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Do Canadians generally tip 15-20%

I assume tipping in Canada is similar to the States, but I wanted to be sure that it isn't more like Europe.

Don't wanna be an Ugly American...


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    1. That's the norm. No worries.

      1. I'm surprised to hear that. My waiter friends here in Honolulu find that the majority of Canadian's they serve tend to tip very sparingly or not at all (10% or less). Must be they think its not an American custom?

        12 Replies
        1. re: KaimukiMan

          Not sure what the exact tax percentage is in Hawaii, but in general, taxes are much higher in Canada. Perhaps people are using a tipping system based on taxes in Canda -- ie. American way of doubling the tax for the tip. Maybe the system works out well in Canada, but doesn't work here in the States.

          1. re: Miss Needle

            I will tip on the total - before taxes. I will also use my discretion to tip more or less if I've had horrible or amazing service. I always like to reward great service.

            I won't mind you, tip less if the food was poor - that has nothing to do with my server.

            1. re: Miss Needle

              People only double the tax to figure the tip in certain US states, where the sales tax is ~8% or so. Many states have much lower sales tax, or none at all, so that principle is both unheard of and inappropriate.

              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                I used the double the tax as an example to illustrate a point.

                1. re: Miss Needle

                  And, yes, I perhaps should have been more explicit, saying something like some patrons of NYC restaurants double the tax.

            2. re: KaimukiMan

              I generally tip 15% for regular service, more if better, none if horrible.

              I have heard that in the US, wait staff get taxed on their tips based on the restaurant's total sales. So if the govt is assuming tips at 20% and a waiter really only gets 15%, they're paying taxes on money they didn't make. Also, the minimum wage for people who get tips is something like $2/hr. This may account for why Americans are more generous when tipping, since it's only decent when the wait staff gets such a small wage. In contrast, in Ontario, the min. wage for liquor servers is $7.60/hr, and tips are declared voluntarily on your income tax form.

              1. re: KaimukiMan

                From what I can tell, the standard is the same as in America (at least in Toronto), but the attitude is different I think.

                This is a BIG STEREOTYPE, but a lot of Canadians I know are slightly less generous with tipping than a lot of Americans I know. It might have something to do with the Canadian government being more socialist than ours, and since they pay so many darn taxes on nearly everything, they feel it's the government's duty to look after people.

                It's quite the opposite in California, where I know a number of people who brag about over-tipping by more than 100% when they like the service. It's like they feel proud that they can give a $50 or $100 dollar bill to some waiter and really make his day. To me this seems tacky, but I also know a number of servers who say that this is not at all uncommon, and it's almost like a game where they scout out people who they think are likely to leave huge tips, and they give them free drinks and stuff. In a good week, they might make a couple thousand dollars from tips alone.

                I really don't hear like anything like that north of the border.

                1. re: markml

                  Re: tipping in California

                  I could see big tipping like this in CA and perhaps in Las Vegas, but is this really the norm across the rest of the U.S.? I mean, do they do this sort of thing in Nebraska, Iowa, Alabama, etc.? And do they do this sort of thing in Applebees and Red Lobsters and places like that? I have this feeling that overtippers are a part of a small subset of diners, but I'm not sure I could go as far to say that this is the norm.

                  But if it is true, let me know, and I'll quit my job as a Canadian surgeon and move to Des Moines and get a job as a waiter. Hours will be better for sure :)

                  1. re: moh

                    I've worked in both Los Angeles and New York City as a server and found this to be not uncommon. Over 100% is very rare, but I'd say nearly every shift someone tips 30 or 40% at least (and I'd call myself a good, conscientious but not flawless server). It's not always the biggest overall spenders, though they do tend to tip consistently pretty high. It is always very, very appreciated whether it's to show off or not, and can make up for a night of otherwise bad tips.

                    1. re: Olallieberry

                      I suspect it is less uncommon in the larger cities, but i could be wrong!

