Robot servers shouldn’t get a tip; Vancouverite says tipping culture is getting out of hand

A Vancouver woman says tipping expectations have gotten out of hand. She says she recently felt pressured to tip at a restaurant, despite the fact that she was served by a robot. Monika Gul has more on how tipping has changed in recent years.

British Columbians can add a tip to just about any service now, and one Vancouverite says tipping expectations are getting out of hand.

Cristina McNeilly says she recently felt pressured to leave a tip in a Vancouver restaurant, although her server was a robot.

“You served yourself because you’re taking it from the robot and putting it on your table,” McNeilly explained.

McNeilly adds that human service was minimal, so she didn’t feel like she needed to leave a tip.

But after paying, she received a surprised reaction from a staff member.

“We didn’t see the server until we flagged down [one] for our receipt, and then we went to pay, and she said, ‘you don’t tip?’ and I said ‘how do you tip a robot?'”

McNeilly isn’t the only one who feels tipping has gone too far.

One person told CityNews they can feel pressed to leave a tip when ordering something small like a drink.

“The prompt comes up and you kind of feel guilty about it, but then you’re like eh… all you did was pour me a coffee,” they said.

Another local echos this sentiment, saying adding a tip for service can feel like it’s being “forced upon us.”

A tip machine prompts customers to pay a variety of percentages. (Monika Gul/CityNews)

“Some of them start at 18, 20, 25 per cent, and that’s just ludicrous as far as I’m concerned,” another person added.

Simon Pek, an associate professor of business at the University of Victoria, says two tipping trends have been gaining traction over the last few years.

“The first is that we’re being prompted to tip in a much larger array of context,” Pek said.

He says prompts for tips have popped up in a myriad of places, including some fast-food restaurants, retail establishments, and also liquor stores, adding that on top of tips being asked for in more places, the amount expected has also increased.

“The prompts for the size of the tip are getting higher and higher,” he explained.

But prompting for tips doesn’t happen everywhere, with one Vancouver business going so far as not to accept tips at all.

The co-owner of Folke Restaurant, a vegan eatery that opened over the summer, says they chose to take a non-traditional route.

Pricilla Deo says Folke’s employees don’t need tips because they pay everyone a fair salary with benefits.

“When we came up with the idea for Folke, we wanted it to be a really collaborative team environment, and we decided to just eliminate tipping culture altogether,” she said.

Deo says staff shouldn’t have to rely on tips to make enough money.

“It shouldn’t be up to a guest to determine how much our staff makes. That’s really our responsibility as business owners,” she explained.

She says a lot of diners don’t know Folke’s is a no-tipping restaurant, and are pleasantly surprised, and sometimes a little suspicious, at the end of their meals.

“We do have people who try to hide it underneath napkins or like leave us cash sneakily,” she said.

Pek says tipping is a serious policy issue and adds the future of it remains in the hands of the government.

“If there’s action taken to try to sort through whether people should be tipping in Canada, and if so, how and under what circumstances? There’s a chance that we can sort out what role tipping will have. But I fear that if there won’t be that serious policy attention paid to it, we can just see these trends being further amplified with us being prompted to tip in more contexts and to be tipping more and more money.”

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