In France, my home country, tipping is neither expected nor required. Yes, you read correctly. Whether you are in a restaurant, bar, hotel or at the hairdresser, tipping is not a cultural norm.
You may wonder how this is possible. Simply, service staff is paid higher wages than in North America, and service is included in the total bill. The minimum wage in France is around $13.00/hour.
Tourist-trap places will definitely try to get more money but as a native I don’t go to such places.
Coming to North America, the “tipping experience” can be quite a shock, a financial shock that is. There are also differences between Canada and the US. Being Canadian -and French-, I will focus on Canada.
Here, people working in the service industry are usually paid the minimum wage or they are self-employed. Most positions are also part-time or on call. A lot of companies don’t offer any benefits.
In British-Columbia, where I live, the minimum wage is $ 10.25 per hour. For people serving liquor, it is $ 9.00. This doesn’t get anyone very far. However, it doesn’t mean you have to break the bank or tip everyone, every time.
Restaurants/bars: 15% of the total bill pre-tax. To avoid complicated calculations, multiply the GST amount by 3. If you are paying with debit or credit cards, most terminals will give you a tip option by percentage or dollar amount. Always select the dollar amount. The percentage option will apply your percent on the whole bill; you will over-tip.
If the service was exceptional, you can definitely give more. But what if the service is substandard? You can tip $1.00, which will probably be more noticed than not tipping. You can also ask to talk to the manager.
Keep in mind that, in most restaurants, waiters have to share their tips with the rest of staff.
Hairdressers & spa employees: 10 to 15%.
Delivery drivers & cabs: 10 to 15%.
Hotel staff: give $ 1 or $ 2 to the valet for fetching your car; $ 1 or $ 2 per piece of luggage; only tip the concierge for exceptional service, not for giving directions. Same with the maid.
Take-out/over the counter sales: 0%. It is very frequent to see a tip jar next to the cash register at coffee or sandwich shops. You don’t have to drop money in it.
Registered Massage Therapist & other professional services: 0%.
These are just basic guidelines. Since tipping is customary, it is your decision.
Personally, I think tipping should be banned. Employers in the service industry need to offer better wages, instead of putting the financial responsibility on customers. If it means higher prices, so be it.