Josh Freed: Finally an issue to unite our broken world – unnecessary tips

So many of you agreed with last week’s column, it seems frustration is now the only topic bringing all Canadians together.

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I have uncovered a massive but little-known issue that is enraging and uniting all of Canada.

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Inflation? The gas shortage? climate change? Invoice 96?

nope It’s our recent frustration with the proliferation of demands to tip 15 to 30 percent on smartphone-linked credit card machines almost everywhere we go.

Well over 10,000 of you here and across Canada responded to last week’s column asking if we had reached a tipping point.

From Tofino, BC, to Saskatoon, Toronto and Montreal, we are united in frustration. Not a single author attacked or even criticized the column – the first time I’ve written something where so many agreed and nobody disagreed much.

Based on this not-so-random sample, I’d say that tipping frustration is now the one issue that unites all Canadians, perhaps the very thing that cements our nation.

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O Canada,
Our homeland and homeland,
Against unsolicited tips,
It’s time to take a stand.

Despite the general agreement, after working through over 2,000 messages, I see several different tipping tribes with views on the new tipping fad.

Reluctant Tippers: This group has always declined to tip, and will only tip appropriately when the service is “exceptional,” “exceptional,” “amazing,” or “super friendly.”

Otherwise, when asked for a tip, as Montreal-based SL says, “Just say no!”

You’re feeling a lot like Jay from London, Ontario lately: “Next time you’re confronted with machines that require tipping, approach the cashier and ask in a very loud voice, ‘So, what service have you provided that you are not being paid by your employer that deserves a tip?’ Then enter $0… and suggest everyone in the lineup do the same.”

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Just weeks ago, no one spoke to anyone in line for fear of catching COVID. Now they’re ready to join forces in a tipping rebellion in the store.

No Tax on Tips: Countless others are driven insane because card machines keep asking for a tip on the bill with taxes – “an unspeakable injustice”, says Phillip from BC

Tax anger is so great I can imagine hordes of angry customers everywhere grabbing card terminals and throwing them into the nearest river to emulate American revolutionaries spilling tea.

Then yell, “Give me freedom from GST or give me death!”

Guilty tipsters: Mostly people like me – longtime happy tippers who give 18 to 20 percent at any restaurant, even if the waiter spills soup on us.

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But even we are confused and disturbed when we are asked for large tips in everything from grocers to bakers and chandelier makers.

Many readers have recently been asked for tips by machines in dry cleaners, self-serve garages, British Columbia liquor stores and DIY yogurt pot shops.

“It won’t be long before supermarket self-service checkouts start asking for tips we have did the packing,” says one Montrealer.

Simply put by Toronto reader Robin B.: “I think a walk has to be included. Serve, not just give.”

Adds another: “You have to do something, not just give a machine that asks for a tip.”

Some, like Barbara of Saskatoon, have been asked to tip expensive online orders, with bills suggesting a tip of at least 15 percent.

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They would actually tip the robot that takes their order. Or, more likely, donating to multibillion-dollar online companies like Amazon, asking customers to subsidize low-wage workers that they could easily afford.

Ottawa’s Le Droit cartoonist Bado recently sent in a cartoon he wrote featuring people looking at 10 to 20 percent tipping options for their Rogers Blackout refund.

Many across all groups agree that service workers deserve better salaries, particularly restaurant workers, who are often paid less than minimum wage because they assume they will get tips.

Carol says: “They work long hours standing with little recognition other than when people tip them. But let’s hope they don’t get too greedy.”

I expected to be scolded for far larger tips by socialists, idealists, or a newly formed league of waiters, bakers, and grocers.

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But while numerous waiters described how hard they work for tips, almost all, like Montrealer TG, added that sellers who charge 15 percent “if they haven’t done anything” are taking it a step too far.

There was news from Sweden, Italy, England, Brazil and expat Koreans saying that service workers are better paid in their countries, where a 10 percent tip is standard and often added to the bill.

Vanessa from Stockholm says: “We don’t tip almost everywhere in Europe and that’s wonderful. People earn a decent living wage instead.

“The tipping culture in North America is uncomfortable and uncomfortable. Pay staff more, charge customers more. Period!”

If any party promises a Royal Commission Into Tipping Protocol or an appeal to the UN in the next Canadian election, I think they will sweep the country.

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Many Americans wrote in a similar way. When I’m praised by US Democrats, I’m usually roasted by Republicans, but this issue has crossed party lines. Maybe this tipping tiff could be a common ground that brings trumpers and bidenites together?

In a world beset by major problems like extreme weather, war, and inequality, we need a tiny, new, inconsequential problem to distract us.

What a luxury to talk about tipping.

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