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

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If you’ve ever been hesitant to write a tip while paying, you’re not alone.

How much you should tip in Canada for certain services can be a complicated topic, and even knowing when it is appropriate or not to tip can sometimes be confusing.

Are you supposed to tip when you get coffee? If a screen asks you to tip when you pick up takeout, is it rude not to? What if your waiter spills spaghetti on you?

To address some of these concerns, Narcity Canada recently sat down with etiquette expert Lisa Orr to find out the do’s and don’ts around tipping to help you avoid the hassle the next time you’re put on the spot.

Ever to have Tipping?

“The only time I would say it’s really non-negotiable, and if you can’t afford it, you shouldn’t go, is in a restaurant context,” Orr said.

She explained that if you don’t plan on leaving 15-20%, you shouldn’t go out to eat.

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

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

If you had a good meal and want to leave a big tip, the standard is now 18%, Orr said, up from 15%.

He continued, “15% is bare minimum, 18% is good, 20% is great. There can be a range depending on where you live; I’ve seen as high as 22%.”

Orr added that if you’re not happy with your service, it’s still not a good idea to tip below 15%, as it’s taken off “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 have a chat with the manager.

Do you have to tip if you order takeout?

“You could say it’s optional because it’s not service related,” Orr explained.

“So my personal opinion is that I’m not going to leave a number like 15, 18 or 20% because that’s related to a lot of other things – it’s table service, there are a lot of different pieces that go into that.”

“But if it’s a great location and depending on how big the order is, I could drop 5%, I could drop 10%,” he said. “It could be a dollar figure.”

While you don’t have to leave anything behind, Orr says it’s nice to give something in recognition if the takeout is done right, like if the service is good, the food is packaged well, and your order is ready on time.

If you’re in a cafe and wondering if you should tip, regardless of whether you’re staying or not, that’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 drop some more, I’ll drop some more, but it’s optional,” Orr said. “Not required if there has been no service.”

Is it rude to have a payment gateway that asks you to tip?

“I don’t blame [businesses] for asking,” Orr said. “I think it’s more about the technology not necessarily aligning with the way we behave. And I think that’s creating a disconnect because we’re like, ‘Well, I thought I knew how to behave, but this technology is telling me maybe I’m being rude.'”

That said, you can always say no, though as Canadians, “we’re pretty good at feeling guilty,” says Orr.

“I think it stresses us out a little bit because we feel like if they ask me, I have to do something about it,” he said.

“And that’s something they’re betting on there as a business where maybe you’ll feel socially awkward, and then you’ll give more money.”

Nails, hair, eyelashes, what’s the right percentage to tip there?

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

“If you have a very expensive service, it could be a really big number, so it could be converted to a dollar figure that feels appropriate,” he said.

Also, if you’re going somewhere new, you can always do a little research ahead of time on what’s the right amount to tip, like searching online or asking friends and family.

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

What should newcomers or visitors know about tipping in Canada?

“That’s complicated,” he said between laughs.

Unfortunately, we have a very indirect culture in Canada, and we don’t explicitly make it clear how much you are expected to tip and where you are expected to tip.

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

“Do your best to get a sense of the people who recommended you or the places you’ve researched. And if you’re not sure, you can ask!”

Are there any missteps that everyone should avoid?

Orr says that not tipping in places where it is required is a big no-no.

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

Whether you’re worried about leaving a tip or not, she says it’s always best 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’re doing for you,” he noted.

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

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.


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