                      There are a larger number of wealthy people in U.S. vs. Canada, even just because of the larger population base. It could be that it makes them much more noticeable?

                      Any how, just a few thoughts. I welcome dissenting thoughts or counter theories. May well have to consider a change of careers and location!! :)

                      1. re: moh

                        A number of my college buddies in California were big tippers, and by no means wealthy. I also know some well off people who were comparatively stingy. It's definitely attitude more than wealth.

                        I'm not sure if it's a California thing or not to give big tips, but the first time I got scolded for under-tipping was by a friend from the midwest, who tipped $5 when the sum of our bills was $15 (we were having lunch at some diner). I foolishly thought that his tip was covering both of us, so I only added $1 to the pot (which would have been about 12% of my sandwich before tax).

                        He got really mad at me and gave me a story about how those waitresses live off the tips and that not everyone is fortunate enough to have food served to them.

                        1. re: markml

                          markml, you make an excellent point about attitude being more important than wealth. And it is certainly true that those who work in the industry are much more likely to tip well, since they understand first hand the reality of living off of tips.

              2. I start at 20% and go down for, as necessary, for bad service.

                1. I don't think so. I think that custom has been transmitted to Canada needlessly. In BC (which I believe is where you're headed), servers get paid a wage, which is at least minimum ($8/hr, higher in fine dining), then they get tips on top of that. Americans are known as notorious over-tippers where I live, not that anyone seems to have problem with it.

                  My BF usually tips around 17%. I usually pay when we go to fine dining places, and the service there is usually better than average, so I tip 18%-20%. We always tip less if the food was bad; tips are shared quite often. If the food sucks and the service is great, we tip cash (not on a credit card) and tell the server that the money is for them (not the kitchen).

                  However, my friends leave a standard 15% for good service (there is no "great" service to them), 10% for mediocre and pennies for terrible. This is actually reasonable to me. Many parts of Canada are experiencing extremely high unemployment rates. This had led to people being employed as servers who are neither sufficiently experienced nor suitable for the work. I can certainly think of a few experiences when the service has been terrible, and as the restaurant is paying the server's wage, I feel disinclined to pad it. Other times, however, you can tell that the restaurant is understaffed, and the servers work their butts off. And a lot of the time, the servers are young and are only working for discretionary income. Really, I'm likely to tip a woman in her thirties better than a 17-year-old. (Then again, the woman in her thirties is usually better ta the job.)

                  I really think that 12%-15% is standard where I live for restaurant service. And that's for good service.

                  1. I waited tables for six years in Canada, and I think these observations still hold (though they are dated).

                    The best tippers by far are Americans. 15-20% is not unusual, and I have had higher on occasion.

                    Canadians tend to tip between 10-15%, but some are more generous, and still more are sadly delinquent in basic mathematics. More than once I have heard "Let us see - the bill is $29, so 10% is $2, right?". Miss Needle is correct; when the GST was 7% and the Ontario PST was (is) 8%, many people would just double the tax to calculate the tip. Now that the federal government has reduced the GST to 5%, wait staff across Ontario are becoming accustomed to 13% gratuities.

                    By general consensus (waiters and waitresses alike), the three worst classes of tippers were: women, kids, and Brits.

                    Women (and I am sure this has improved) were notorious for undertipping - $1 on a $50 tab, for example. The worst nightmare was the elementary school teachers who were out for Christmas or end of year lunch; they would all want separate checks, would order something, and then four diners later, hear someone order something different, and interrupt to launch a fact-finding mission "Oh, what is that? Is it good? Is it spicy? I cannot do spicy.. oh, all right.. waiter, can I change my order?". Repeat 3-4 times. Then, when the bills come, it is "Mine is $12 and something - here is $14". Yes, the "$12 and something" was $12.96. Thanks ever so. Then, as they left, they would all make it a point to come by and tell me what a wonderful time they had had, and they would be sure to ask for me the next time they came in. I am certain they sincerely misunderstood the tears trickling slowly from my eyes.

