The Tipping Dilemma

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At The Café

At The Café

So, 15% of $30… is…

No, I’m not calculating my Adsense revenues (that would be easy: $1 + 0.50¢ = $1.50… last time I checked!). I’m experiencing tipping-related stress. Don’t laugh: it’s common.

After a nice meal, a few drinks, I sweat when the bill arrives. Not because I’m afraid I’m might have maxed out my credit card. No. I’m the kind of people who pay Visa two weeks before the bill is due. I know, I’m a little psycho with bills… Anyway, the reason why I’m sweating is because I just don’t know how to tip. And trust me, I’ve been trying to figure out for ages: I don’t want to look cheap! People gave me many advices. Like adding the GST (Government Sale Tax) and the PST (Provincial Sale Tax), respectively 7% and 8% of your total bill, adding up to the recommended 15% tipping amount. Thing is, not only Harper has a very conservative man and a warmonger, he also lowered the GST to 7%. And then to 6%. Conclusion, the addition trick doesn’t really work anymore.

So every time I get the check, I sweat. I feel the eyes on the waiter or the waitress on me, a “don’t disappoint me” look, as I desperately try to calculate 15% out of whatever and not look cheap or ungrateful. I hand the check. And I run.

I usually have a bit more social skills than that but remember: I’m French. French are tipping-disabled. We don’t tip in France. Or if we do, we do it like a master who leaves a couple of yellow coins to the yokel. Out of pure kindness.

Hey, have you ever been to a Parisian café? First, manage to find a table and most important, attract the attention of the waiter. Small talk? Forget about it. Be grateful, very grateful, if you get more than ten seconds to order. If you ordered the most expensive items on the menu, the waiter may not tear it from your hands, but don’t expect a glass of water with your 30€ salad. Ordered cheapest things, like a couple of coffees and a slice of gâteau? The waiter will most likely ask disdainfully: “c’est tout?” Politeness is the exception, not the norm, and “French customer service” is an oxymoron. The French abhor to be thought of as being the servant of anybody. Therefore, expect the food to be thrown on the table, your glass of water to be half empty rather than half full and the waiter to try to kick you out of your table. Service is included, so no tipping on top of that for your fabulous dining experience. Phew.

But this is North America, where tipping is simply good etiquette. Service charge isn’t included, so I tip the waiters/waitresses at the restaurant, the hairdresser at the salon, the cab driver, the pizza guy… And I thought I were a good citizen.

But according to The Original Tipping Page, I’m apparently also supposed to tip massage therapists, tow truck operators, restroom attendants and.. airport shuttle driver…? Is there anyone I’m not supposed to tip?

Once again, I had never thought I was cheap, but I don’t feel like leaving my change in the little “tip” bowl at every fast-food joint or convenience store. I know they are underpaid. And so I am. When I buy a pack of cigarette, the guy usually grabs it and takes the money. How does that require a tip? Same goes for fast food. I go order at the counter, I bring my own food at a table that I may even clean it myself occasionally, I eat and clean up again.

Is a tip a reward for good service of just something mandatory? I know employers are legally allowed to pay less than minimum wage to employees who benefit from tipping. And I will keep on tipping, improving my mental calculation at the same time. Yet, where do I draw the line? I simply can not tip everyone in the city. So, help me here: who do you tip, who don’t you tip, and why? Do you still tip if you receive bad service?


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. I always tip 20% to servers at a restaurant, if they are a little lame 15%, totally lame 10%, rude 0%. I tip well because I know so many people in the service industry and well it sucks to be a waiter and if they do their job, why not tip them?

    Another person you have to tip who are always forgotten the cleaning staff at hotels. Uggh it means you have to have the proper small bills/change EVERY day at a hotel for all the various staff (concierge gets you a reso, porter takes your bags, person brings up extra blankets, etc., etc., etc.). Only at hotels I get annoyed tipping …

  2. Lisa had the tipping percentages about right, except for the stiffing part. For me, I’ll tip 30% for amazing, 25% for great, 20% for good, 15% for okay, 10% some server errors, 5% for horrible experience.

    Realize that a lot of places make servers tip out on their total sales, alcohol sales, etc. so, stiffing a server ends up costing them money which just isn’t right.

  3. I am pretty bad at basic math. My little trick is to figure out what 10% is (easy, just move a decimal point, no actual math required), and then I double it. (I’m American, so I’m used to 20% being pretty much the going rate.)

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