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Last month, I spent $230 CAD at a restaurant. Yesterday I spent $150 CAD at another restaurant. Both high-priced restaurants in Toronto accept just cash or debit, no credit. I'm using final prices, after tax and gratuity. I'm just talking about Visa or Mastercard – I know many merchants in Canada don't accept AMEX.

I hadn't come across restaurants in Canada that don't accept credit cards before – even fast food in Canada do! Hence it didn't cross my mind to ask up front. Then when the bill arrived, I had to leave the restaurant, hunt for a branch of my credit union, drive there, drive back to restaurant.

Their no credit card policy be-deviled me, and I tipped just 5% in total. The manager in a black suit then riled up, and insisted that I pay at least 10% tip. I stressed that it was nothing personal – their no credit card policy was the pickle. But he blamed me for not asking if they accept CCs before I ordered. Who's right here?

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    Who provided the waiter service to your table? Who set the credit card policy at the restaurant? How would you feel if you were punished for someone else's decision? – Harper - Reinstate Monica Dec 14 '19 at 17:30
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    One of the two restaurant visits doesn't seem relevant to this question. – chepner Dec 14 '19 at 19:45
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    While a reasonable question in general, I'm baffled that this is not closed as off-topic. The principles of tipping are entirely cultural and have nothing to do with personal finances. – Dancrumb Dec 15 '19 at 16:21
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    Just so you know, a fast-food restaurant accepting credit cards is not the same as an expensive restaurant not doing the same. A fast-food restaurant chain has more leverage with credit card companies and so it can negotiate a better rate/better terms with them. – Stephan Branczyk Dec 16 '19 at 0:24
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    @TamaraMilanovic You can just say that - the business names and ethnicity references make this question unncessarily specific – GS - Apologise to Monica Dec 16 '19 at 6:58

11 Answers 11

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Everyone here is claiming that your actions didn't hurt the manager-- but under Canadian law, they absolutely can.

Managers are allowed to keep the tips and gratuities they receive themselves, and generally may participate in tip pooling arrangements if their employers’ policy permits them to do so.

Employers are allowed to keep the tips and other gratuities that they receive themselves.

I'd be willing to bet he was collecting tips and retaining them for himself in some way.

I couldn't find Canadian minimum wage laws in my quick-and-short google search (hopefully they're better than they are here in the States), but in America there is a policy that essentially says, "You can pay tipped employees less than minimum wage. However, if that wage + their tips doesn't total out to be greater than or equal to the minimum wage, the business is responsible for making up the difference." This allows businesses to pay their employees less if you make up the difference for them, so their workers only set them back a $2.50/hour instead of the mandatory minimum (those numbers obviously vary regionally).

EDIT: Per the comments below, Canadian minimum wage tipped services law IS different (and better than) American minimum wage tipped services law. An individual working a tipped position will receive their tips in addition to minimum wage, and it will not be counted as part of the minimum wage payment. Employees in the liquor serving industry (IE bartenders) may apparently earn less than minimum wage due to the tipping, but this appears to be the only exception. (credit to @RossRidge)

I really hate the tipping system and wish there was a decent way to do away with it, but sadly, there isn't. At the end of the day-- as much of a jerk as the manager was, and as likely as the manager was to have taken at least a cut of the tips-- this does still impact the cooks and servers more heavily than it does the manager, and it probably comprises a greater percentage of their supplemental wages. As others have said, it's emotional blackmail. You're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

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    Actually there is a really easy way to do away with it - make it law that everyone must be paid minimum wage, and that tips are on top of that. And preferably they go only to the actual wait staff. – DJClayworth Dec 13 '19 at 22:12
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    There is no tipping in Japan so how can you say there is no way to do away with the tipping system? – Kenshin Dec 14 '19 at 7:50
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    Tipping in most of Europe is extremely discretionary. You add a tip only if you got excellent service. It's only US and Canada that have this antiquated system, left over from the days when the poor could expect to be paid from the spare change of the rich. – DJClayworth Dec 14 '19 at 19:23
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    This (currently highest voted) answer and a number of others miss a significant point, which is, in my opinion, correctly noted in rbrtl's answer: credit cards are ubiquitous and you can generally expect them to be accepted. If the policy of not taking cc was not communicated to the customer before ordering, it is solely the restaurant's fault -- in this case, the waiter's. In such circumstances I wouldn't leave a tip either. – Gnudiff Dec 16 '19 at 8:31
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    @gerrit No, they deserve a good salary. – jcaron Dec 16 '19 at 9:12
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There are a lot of answers here gatekeeping the employers responsibilities to the staff, and passing them on to the customer. It is not a consumers business or responsibility to pay staff wages. It's a pernicious tradition in North America that people who work hospitality jobs are entitled to a pay bump fronted by the customers of whatever entity pays their actual wage.

