Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Tipping: Is it really necessary?

It is customary for customers to tip approximately 15% on the total bill before tax, and 20% for exceptional service. Tipping is personal and if 10% is your personal choice then tip 10%; but 15% is customary and (rightly or wrongly) that is what is expected.


Many restaurants may charge an automatic 15% or more gratuity for larger groups. This is up to the individual establishment but it is usually applicable to groups of 8 or more. Some restaurants also ‘auto-gratis’ groups of people from countries that don't normally tip. A ‘tip’ for calculating the appropriate tip at a restaurant is simply to multiply the 5% GST (Goods and Services Tax) amount shown on the bill by three times 5% which comes to 15%. The GST has been replaced by the HST. In British Columbia (12%), Ontario (13%) and the Atlantic provinces (13% to 15%) and depending on the amount, it may be easy to round up to 15%.

In hotels

It is a good idea to tip in hotels. Tipping at hotels does not stop with the hotel staff that brings baggage to a guest room. For example, if the valet service is used to park a car, it is customary to leave a tip. However, if you are in and out with your vehicle several times a day, many valets will not expect a tip each time. When they refuse to accept the tip, it is a nice touch to leave a little extra on their next tip. It is also appreciated when a tip is left for your hotel room attendant. One idea is to write “Thank You” on a notepad and leave the tip there. Also, if the hotel concierge does something extra, such as securing theatre tickets for you it is the usual practice to leave a tip for that service.

For other services

Tipping is also customary for other service providers such as hairdressers, manicurists, aestheticians and taxi drivers. I don’t think a barber should be tipped unless he has done a complicated hair style. In these cases the percentage of tip is really up to the individual, but 10% minimum is generally acceptable to cab drivers especially if they lift a heavy suitcase out of the trunk.

This brings to mind four incidents in my life with respect to tipping.

The first one took place in Laguna Beach, California where my mother was living and working as a hairdresser in a hair salon in the 1950s. I was visiting her and she wanted to meet me at the bus station but a customer of hers asked her to remain in the salon and do her hair. She told my mother that she would give her a nice tip if she did her hair instead of leaving the salon to greet me at the bus depot. Now my mother was a very respected hair stylist and was no slouch when it came to doing women’s hair. When she completed the task, the woman handed my mother a 25-cent coin. My mother was so incensed, she handed it back to the woman with a comment that could be heard throughout the salon. “My dear, if I had known that you were a welfare recipient, I would never have accepted your tip of twenty-five cents. Here. Please take it back. You obviously need it more than I do.” Needless to say, the woman never returned to the salon which obviously pleased my mother to no end.

The second time was in the 1970s when my mother visited my wife and me and took us to a nearby restaurant. When she was given the bill, she noticed that the restaurant had included the tip in the bill. My mother told the manager that she preferred to choose the amount of her own tip and added that she and my family would never return to the restaurant again. We never did return to it.

The third time was when I was in Naples, Italy and hired a taxi to take me to the foot of Mt. Vesuvius. When I returned to the base of the volcano, he was waiting for me. He also had three other people in the cab. He told me that they were his friends. After he took them to their homes (they didn’t give him any money) he took me to the train station. I paid his fare and then he asked me for a tip. I told him that his tip was him taking his friends to their homes on my dime.

The fourth time was when my wife and I took a cruise on a cruise ship in the 1990s. We were informed by the firm that owned the cruise ships that a certain addition to our fare would be applied to tips. In the past, we gave generous tips to the man who prepared our stateroom each day and to the waiter who waited on us in the evening. I wrote the owners of the cruise ships that I would not sail on their ships if they insisted in taking money from us with respect to tips. I personally felt that the tips we gave were sufficient and generous to boot and that adding tips as part of the fare was insulting as I felt that I didn’t owe anything to the captain or the engineer or the electrician etc as they are paid well enough. The owners wrote back and told me that the proposed tips were not mandatory and that when we board the ship and meet with the purser, we will be asked to sign a form stating that we don’t wish to have the tips added to our bill. Many of the people on board didn’t know this and I passed this information to the man standing behind me and he was grateful for the information.

In some tourist destinations, ‘tips jars’ have started appearing in places that provide counter service such as coffee shops, ice cream shops, cafeterias etc., and even in some retail stores. Foreign visitors who are unaccustomed to touring in Canada may feel that this means that Canadians would normally provide a tip, but that is not so. It is definitely not necessary to tip for counter service, and it is definitely not customary to tip the clerk in retail stores. Whether you put money in such a ‘tips jar’ is entirely a choice made by the customer and it would not be considered as being rude if he or she chooses not to.

