Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Robert Waite

GET UPDATES FROM Robert Waite
 

Are Canadians Actually Bad Tippers?

Posted: 07/03/2013 12:25 pm

Ever been to a restaurant where the cuisine was fabulous, but the service was almost comically inept? Of course you have! My spouse and I had just such an experience recently while dining with an American couple, old dear friends, at the Weekapaug Inn on Rhode Island's shore.

A major attraction at the Weekapaug is renowned chef Jennifer Backman, known for her creative use of local seafood, fowl and fresh produce (and for assembling an entirely female kitchen staff).

We dined Canada Day evening. The food was Michelin-perfect. The service, on the other hand, was Marx Brothers muddled.

When the bill came, I offered to pay; our friends insisted we split it. So we split it. And this is where a cultural chasm appeared.

I mentioned that I would be adding an 18 per cent tip, knocking down my customary 20 per cent a little due to the poor service.

Well, you would have thought I had announced my support for Syria's Bashar al-Assad...or Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. I was informed that it is now customary at better restaurants in the U.S. to tip a minimum of 20 per cent; 25 per cent for normal service; and 30 per cent for exceptional wait-staff effort.

"You may be a little out of touch," was one comment. Being out of touch has been a life-long affliction, I allowed. But I was sticking to my 18 per cent.

My experience back home in Canada is that most people keep to a 15 per cent, 20 per cent, 25 per cent tip regime, on a before-tax basis. Earning 25 per cent takes something really extraordinary -- like having your waiter taste your lobster bisque for you... and falling down dead because it was poisoned.

Even our credit card and debit card automatic chip devices (which have not yet been introduced in the States) prompt you to select 15 per cent or 20 per cent (or a dollar amount).

My spouse, who is Japanese-Canadian, points out that tipping is almost unheard of in Japan -- yet the quality of service in that country is unrivalled. On the other hand, when I lived in Poland in the bad old days of communism in the 1970s, tipping was mandatory -- and the service was uniformly abysmal.

Perhaps because I worked in a restaurant myself when young, my own tipping philosophy actually skews to benefit wait staff at less expensive restaurants, diners and the like. I always imagine the waitress as a single mom, with two or three kids at home, and leave four or five bucks on a $15 tab. I feel a lot better about that then adding 20 per cent to a $200 bill (although to be fair, the waitress at the expensive restaurant often has to share with other staff).

The view that we in Canada are poor tippers is not new. When I was working on Florida, Arizona and Hawaiian events for IBM Canada in the 1980s and 1990s I used to frequently bump into this rather lame joke: "What's the difference between a canoe and a Canadian?" Answer: "The canoe tips!"

So are we in Canada cheap? Do U.S. restaurants cringe when we give them a Canadian area code when making a reservation? Or has tipping finally gone too far, reaching its own tipping point? Perhaps we should get rid of tipping altogether and pay restaurant staff a decent wage? Or would they miss all that non-taxable cash? It seems we have just touched the tip of the iceberg on this topic, so please weigh in.

Loading Slideshow...
  • A Match Made In Heaven

    This looks like the handwriting of a young child.

  • You Know, That One

    People really need to stop messing with Sheila.

  • Freudian Slip

    Peanut-hollandais... What did you think this meant?

  • The Only Reason To Go To Steak 'N Shake

    High as fuck is going to be really disappointed.

  • No, Thank You

    "Great, but could you also give me my waiter's name."

  • Not A Number, But...

    The number is actually 3.

  • Petty Cash Fraud

    You can't just give anyone a receipt book.

  • This Joke Happens A Lot

    The start to the greatest porn of our time?

  • Don't Judge Me!

    Can a receipt feel sadness? Love?

  • She/He Should Get More Of A Discount

    Oh we see how it is Twisted Root Burger Co., Best Butt is valued way more than Nicest Person.

  • Math is Hard

    But also, great tip.

  • At Least This Person Also Got Some Pretzels

    Let's calm it down.

  • This Is Really Walgreens' Fault For The Wording

    Jesus has heard it before and he's had enough of it, OK!?

  • No Space Between "Blend" And "That" Please

    But the real question is why it costs 1 penny to print this receipt (and then it didn't).

  • What Is This Short For?

    Wife beater? Isn't "white tee" more correct?

