A Guide to Gratuities

How to navigate one of the world’s most confusing customs.

A Guide to Gratuities

Whether you’re fumbling with change on your way out of a cab or scrambling to determine how much to add to a dinner bill split four ways, tipping is often a source of great bewilderment. And with tip jars perched on checkout counters across the country, the constant hustle for our coins can inspire what Bruce McAdams, a professor at the University of Guelph’s School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, has dubbed “tipping fatigue.” Here, some crib notes for conscientious consumers looking to fend off the brain fog and do the math.

When should you tip?
These days, restaurant servers and bartenders expect tips-in many provinces, their earnings are below minimum wage to account for gratuities. Plus, these staffers are often required to divide their tips among colleagues. If you feel you’ve received poor service or a lousy meal, Ottawa-based etiquette expert Julie Blais Comeau advises voicing your concerns to a manager before nixing the tip, which can affect everyone from the server to the busboy to the line cook.

Although those tip jars for count-er service are now commonplace, there’s no need to give. “They’re like an urn of shame: the person before you puts something in, so you feel that you should, too,” says Blais Comeau.

As for takeout that you pick up? It’s not necessary-but do tip 10 per cent on delivery.

How much should you tip?
The current expectation in North American restaurants is to tip a minimum of 15 to 20 per cent on the total before taxes. In large cities, the trend is at the higher end of the spectrum and sometimes beyond, says McAdams. “In some places, 25 per cent is the new 15.”

Following a visit to the hair salon or spa, tip between 15 and 20 per cent. If more than one person has helped you, it’s appropriate to ask that the amount be shared. And if you’re taking a cab, it’s customary to tip the driver 15 to 20 per cent.

Carry cash when staying at a hotel, where you should leave $2 to $5 each day for housekeeping staff, instead of a larger amount at the end of your stay, as housekeepers work on rotation. If someone carries your bags or parks your car, tip a dollar or two each time.

When should you tip more than the standard?
Tip more if you required additional service, time or effort. If a cab driver takes you somewhere remote, give more to make up for the income lost while trying to find another customer. And when you’re paying for something with a coupon or gift certificate, leave a gratuity that coincides with the full amount you would have normally paid.

Tipping Abroad
In restaurants, a one- or two-euro tip is courteous, as is rounding up to the next euro in a cab. It’s otherwise unnecessary.

Tipping is considered rude in Chinese restaurants, unless you’re in a Western establishment. In Southeast Asia, tip 10 per cent for most services; be prepared to tip small amounts frequently in Western Asia.

South and Central America
It’s appreciated for hotel service, restaurants, cabs and tours (10 to 15 per cent). Give it directly to the person who provided the service. At an all-inclusive resort, tip at the beginning of a stay.

Servers and cab drivers value a 10 to 15 per cent gratuity.