Tips on tipping in Canada


Tipping has been around for many years. Originally used To Insure Promptness, hence TIP, there are many different cultural angles to tipping. A recent piece by Montreal Gazette columnist Josh Freed posed the question have we reached a tipping point when it comes to tipping. The column focuses on the new, post-pandemic world of tipping and has been receiving a large number of responses. One of the tipping-related observations made by Freed struck a note with me.

Ever since I have been a patron of bars, pubs, bistros, and restaurants, I have wondered why the tip expected is tied to the price, and not the effort.

He points out that sommeliers make four times the tip for opening a $120 bottle of wine as for a $30 one that takes identical labour. Ever since I have been a patron of bars, pubs, bistros, and restaurants, I have wondered why the tip expected is tied to the price, and not the effort.

When I was just embarking on my life of watering-hole research back in the mid-seventies, the going price for a bottle of Canadian beer was eighty cents. That was very convenient; a one-dollar bill covered the beer and a twenty-cent tip. A win-win situation for customers and waiters or waitresses.

Then management decided to up the price of the beer by a nickel, to eighty-five cents. Unfortunately, the clientele still took advantage of the convenience of a dollar bill, thereby reducing the tip to fifteen cents. After staff complaints, this problem was soon rectified when it became apparent folks were hesitant to add a coin to the bill. The price of beer was again raised to the exorbitant price of $1 and the common tip was now a quarter. Fair is fair.

Then management decided to up the price of the beer by a nickel, to eighty-five cents. Unfortunately, the clientele still took advantage of the convenience of a dollar bill, thereby reducing the tip to fifteen cents.

If two people sat at a table and each ordered a beer, the total tip at a quarter a beer, was fifty cents. If two more people arrived, the order went from two to four beers, and the tip was now a dollar. Yet the lovely wait staff member really did the exact same thing. So why the doubling of the tip?

Please tip your wait staff!

Not that I wanted to spend some time in air-conditioned drinking establishments during our current high heat and humidity, but I felt it incumbent upon me to do some research into this matter. It was explained to me by several members of Montreal’s bartending fraternity that the government is to blame. Oftentimes that is a catchall phrase, blame the government for everything, from bad weather to poor sports teams. But in this case, the facts are clear.

Because the bean counters in the tax department assume a tip of 15% regardless of whether the bartender or waiter receives a tip

In the Province of Quebec, the minimum wage is $14.25 an hour. Unless you are in a job that involves tips. Then the minimum wage is $11.40. Why? Because the bean counters in the tax department assume a tip of 15% regardless of whether the bartender or waiter receives a tip. It has often been pointed out that when a customer does not tip, usually an out-of-towner who is not fully cognizant of local culture, the wait staff member not only doesn’t get what some see as a bonus but actually loses money as they will be taxed on an amount assuming a tip.

Just to make it simple, let’s say your bill comes to $100, When it comes to tax time, the government assumes you paid, with tip $115. The employee is taxed on the higher amount even though they did not get that amount. Therefore, it costs them money out of their pocket.

Some places try to pull a fast one on clients by posting the amounts hoping a less than observant patron will assume the first option is 15% when it is in fact 20%

Mind you, there is a small nuisance that has arisen lately. New Interac payment machines offer the customer four easy-to-choose options, usually 15%, 18%, 20%, or 25%. Some places try to pull a fast one on clients by posting the amounts hoping a less than observant patron will assume the first option is 15% when it is in fact 20%.

In addition, the tip amount is supposed to be based on the pre-tax amount. Our $100 bar tab before tax will rise to about $115 with tax, yet the tip should be $15. No need to tip on the tax.

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