  • It Could Work, Right?

    After all those peach schnaps, maybe your judgment isn't the best.

  • Leftovers For Tip

    Nice effort.

  • So That's What Flava Flave Is Doing Now

    If only the person had taken the picture with the store's name in it.

  • You Weren't Supposed To See This

    Don't be mean to this dude.

  • Taco Bell Understands

    To be fair, this was at 3:30 in the morning.

  • Steve Carell Owns This

    Extra wet wings, WHAT?

  • Rue 21 Has An Identity Crisis

    This can't be real.

  • The Worst Store Or The Best Store To Have This Warning?

    Staten Island, let's get a round of applause.

  • On The Plus Side, No Tax

    We hope this is just a way to make a drink happier.

  • It Is What It Is

    He who paid for it, delt it.

  • You Can't Have Sunglasses Without The Sun

    Nice try!

  • Wake Up

    But for real, what is this was true.

  • Not A Joke

    We just wanted to make you feel bad about yourself.

  • Next: OUTRAGEOUS Receipts (EXPLICIT)

  • 'Best Butt' Discount

    One woman was surprised to find that along with her veggie bowl, she received a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/21/best-butt-discount-customer-receipt_n_1819442.html" target="_hplink">discount for having the 'best butt'</a> and being the 'best looking' person in the fast food joint.

  • Dry Cleaner Gaffe

    A customer got quite a surprise when he picked up his freshly-laundered shirts. The anonymous consumer, dubbed <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/27/dry-cleaner-dubs-customer_n_1834484.html" target="_hplink">'Asshole, Alex'</a> apparently had the cleaning bill comped.

  • Pizza With A Side Of Racism

    A Papa John's customer snapped a photo of her receipt, which contained an <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/07/lady-chinky-eyes-papa-johns-store-uses-receipt-to-call-woman-racial-slur_n_1191434.html" target="_hplink">offensive racial slur</a> in place of the customer's name.

  • Profanity-Laden Receipt

    Two Burger King employees were fired after a customer noticed that his <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/17/burger-king-f_ck-you-receipt_n_785143.html" target="_hplink">receipt read 'F*ck You'</a> where it would normally say 'Thank You'.

  • Bruins Celebrate In Style

    After the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup, they partied... hard. The team apparently <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/23/boston-bruins-bar-tab-infographic_n_883071.html" target="_hplink">rang up a $156,000 bar tab</a> at a nightclub in the Foxwoods Casino, according to the <em>Boston Globe</em>.

  • Restaurant Settles Suit Over Racial Slurs

    A California steak house settled a lawsuit with a customer that claimed his <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/15/racist-restaurant-receipts_n_1279363.html" target="_hplink">credit receipts contained several racial slurs</a> where his name should have been.

  • Radio Shack Refund Gets Ugly

    A Maryland woman got a little something extra along with her refund when she discovered that an <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/13/radio-shack-receipt-ugly-itch-insults-shanae-lewis_n_1342834.html" target="_hplink">associate deemed her an 'ugly itch'</a> from 'ghettohood, USA'.

  • Chick-Fil-A In Hot Water

    Chick-Fil-A garnered national attention after a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/13/chick-fil-a-ching-chong-r_n_1146266.html" target="_hplink">customer snapped a photo</a> of two receipts that had labeled Asian-American customers as 'Ching' and 'Chong'.

  • Walmart Customers Find Jesus

    A couple claimed their <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/18/jesus-in-walmart-receipt_n_901548.html" target="_hplink">Walmart receipt contained the face of the Son of God</a>.

  • Now THAT'S An Account Balance

    An ATM customer found this surprising receipt still in the machine. The receipt, which shows a whopping <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/30/100-million-atm-receipt_n_887993.html" target="_hplink">balance of nearly $100 million</a>, supposedly belonged to hedge fund manager David Tepper.

  • Server Has Choice Words For Kids

    A server at a Chichos Pizza <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/21/high-as-shit-kids-receipt_n_1291724.html" target="_hplink">restaurant labeled his customers</a> as 'high as shit kids'. Fortunately, the customers had a sense of humor and posted the receipt to Reddit to much fanfare.

 

Follow Robert Waite on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RobertWaite8

FOLLOW CANADA BUSINESS