Here's when and how much you should tip in Canada, according to an expert

Here’s when and how much you should tip in Canada, according to an expert

If you’ve ever hesitated to enter a tip when paying, you’re not alone.

Tipping in Canada for certain services can be a tricky topic, and even knowing when it is or isn’t appropriate to leave a tip can sometimes be confusing.

Do you tip when you get coffee? If the screen asks you to tip when you take out, is it rude not to? What if your server spills spaghetti on you?

To address some of these concerns, Narcity Canada recently chatted with etiquette expert Lisa Orr to find out the dos and don’ts around tipping that will help you avoid discomfort the next time you’re seated.

Did you ever have tip?

“The one time I would say it’s really non-negotiable — and if you can’t afford it, you shouldn’t be going there — is in the context of a restaurant,” Orr said.

She explained that unless you plan to leave somewhere between 15 and 20%, you shouldn’t eat out.

“That’s the expectation and it’s part of how people in the restaurant industry make a living wage,” she said. “So that’s the only place where I think it’s really socially non-negotiable.

How much should you tip for a meal when dining at a restaurant?

If you’ve had a good meal and want to leave a good tip, the standard is now 18%, Orr said, whereas it used to be 15%.

She continued: “15% is the lowest, 18% is good, 20% is excellent. There can be a range depending on where you live – I’ve seen as high as 22%.”

Orr added that if you’re not satisfied with your service, it’s still not a good idea to tip below 15%, as it’s passed on to “all the other people who were behind the scenes delivering your food.”

Instead, he recommends that you simply don’t go back to that restaurant or talk to the manager.

Do you have to tip when you get takeout?

“It’s probably optional because it’s not service related,” Orr explained.

“So my personal view is that I’m not going to leave a number like 15, 18 or 20% because it’s tied to a lot of other things — it’s desk service, there’s a lot of different things involved.”

“But if it’s a great location and depending on how big the job is, I can leave 5%, maybe 10%,” she said. “It could be a dollar.

Even if you don’t have to leave anything, Orr says it’s nice to give something as recognition if the takeout is done well, such as when the service is good, when the food is well packaged, and when your order is ready on time.

If you’re at a coffee shop and wondering if you should tip, regardless of whether or not you’re checking in, it’s again up to you.

“For me, if it’s a coffee shop that I know and I know the barista and I’d like to leave something extra, I’ll leave a little bit extra, but it’s optional,” Orr said. “It’s not necessary if the service wasn’t there.”

Is it rude to have a payment gateway ask you for a tip?

“I’m not guilty [businesses] for asking,” Orr said. “I think it’s more about technology not necessarily matching how we behave. And so I think it creates a contradiction because we’re saying, ‘Well, I thought I knew how to behave, but this technology is telling me that maybe I’m being rude.’

That being said, you can always say no, although as Canadians, “we’re very good at guilt,” notes Orr.

“I think it just stresses us out a little bit because we feel like if someone asks me, I have to do something about it,” she said.

“And that’s something they count on there as a trade that you might be socially uncomfortable and then give more money.”

Nails, hair, eyelashes, what is the appropriate percentage to tip there?

While some personal care places have a prompt on their machine that gives you a number, Orr says he tends to tip around 10% of the area, but notes that it depends on the situation.

“If you have a very expensive service, that can be a really big number, so it can become a dollar figure that’s appropriate,” she said.

Likewise, if you’re going to a new place, you can always do some research ahead of time on what an appropriate tip amount is – for example, searching the internet or asking friends and family.

“You can always ask the technician,” suggests Orr. “You can say, ‘I want to leave a tip, I’m not sure what the standard is here, could you give me some guidance?’

What should newcomers or visitors know about tipping in Canada?

“That it’s complicated,” she said with a laugh.

Unfortunately, we have a very indirect culture in Canada and do not make it clear how much you are expected to tip and where you are expected to tip.

“Restaurants are mandatory,” Orr said. “Everywhere else, know that a tip may be expected, and if you can, try to get some information from personal care and food services.”

“Do your best to get advice from people who have recommended you or places you’ve researched. And if you’re not sure, feel free to ask!”

Are there any tipping faux pas that everyone should avoid?

Orr says not tipping in places where it’s mandatory is a big no-no.

“Even if you’re not happy with the service, even if the service spills food on you, I don’t care what it is. […] it’s part of the cost of the food,” she explained.

If you’re concerned about whether or not you should leave a tip, she says it’s always better to leave one.

“If it’s someone you enjoyed working with and you never tip them, they may not enjoy working with you and may not feel appreciated for the work they do for you,” she noted.

“So if you want to make sure you get an appointment on Friday afternoon or with your nail technician, or if you want to make sure your coffee is always ready when you order—a little tip, a little recognition, can increase your chances to get the service you want when you want it.”

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.


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