Tipping should be your choice

Aside from situations in which a gratuity is charged by the establishment you have been served by, remember that tipping is your choice. It is common to tip in restaurants, but it is not required. It is not as common for other service providers (hairdressers, manicurists, etc.) but again, it is your choice. Overall, waitresses and waiters and other staff in restaurants are not paid very well in Canada and other countries and many of them rely on tips from their customers. However, tipping is up to the customer. Sometimes the service is worth a tip, but other times it is not. I personally feel that if a person wants to work in a restaurant for low wages (and many of them do) they shouldn’t expect us to subsidize their wages.

If you have a bad restaurant experience, however, many people—especially those in the food service industry—feel quite strongly that refusing to tip is not a fair way to respond. If food is bad, why should the server be punished by giving her or him no tip? If the service is slow because the kitchen is slow, it is unfair to not tip the server.

If on the other hand, a server is rude to you, you should do more than just withhold a tip. If your experience was so poor that you are considering not leaving any tip, consider speaking to a manager instead. Most managers want to know about problems so they have an opportunity to make things better for their customers. That could extend to offering you a free meal, which is a much better solution. That has happened to my wife when the chicken was under-cooked. Naturally, complaints about a dish which you ate (even though you didn't like it) lack credibility. However if the food is bad, tell your server (or, if necessary, the manager) about it immediately.

I have recently learned that in some restaurants, the server is required to ‘tip out’—that is, to give a percentage of his/her total sales to cover tips for hostesses, bussers and similar service staff. This happens regardless of what level of tip he or she received from the patron, because it's based on sales, not on tips. If a patron chooses not to tip, the server still has to tip those other support workers. So by choosing not to tip, patrons may actually cost the server money from his or her own pocket. I think that practice is very wrong. I can however see that the tips she received might be shared by others however, I don’t think the cook should get a part of the tips because the cooks are generally well paid.

I really hate tipping of any sort and I wish the practice didn’t exist. Don’t get me wrong, I tip at restaurants if the service was really exceptional, (which is rare) but I don’t feel that I should tip simply because the waitress or waiter brought me my food and my bill. The bill I have to pay should be sufficient enough to be used in part to pay the servers a decent wage.

I’ve heard that tipping is a way to make up for a lack of a decent wage for waiters, delivery persons etc who have to work hard. My question is why can’t they get paid a market rate like everyone else? The answer is probably because they receive tips. The issue just goes back and forth.

Another reason I’ve heard is that you should tip for good service. My question is, if the person is just doing their job properly then why do you have to pay extra?

Most workers get compensated for doing a good or exceptional job by raises, promotions or bonuses which they get from their employer. I realize this compensation gets passed back to the consumer and I’m fine with that. I’d rather that food prices in restaurants go up 10% to pay for a better wage for workers (if the wages are too low). I also haven’t noticed any correlation between tipping and service. It’s probably because most servers expect a tip.

Restaurant servers and bartenders, delivery workers are the biggest recipients of tips. But if you tip a bartender for grabbing a beer and removing the cap for you, why don’t you tip the person who works at the beer store who has to go into the back and grab the beer? What about gas stations attendants who actually pump the gas into your tank albeit that is rare nowadays? What about the postman? Do you give them a tip for making safely it to your house that day?

Should you tip if you get great customer service on the phone? And what about the ten year old kid in Asia who spent part of his 12 hour work day on your new running shoes, did anyone tip him? I just can’t understand why some people get tips and others don’t.

In Australia, there are no tips in restaurants. However in Australia they get around the tip payments by including both tips and taxes in the menu price so whatever the menu price is, you have paid the taxes and the tips also.

When you go to the dentist/doctor, do you give them a tip? What about his or her receptionist? If they do a great job do you reward them with a little extra? Do you tip your bus/street car driver?

And what about social situations where you have a group bill and different people want to tip different amounts? I personally think that 10% of the gross bill is sufficient, but many times I’ve been in the situation where I’m out with friends and the bill might be much more.

Never mind the fact that the amount they put in doesn’t always correspond to the amount of tip they think we should be leaving. Do I have to put in extra money to make up for the fact that someone else wants to overtip? Do they have to put in extra to make up for the lesser amount of my tip?

There you have it. It’s my tips on tipping.


Dalton McGuinty, the premier of Ontario stated in June 2012 that he feels that tips should not be passed on to the managers and owners of restaurants and bars from their servers. He said in part; "It's about providing a little bit of extra income to those who wait on the tables. I think we should have a law that reflects that." unquote

Linda Jeffery, Ontario's Minister of Labour had a different vierw when she said that it was legal for owners to take a percentage of tips so long as that was made clear when the waitresses and waiters were hired. That is absolute nonsence. The premier was not pleased and ordered this stupid woman to re-consider the NDP bill that is advocating what the premier is advocating.

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