At the Tipping Point: Intersections of Wage, Gift, and Solidarity in Halifax Restaurant Work
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Tipping is a social norm that is reinforced by many people’s regular participation in it. Through semi-structured interviews, this exploratory, qualitative study how customers, servers, and managers understand, experience, and practice tipping in Halifax. My findings show the degree to which tipping complicates the understanding of restaurant establishments. While each perspective has been studied separately, little attention has been paid to how each groups’ behaviours might impact the others’ experience. The results show that tipping pulls restaurant culture away from a purely commercial, profit-driven logic, customers away from a purely exchange driven stance, and servers away from an individual wage framework and towards profit sharing. Furthermore, findings also indicate that gender and race normativity play a role in participants’ understanding of the tip. Servers and customers can discriminate and be discriminated against based on gender and/or race through tips. Tipping illustrates the complex hierarchies and power dynamics within the institution of tipping.