                    Kids (e.g. anyone under 25) were a different story. We knew that they did not have a lot of money, had never learned how to tip properly, and did not know the difference between good service and indifference. Getting upset over a poor tip from them is as pointless as getting angry at a puppy who pees on the floor; neither knows any better. The only consequence was we tried to turn their tables as quickly as possible, so we rarely offered dessert or a second cup of coffee.

                    But Brits - I honestly do not know if service was or is included in the UK, but if I ever got more than 5%, I was delighted. I never had this issue with other guests from Europe; French, Italian, German - they all tipped appropriately. Because I often had a great time with the British guests, it was all the more disappointing to see the dismal reward.

                    Personally, my rules are: for poor service (slow without explanation, waiter disappears for long periods, no dinner check, endless wait for check or coffee, etc.), I will go as low as 10%. Average service gets 15% of the meal, not 15% of meal + taxes. For extra-ordinary service, I will go as high as 20%. Only in the case of completely abysmal service will I go below 10%, and even then, I will ask for a manager, and inquire as to whether staff are required to pay a set percentage of their bills into a "tip pool", which is usually 4-5%. I will add that amount to the bill, and let the waiter know why I have done it. No need to penalize bus boys, hostesses, dishwashers, etc. for the shortcomings of the waiter.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: KevinB

                      Pretty hard to lump all Canadians together. There's no rule, so each does what they want for their own reason. Personally, my range would be from 30% down to, I don't know, probably 7 or 8.

                      The high end would be on a cheap meal - last week for example, I gave a $4 tip on a $9 lunch. I had great service, and it seemed that the server worked as hard as one in a more expensive restaurant. Typically for good service in an expensive restaurant, I think 20% or so the minimum I will leave if am happy, more if I am ecstatic!. Another meal last week, for example, the bill with tax was $295, we tipped $65. The server was great with recommendations on both food and wine, and earned her money.

                      The low end, or course, is for crap service. Generally though, 18-20% for standard good service. My wife is usually more generous if she's paying.

                      1. re: KevinB

                        <<But Brits - I honestly do not know if service was or is included in the UK, but if I ever got more than 5%, I was delighted.>>

                        10% is normal for good service in the UK.

                      2. My experience in Toronto and Vancouver is to tip at the 10% rate. I always feel over tipping if I use the US standard.

                        1. I think there may be some regional variation in tipping. I find that people seem to tip a bit higher in Montreal (about 15-20 %) vs. my hometown of Winnipeg (Tip? We have to tip?). Well, maybe I am being a bit harsh. It just seems that when we tip our usual 15-20% in Winnipeg, people seem a little surprised by the amount. Now here's the thing. We usually tip 20% in Winnipeg because people are very friendly and helpful and really go out of their way to make us happy, and they are surprised to get this tip. In Montreal, where service can occasionally be cold, negligent or downright hostile (love this town, but service ain't a high priority) you get major daggers of ice for tipping anywhere under 15%, which I will only do in cases of egregious service. Go figure.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: moh

                            If I get decent service, I tip 15%, good service 20%, great service 25%. If I get bad service I tip nothing and tell the server and management why. I think 10% is low for tipping in Vancouver but since so many people got used to doubling the GST (which would be roughly 15% prior to it being lowered recently), I wonder how many people are still doing that (resulting in 10% tips). For most meals out the difference between 10, 15 and 20% is negligible for me but has a real impact for the FOH staff, so I tend to err on the generous side. I suppose I'd rather be thought of as an overtipper than as a cheapo or stiffer :-).

                            1. re: moh

                              Funny you say that about Montreal. I find there are a lot of undertippers here. It depends a bit on who I am dinning with but a number of friends of mine won't go over 15%. Its seen as just being "too much." I've been told by some that its ostentatious to tip too much, that one "shouldn't make expectations" for the servers, etc. (Personally I tip around 18% and am frequently embarrassed by low tippers).

