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Julie Blais Comeau

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Sticky Situation: Your Vacation Tipping Guide

Posted: 06/27/2013 12:35 pm

T.G.I.V.T. (Thank God It's Vacation Time)!

For many Canadians, Canada Day is the beginning of their vacation. What will you do? Where will you go to unplug & reconnect?

Whenever I participate on call-in shows, the most popular questions that I receive, are usually about tipping etiquette. Canadians from coast-to-coast want to know; to give or not to give and how much.

Whether you will be a guest at an all-inclusive, a hotel, a motel or a bed and breakfast, my foremost vacation tips are: do your tipping homework and include tipping money in your budget.


According to some experts, the tipping tradition originated in France. In the Middle Ages, "Tenez, pour boire à ma santé (Here, drink to my health)," could be heard from the mouths of noblemen tossing coins to their servants, to thank them for services rendered.

Other experts say that the custom originated at an 18th century England Inn. The innkeeper initiated the invitation to tip, by placing a small urn on his counter, in full view of his incoming clients. The pot had the inscription: "To Insure Promptness." Customers then quickly deposited silver pieces, to be served faster.

The English origins of this inscription have morphed into the acronym T.I.P. Three centuries later, giving a tip is now a customary tradition in the service industry.


Tips vary according to roles, scenarios and of course nations. And some countries, like Australia, have not adopted this salary topping custom.

So before you travel abroad, find out from: your travel agent, on the web, Ask Julie or Mark Zuckerberg. Really?

Really! Although the Facebook co-founder, got a bad rap for not leaving a tip when in Rome, he did do what Romans do. In Rome, for a lunchtime meal, which in this case was a sharing of appetizers, locals know that the service fee is usually included, "servizio incluso." But because Mr. FB is an American who was on his honeymoon, the expectation from the wait staff was a rounding of his bill, with a maximum surplus of 10 per cent, no more.

When in doubt, it is always appropriate to find out. Ask upon arrival or when making a reservation.

When vacationing in most of Canada and the United States, here are the usual tipping guidelines.

To whom and how much?

* The reception personnel and owners of the Bed & Breakfast: generally do not get a tip.

A gift, such as a commemorative or decorative object, is an appreciated gesture by B & B owners.

* Taxi driver: 10-15 per cent plus most taxi companies have set fees for handling your luggage.

* Server and bartender: 15-20 per cent before taxes and coupons.

Sticky situation: Service was OK, but the food was terrible. How much should I tip?

Solution: Elements that may contribute to a negative experience such as: the quality of the food, lack of air conditioning, music that is too loud, and other factors are beyond the control of the service staff. In these situations, it is important to mention your dissatisfaction to the manager without penalizing the server, who did do his job.

Sticky situation: When the service does not meet expectations, do I still have to tip?

Solution: You should still fulfill your socially agreed upon custom, that makes up for the lesser hourly wages of service personnel. But, do so in a reduced fashion. The good service rule being at 15 per cent, you could leave a 10 per cent tip to demonstrate your dissatisfaction. In this case, also make sure to speak to a management team member.

Sticky situation: Most coffee and donut counters have tip jars next to the cash register, do I have to tip the barista and the server?

Solution: No, there is no obligation. Unlike bar and restaurant staff whose hourly wages are lower and expected to be supplemented by tips, coffee and fast food places personnel receive minimum wage or more. If the staff recognize you, give you extra prompt service or double up on the whipped cream or sprinkles, go ahead and give a discretionary tip.

* Door man: $0 to open the door, $1 to $2 to call a taxi or offering you an umbrella, and $5 for restaurant or activity recommendations.

* Concierge: $0 for directions, $10 or more for hard to get tickets and a minimum of $5 at the end of your stay, if you regularly sought advice.

* Porter at the hotel or at the airport: $1 to $2 per bag, depending on the weight and ease of handling.

* Valet parking: $2. For quick access to your car and reduced wait time, add a supplement and make your desire known upfront.

* Housekeeping staff: $2 to $5 per day or more, depending on how messy you and your family are.

Do not wait until the end of your stay to give your tip, do so daily. Housekeepers work in shift rotations. With your tip, leave a little thank you note in the native language. Prepare them at home, by using Google translate.
* In-room dining: $0, the service is 'normally' included. If not refer back to the 15-20 per cent, before taxes practice. * Additional room delivery for comforts such as a non-allergenic pillow or a bathrobe: $2 minimum.

Summer fun attendants

* Responsible for the pool or gym:$ 0 for basic service. $2 or more, for a favour such as extra towels or setting up your parasol.

* Tour guides and drivers: 10-20 per cent of the tour cost.
Instructors: Generally do not get tipped.

Gift versus Tip at an all-inclusive

We give a gift to our friends and a tip for services rendered. The cash offered to service industry personnel gives the employee the opportunity to spend the money on what he or she chooses.

Provide tips in the currency of the country that you visit. This prevents the staff from lining up at the bank to exchange your money to theirs.

Top Tipping Trick
If you really enjoyed a service, in addition to a good tip, take the time to mention it to the management, in person or by email, in your social networks, as well as Trip Advisor or other rating sites. This recognition will have a profound impact on the employee's recognition by his employer.

Have fun making memories with loved ones!

Have a Sticky Situation? Write to me and I will reply promptly. Want more Solutions to Sticky Situations? Like me on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter. Planning a conference? I happily travel to spread the word about etiquette. At your service!

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