Beware of blowing out your budget

Jean is about to jet off to Canada and wants to know if tipping there is the same as in the US. Today, we explain the gratuities in the Great White North and share a simple tipping video.

Q. Jean
I’ve read your stories about Canada and booked my flights to visit the polar bears and see the Northern Lights this Canadian winter. I do have a budget and want to know if I need to set some money aside for tipping, as they say you should do when visiting the US. Some of my friends have been to Canada and they said you don’t need to tip, but I have read elsewhere that you do. Can you clear that up for me?

A. The tipping situation in Canada is similar to that of the US. Sure, you don’t have to tip, but most hospitality workers are on a minimum wage and rely on tips to make a decent living. Your friends who didn’t tip probably weren’t aware that many restaurants charge their staff a service tax (yep, you read that right), which is an eight per cent take on a waiter’s gross sales for the day. This means the waiter actually had to pay to serve you.

Also, it’s common practice for wait staff to have to ‘tip out’ at the end of each shift, meaning they are required to give a percentage of total sales to cover tips for hostesses, bussers, and similar service staff. This happens regardless of whether you tip or not.

Sounds a bit unfair, right?

So, most waiters hope for a tip between 15 and 20 per cent (before tax), to cover this fee and to make ends meet. If you receive excellent service, perhaps you might tip more or, if your waiter was substandard, a little less.

It’s also nice to tip your hotel staff. Canadians are known for being uber-polite – you may have heard the old saying, “how can you tell the difference between a Canadian and an American? The Canadian says please and thank you”. This means that the staff will often refuse tips but, although often unsaid, still highly appreciate it if you insist.

The same goes for taxis, tour guides and drivers – in fact, most service providers will be very grateful for a 10 per cent tip.

It all may sound a bit confusing, so to help matters, Ryan has created a special video, that shows you the basics of tipping in Canada.

Just a few things to add:

  • you don’t have to tip for counter service – it’s your choice and you won’t be judged for not doing so
  • when a gratuity is automatically charged, you don’t have to tip over and above this amount
  • if the service is not worth a tip, don’t tip
  • if the food is bad, remember, it’s not the waiter’s fault and it’s unfair to penalise them for the cook’s poor performance
  • when leaving tips for housekeeping staff, write a thank you note on hotel stationery and place the money underneath.

So, that’s tipping in a nutshell. Hope it helps!

Have you been to Canada? How did you find the ‘tipping thing’?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.