The proprietor of the establishment has made a business decision not to accept credit cards at their place of business. The staff should clearly communicate that decision, particularly if it is not a well assumed fact, to the customers at the point of order/consumption so that the customer has a chance to make an informed decision about their purchase from the business.

If the customer is unhappy with the service or product they have been provided, which in this instance includes the method of payment causing a disturbance to their evening because they had to source different means to pay. It is always a bad idea to blame a customer for an internal matter because you will almost certainly lose at least one customer.

The blame in this situation lies squarely on the shoulders of the proprietor of the restaurant. It is up to their staff to communicate the effects on the business of management decisions. In the world of public corporations it would be a disciplinary offence to berate a customer for executing a contract as stated because it negatively affected your compensation from your job. It would almost certainly mean jail time if you demanded that they pay over the contract amount to line your pocket.

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Disclaimer: I live in Europe where we pay people at least minimum wage regardless of whether they get tipped or not. Tipping is not in our culture and leaving pennies or even nothing on the table as a tip is fine in most circumstances.

Tipping is not mandatory anywhere, it is only customary and I know that in North America that custom feels like an obligation but it still isn't one. If it were, it wouldn't be up to you to set the amount and it would appear directly on the bill.

Going a bit off topic but I would also add that it's a custom that a lot of restaurants use to hide behind the fact that they're paying their staff less than minimum wage which is outrageous to me. Restaurants should pay their employees fairly without relying on a tipping custom that customers may or may not uphold.

The amount you give as a tip is left to your discretion and your discretion alone. You decide what to give based on whatever criteria you may deem worthy. If you want to give 5%, then give that. If someone complains, you could actually take it all back and give nothing instead.

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    actually they ARE paying at least minimum wage. if the salary + tips combined isn't enough to cover minimum wage, then the employer has to pay the difference. – hanshenrik Dec 16 '19 at 9:18
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    @hanshenrik I believe in OP's jurisdiction they need to pay minimum wage regardless, though they can implement tip-pooling. – JMac Dec 16 '19 at 14:04
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    @hanshenrik such system invites a lot of abuse. Like in this case, the manager doesn't actually want to pay their employees the minimum wage. So they're fighting in any way they can for the customer to leave a tip. – kiradotee Dec 16 '19 at 18:50
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What you did is perfectly fine. This way the staff, at all levels, will be motivated to raise this issue with their managers, which might lead to a change of this stupid policy.

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You've attempted to affect change in the wrong part of the process.

You tip based on the service that you received during the meal. If the (related, but tangential) service of paying is not a pleasant experience, insist on seeing a manager and then air your grievances. With enough wit (see interpersonal.SE), you may be able to get some of the cost of the bill waived — perhaps the drinks or apps are on the house. But, you'd still tip your server appropriately based on the mealtime service that you received.

It's important to set your sights in the right direction in order to avoid impacting the wrong people.

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    It doesn't sound like this manager would be receptive to that. If he complains about the size of the tip I don't see him reducing the bill. – DJClayworth Dec 16 '19 at 19:25
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    The tip reflects the customer's whole experience provided by the restaurant. If that experience is negative, the customer is justified in reducing the tip. – Jordan Rieger Dec 16 '19 at 20:03
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    If an idiot manager harms the restaurant and the staff due to being aggressive towards customers (thereby losing customers and customers paying less tips), it's not the customer's responsibility. It's like if a beggar said to you: "give me money or else I'll beat my children!" If you don't give him money and he beats his children, who is more responsible for the harm? You or the beggar? – vsz Dec 17 '19 at 7:19
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I agree with the other posters that to reduce the tips (supposedly given to servers) because of an incovenient policy is poor judgement. You should not have done that.

Also, if you were able to get cash out of an ATM, you were almost certainly able to use that card to pay the bill, making the level of inconvenience very low. Every credit union cash card I know of is also an Interac debit card.

However tips are always optional, and a reward for service. Being yelled at by a manager is poor service. If he had done that to me I would have reduced the tip to zero.

Note: It is likely that the manager was upset not so much out of concern for his staff, but because he has to make up the wages of his staff to minimum level if they don't get enough tips.

