The idea of banning tips by including them in service charges or worker’s regular pay was supported by 37% of respondents and opposed by 32%.
Riddle said some survey results surprised her.
“The number of people that feel tipping is significant – 37% report feeling happy when tipping and 20% plan on tipping more. Also, that 32% are against the practice of tipping, but they still respond to the social pressure and tip expected amounts, (averaging just over 15%). This suggests that tipping as a social norm is deeply ingrained in our culture,” she said.
Canadians disagree what purpose tipping serves. A plurality (34%) think it motivates workers, 30% feel that it makes the job worthwhile, 19% say that it should be regulated, and 17% want it banned. Only 6% of respondents’ households depend on tip-based income.
Nearly 56% felt tips motivated workers to do better, and 27% felt their tips made a big difference to recipients. On suggested tipping rates, 53% follow their own formula, 18% appreciate and follow this practice, 5% notice but exceed the suggested amount, while 27% hate the suggestions.
Most respondents feel tipping is an act of generosity (53.4%) versus an obligation (46.6%).
Almost half of Canadians (48%) feel more pressure to tip than before the pandemic, 7% feel less pressure, 31% do not perceive any change, and 13% don’t care what society expects.
Most Canadians (71%) do not anticipate changing their behaviors, but 20% anticipate tipping more than they did prior to COVID-19. Of these, 58% say tipping makes them feel happy.
Restaurants Canada reported 902,300 people were employed at restaurants in February, still more than 300,000 jobs less than pre-pandemic levels. Prior to the pandemic, Canadians saved an average of 1.4% of personal disposable income, which is less than a normal tip.
Harding is a Western Standard correspondent based in Saskatchewan