Tipping culture in Canada

By Stephanie Reed

Posted on November 8, 2021

When learning the customs and mannerisms of a new country, it can be overwhelming trying to remember every new expectation. On top of learning a new language and the ‘slang’ that comes with it, there will most likely be many other expectations to familiarize yourself with while settling into a new country.
Perhaps the process of ordering food at a restaurant is different, or your expectations of servers, or driving services vary compared to another country you may be more familiar with.

Why are you expected to tip?

Tipping is giving money to someone who provided a service.—This Canadian (and United States) custom of tipping may be confusing or unintentionally overlooked.

To begin understanding the process/custom of tipping, it would be helpful to know why customers tip. It is not a mandatory custom in Canada; however, it is expected to be added to the cost of the bill in most cases where workers personally provide you a service. This includes food deliveries, sit-down restaurants, personal transportation like Uber, beauty services, etc.

There are some cases where the employees are paid less than minimum wage. The wage employees are paid also varies by province. Therefore, when customers are paying their bills, it is expected they will add an additional amount to cover a tip (also known as a gratuity) for the servers to earn equal to or more than minimum wage by the end of their shift.

Who do you tip?

Unfortunately, there is not a universal answer to this question. For example, a cashier at a grocery store provides you the service of cashing out your order of groceries, but you are not expected to tip them.

The same goes for a fast-food employee who takes your order, payment, and provides you the food. In both of those situations, you are not expected to tip the employee despite being provided a service involving food.

Services where there is an expectation to tip include but are not limited to:

  • Salons & Spas (hairdressers/barbers, aestheticians, nail care, massage services)
  • Driving & Personal transportation services (valet parking, Uber/Lyft/Taxi drivers)
  • Wait staff & Personal Food Delivery (bartenders, waiters/waitresses, pizza delivery, grocery delivery to door services)

Hair salon

How much do you tip?

A tip is given in a percentage according to the total of your bill. For example, if your bill at a restaurant was $20 (before taxes), you would decide what percentage of a tip to give on your $20 bill. The following are the most common percentages of tips based on expectations and satisfaction of the service provided:

  • No tip – Unsatisfactory, major issue, extremely poor quality of service
  • 10% – Service fell below expectations
  • 15% (norm) – Enjoyed service, satisfied
  • Above 15% – Above average, exceeded your expectations

In recent times, customers have recognized that servers have been without tips for the past year due to the global pandemic. Thereby, customers have been tipping more generously as society opens back up to help those who may have struggled financially without their serving jobs over the past year.
Again, it is not mandatory to tip higher, only tip what you can afford. In general, having a better understanding of why you are expected to tip, who to tip, and how much, will make the custom less intimidating and confusing.

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