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    The manager is not the one providing service - the wait staff and the kitchen are. Cutting the tip does not impact the manager at all, as other answers have correctly pointed out. – Zibbobz Dec 13 '19 at 19:53
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    The manager is part of the service. Chewing out your customers for not doing something that is entirely optional shows a remarkable lack of customer skills. – DJClayworth Dec 13 '19 at 19:56
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    P.S. This sort of scenario is just one of the many reasons why the tipping culture in North America should be killed with extreme prejudice. – DJClayworth Dec 13 '19 at 19:57
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    It is entirely normal, both in the US and Canada, that tips are "shared" with staff other than the waiter, sometimes including managers, and sometimes including the restaurant. And restaurants are sometimes compelled to make wait staff wages up to minimum wage, which means that low tips costs them money. – DJClayworth Dec 13 '19 at 20:34
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    I have a Visa credit card which I can use for cash at an ATM. I cannot use it as a debit card. – WGroleau Dec 15 '19 at 4:21
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It is written on the menu that Lobster Port No.1 does not accept credit cards. Arguably it is small print at the end of the menu but it is there.

Form of payment: Debit card and Cash only

https://www.lobsterportone.com/dinner-1

I think this may be a bit of a clash between "regular" Canadian norms and Chinese Canadian norms regarding credit cards, particularly as you seem to have happened across it in two different restaurants.

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    I wonder how often they have people come in, order a meal expecting to pay for it with a credit card, eat it, and then discover that the restaurant won't take their card and they don't have enough cash. (I hardly ever have more than $150 in my wallet, and I'm hardly poor.) Seems like a money-losing policy. – jamesqf Dec 14 '19 at 17:39
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    IMO they should warn patrons verbally before they're seated. If certainly leave a 1-star rating if this happened to me. – JonathanReez Dec 14 '19 at 23:01
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    Hence why I suggest it could be a cultural thing. I would not be surprised if a restaurant in China didn't take cards. – Ivan McA Dec 16 '19 at 4:40
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    @JonathanReezSupportsMonica I do exactly that for every store and restaurant that doesn't accept debit or credit cards. +1 – towe Dec 16 '19 at 15:02
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You were understandably frustrated and within your rights to do as you did. Additionally, it wasn't the manager's role necessarily to demand what tip, if any, you give. As most are pointing out, though, you've punished the workers who at worst made the mistake of accepting work from this company.

One path you might have chosen was to tip as you would have outside of the payment experience, then discuss with the manager how it impacted you and how it will factor into your future plans to dine at that establishment.

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By not accepting credit cards, the restaurant saved about 2-3% of your bill in merchant fees. Most retailers bake that into their prices, so it's not obvious to consumers. In this case, either the restaurant charges lower prices, or increases their profit margin.

Neither of those hurt you directly (you were inconvenienced by not being able to use the card you want to use), but reducing your tip does not hurt the owner - it hurts the server (and probably other support staff as GEB points out).

If you have a problem with this policy, leave an extra 2-3% tip (the amount you might have saved by the lower prices), and let the management know that you won't be returning. That's how you influence the owners.

To prevent being inconvenienced in the future, either call ahead to see if they accept credit cards or carry around a debit card or spare cash.

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    What is the benefit of leaving an extra 2-3% tip in this reasoning? – Kendall Lister Dec 14 '19 at 2:38
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    It's like telling a dog "you've been very very naughty" with a smiling face and a happy voice. – Eric Duminil Dec 15 '19 at 8:31
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    @EricDuminil The server did nothing wrong in this scenario. If the server did a good job, leave them a good tip and complain to the management. Stiffing the server is like kicking the cat because the dog messed the floor. – D Stanley Dec 15 '19 at 14:23
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    @DStanley: I'm afraid your point of view is a bit too naive. You can be pretty sure that complaints to management will be forwarded down to the staff. Tips given to management might not trickle down to servers, though. – Eric Duminil Dec 15 '19 at 14:51
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    Giving a company extra money to suggest that you dislike their business practices will not be very effective in terms of having them change their business practices. – GreySage Dec 16 '19 at 16:31
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It's actually pretty simple, but everyone conflates two aspects: 1) A company can determine what type of valid payment they accept (within limits). It is up to you to make sure that you have a matching way to pay. Being angry for not being able to pay with credit card is totally on you. Don't be such an angry person, consider to check in advance. There are good reasons to not accept certain card systems, as they often come with additional cost for the business owner.

