You’ve just enjoyed a fantastic meal at a swanky restaurant, and what made a good thing great was the polite and accommodating server, whose attention to detail turned a rather ordinary occasion special.
To say thanks, you heap on a nice tip, hoping the server appreciates you as much as you appreciated her.
But what if some of the cash went to the owner or manager of the restaurant? What if servers were forced to turn over part of their hard-earned tips to their bosses, who lined their pockets with money you believed was going to the guy or gal who made the meal memorable?
Believe it or not, that sort of thing is fairly common in B.C. In Ontario, NDP finance critic Michael Prue has been pushing a private member’s bill to make the practice illegal — and he’s getting plenty of support all the way around for the proposed Protecting Employees’ Tips Act.
“Everybody believes if we go to a restaurant and we put down a tip it is never part of our understanding that’s going to go to the owner or management,” agreed Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.
“It’s about providing a little bit of extra income to those people who wait on the tables or share with the bus boys or whoever. I think that’s the implicit understanding we have as consumers, and I think we should have a law that reflects that.”
In April, the CBC told the story of a Vancouver restaurant server who filed a complaint with the B.C. Employment Standards Branch after her bosses demanded she turn over her tips when she was finished working each night. The single mom said she ended up with only $124 out of a total of $320 in tips after paying a so-called “house charge.”
In B.C., employees who serve alcohol as part of the job can be paid $9 an hour, more than a dollar an hour less than others who make minimum wage. The rationale behind the discrepancy is that servers who sling booze make up the difference (and sometimes more) in tips.
What a disappointment it is to learn that some restaurant owners are taking a share. And according to at least two servers who spoke to The Daily News this week, it’s more common than many of us might believe.
Some bosses say they take a cut of the tips to pay for spillage, breakage, or to offset losses due to customers who dine and dash. But according to B.C. labour law, management cannot use tips to pay for normal business costs
But they can — legally — take a share of the tips.
In B.C., tips are not considered wages. So employers can require servers to pool their tips to be split among those who normally don’t receive them — and that can include the owner of the establishment.
It’s time for Prue-style legislation to put a stop to the practice here. Our servers deserve better.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by editor Robert Koopmans, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, news editor Mike Cornell or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.