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Tipping in Canada

Tipping is an imprecise art in Canada.

The question of when and how much to tip tends to divide along urban/rural, generational and even cultural lines.

I can point you to seniors who only leave a tip because their children shame them into it; Asians who can’t agree on whether to tip at dim sum; small-towners who think rounding-up to the nearest dollar constitutes a good tip; and downtown lawyers who buy a lot of false flattery and attention with their tipping largesse.

Generally, tipping is an expected courtesy here. Workers in the Canadian hospitality typically rely on “grats” to raise their minimum hourly rate to a living wage.

If you’re received courteous and professional service from someone in the hospitality industry, then it’s expected you will leave a gratuity. If you’ve received superlative service, then it’s expected you’ll leave an even larger one.

If, on the other hand, something went wrong and you’re displeased, don’t just leave nothing–or even worse, a few pennies. Tell someone who cares, like a supervisor or manager, and be prepared to tell them what would set your bad experience right.

What follows are guidelines for tipping in Canada.

Note, these are suggested rates. I once wrote an article in a national newspaper on this same topic and I don’t think they ever received so much mail before or since. Seems everyone has an opinion on how much is enough when it comes to a tip.

Some Canadians can become righteously indignant over whether or not they are obliged to leave a token of appreciation that often amounts to no more than the price of a large latte.

My opinion on this is unwavering: if you can afford to eat out in Canada–or have a manicure or ride in a cab–then you can afford to tip.

Follow these suggestions and at the very least you won’t embarrass yourself and at most you’ll make someone’s day:

  • Hang on to your loonie ($1) and toonie ($2) coins–they’re perfect for tipping purposes
  • Restaurant meals: 10-20% on food and beverage total (before taxes). Note: in some restaurants, a gratuity will be automatically added for large groups
  • Luggage: $2 for the first bag; $1 for each additional bag
  • Taxi: 15% of final fare
  • Spa services: 10-20% of the bill
  • Housekeeper: $2 to $10/daily, depending on how much mess you made and how long you’re staying
  • Valet: $2-5 per car delivery
  • Concierge: $5 and up for assistance beyond the norm
  • Room service: there is usually an service charge added to the bill; tip a a few dollars ($2-$4) extra
  • Doorman: $2 for help with bags or hailing a cab

Got a specific question about tipping in Canada? Feel free to ask in the comment section below!

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