                              With regards to the Canadians in Hawaii its worth remembering that Hawaii is expensive and until recently the Canadian dollar was so weak that many Canadian vistors to Hawaii were probably stretching their budgets just to be there, hence a tendency to skimp on tips (rightly or wrongly).

                            2. I generally just triple the GST (5%), rounding up to nearest 50 or 100 (eg. $1.38 would go to $1.50 while $1.64 would be $2). If the service was above average I'd then dropped in a little extra as well.

                              1. Yes indeed, at least most folks I know here in Montreal do. On the total *before* taxes, as others have said. Depending which province you're heading to, you may be able to use the tax total as a guideline for your tip. i.e here in Quebec, the two taxes together (5% GST + 7.5% PST) effectively total 12.88% (the GST is taxed). So you can just take the tax amount and round up accordingly, depending on the level of service.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: kpzoo

                                  Oh, right, forgot about PST: I'm in Alberta so it's 0%, making it really easy to use the GST to figure out the tip amount :-)

                                2. Before the GST went down, a lot of folks would just "tip the amount of the tax", which would be 15% in Ontario. That always felt really cheap to me, but then I used to be a server. My standard is 20% on on the total bill, post tax. It goes down for bad service, but I must admit -- not by much. I think I just have a soft spot for servers, since I think it is incredibly under-appreciated work. And if I'm at a diner or cheap breakfast spot, the tip goes up substantially -- I'll usually tip $3 or $4 dollars, regardless of how small the bill is.

                                  My philosophy is that a few bucks more on a tip is really negligible in its impact on my life (what's another $5 or $10 on a $100+ evening?), but has a much happier effect on the server. It just seems worth it, to me.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: TorontoJo

                                    Excellent point, TJ, about tipping more in cheap and cheerfuls -- hey, they're doing the same amount of work, why should they get shafted because the prices on the menu are lower? I do the same thing.

                                    1. re: grayelf

                                      I live in Toronto and habitually tip 20% pretax (in Ontario the tax is 13% so 20% tip is 33% on top of the menu price which makes calculation very easy) and a bit more for great service. I find this guarantees good service on a future visit. So to a certain extent this is selfish. Servers have long memories, for both good and bad, if I am being taken to dinner at a resto to which I want to return and am aware that the bill payer has undertipped I will slip a little cash to the server. I almost always get very good service because I am a very experienced resto guest and know how to nip problems in the bud. Off the cuff, I think most problems are caused by miscommunication, ie. the server doesn't properly understand the diner or vice versa.

                                      If I get bad service I see that it gets put right on the spot, usually comps and I tip as usual. If not and only if it is the server's fault I don't tip. If the fault is the resto's management I don't return and make a special point of "slandering" the establishment and calling the Health Dept.

                                      BTW, don't feel too sorry for Canadian servers. Not only do they get $8-9/hour they get tipped on higher menu prices and get 100% free medical care. I have known many servers who made $10,000 in wages/year and $50,000 in tips for a 20 hour work week! Sure, they had to be good enough to work in a good resto and they got there by being hard working and conscientious.

                                      I can understand the European problem. The menu price is what you pay (generally) and includes tax and gratuity in the price. (A system I prefer BTW partly because it rewards all servers ie. fast food, coffee shop, cafeteria etc.) The Euroscam is good too - a server who speaks good English, has some charm and works hard can have a monopoly on North Americans in his/her section and very frequently earn an extra 20% plus.

                                  2. I live in Toronto and generally tip 15 to 20% on the after-tax amount, depending on service. If the service is really bad, I'll tip less (but this is rare). I agree with previous posters that I'll often tip more at cheap and cheerful places.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: torontofoodiegirl

                                      I agree 15% and I hate change so I generally round up to the next buck. . .but damn as I write this I realize I do otherwise when things are way way way below service wise. . . er. . . never mind me . . .er carry on.