2) There is no legal tipping lower limit, so the manager demanding you pay a certain amount of tip is unreasonable on his part and yes, pretty insulting. That is, unless they clearly state that a 10% tip is to be added to the bill in general, i.e. it's a general service fee rather than a tip (then he should point that out).

So it seems we have two people who just want it their ways locked horns here.

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    They whould ensure people know payment methods available, tough. For example in Italy business owners have to accept CCs. – beppe9000 Dec 16 '19 at 2:35
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    @beppe9000 Can you back that up? All information I find is just that it is common for some types of businesses to accept some types of credit cards, e.g. "Virtually all midrange and top-end hotels accept credit cards, as do most restaurants and large shops. Some cheaper pensioni (pensions), trattorias and pizzerias only accept cash. Don’t rely on credit cards at smaller museums or galleries", from here lonelyplanet.com/italy/a/nar-gr/money-and-costs/359845 – Frank Hopkins Dec 16 '19 at 12:34
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    @beppe9000 and some other comment pointed actually out the restaurant had it even in fine-print. My main point however, credit cards are not commonly a payment anyone has to accept. They come with additional fees and are a privately organized payment option, so it is on the customer to make sure this way to pay is supported. – Frank Hopkins Dec 16 '19 at 12:35
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    "That is, unless they clearly state that a 10% tip is to be added to the bill in general, i.e. it's a general service fee rather than a tip (then he should point that out)." In these cases, the gratuity is included as a line-item on the bill and cannot be subverted by the customer. – Cruncher Dec 16 '19 at 17:32
  • @FrankHopkins the Monti government introduced that in 2014 with the approval of decree-law n. 179/2012 in order to steer people towards electronic payment, which in turn would result in a reduction of tax evasion. After various modifications (latest: Balance Law in 2016) business owners have to offer the option to use a CC for transactions greater than 5€. The fun thing is that having a penalty for lack of compliance was deemed unconstitutional because of article 23 of the constitution. In practical terms that means that most of shops in cities have a POS but some don't because of commissions. – beppe9000 Dec 18 '19 at 17:26
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I used to work at a small but successful deli right off the Main tourist street of a small historic downtown area. The owner did not take credit cards either, but had an ATM about 10 feet from the register. The ATM charged $3 for each transaction. You know damn well everyone knew exactly what he was doing- almost half of the customers would walk up to the register to pay and were then informed of the no credit card policy. Many of them protested, a few got really angry. A few refused to use that ATM and would instead walk 2 blocks down to the BoA to use the free ATM. Now a server always prefers cash tips to credit tips, the latter having to be reported as income, but I guarantee this ATM was not put there to encourage additional cash tips. As I had no metric to determine whether or not one would make more tips if we had accepted cards, I really can't say whether the policy helped or hurt the staff. I would only hope that the customers disdain for an obvious ploy to cheat people out of $3 additional dollars, in a time when taking credit cards was pretty much universally accepted, would not cause them to take it out on the person who served them.

(Granted the tips were a lot lower there than at a fine dining restaurant; a $5 tip would be considered good for a 1-top. At a nice place like where OP went, a $5 tip would be an insult- even more so than simply leaving nothing. Remember the redneck in the movie "Waiting"?)

As a former server, I can only say please, never penalize the server for something they cannot control.

Regarding that place, they likely get less charges in merchant fees when they run cards as debit. They might even have the option to take credit cards, but they just tell people that they cant to save money.

So to answer your question- so long as we have determined that is is NOT the server's fault, I would say the market dictates who is right and who is wrong here. If the majority of the restaurants in that area all accept credit, and this place is the one exception, then its their fault. However if there really is no set standard, and half do take credit and half do not, for example, then its your fault.

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    Aa a new customer I would expect to be explicitly warned, unless no shops in area accept cc. Same about cards in general, especially in a first world country. – Gnudiff Dec 16 '19 at 11:10
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    @Gnudiff coming from a first world country, I would never expect any shop/restaurant to accept credit cards unless they advertise so (or I clarified). It's not the official currency and costs additional fees, so a service on their end. I would consider it normal in hotels due to their international target audience and the fact that you typically have to use one for reservation anyway, which is a big enough indicator. – Frank Hopkins Dec 16 '19 at 12:44
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    @FrankHopkins Of course it is the official currency, it's almost 2020. – towe Dec 16 '19 at 15:11
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    @towe arguing with "modern times" would mean we all use bitcoin or the like^^ And credit cards surely are no currency. Same with Paypal etc. They are widely used, that doesn't make them an official payment option anyone has to support. – Frank Hopkins Dec 16 '19 at 18:03

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