The Art Of Tipping

A tip (or gratuity) is defined as a sum of money tendered to certain service workers for a service performed.  A tip is seldom required and its amount is usually at the discretion of the patron being served.

It may not be required, but tipping is certainly expected.  I recently got a haircut and added a tip to the price.  I like my hairstylist and gave her a generous tip for her good service, but also to ensure she doesn’t massacre my hair on my next visit. 🙂

Related: What’s Happening To The Service Industry?

People tip, even for bad service, because they don’t want to be thought of as cheap or ignorant.

Tipping Guidelines

The Emily Post Institute provides this guide to customary gratuities for various services:

  • Barber, hairstylist, or pet groomer – 15 to 20% of the bill.
  • Waiter/ess – 15% of the bill for adequate service, 20% for very good service and no less than 10% for poor service.
  • Bartender – 15 to 20% of the tab, minimum $1 per alcoholic drink
  • Pizza delivery person – 15 to 20%, minimum of $2 per pizza
  • Taxi driver – 15%
  • Hotel housekeeper – $2 to $5 per night
  • Furniture delivery person – $3 to $5 per piece
  • Movers – $10 to $20 each
  • Tip Jar – Zip, unless you want to

It’s not always clear, but if in doubt, the general rule of thumb looks to be about 15%.

Who Made The Rules?

Many workers depend on this money to support themselves.  But why do we tip some service workers but not others?  Who made the rules?

Related: What I Learned From Working Retail

I’ve always wondered why do we tip:

  • The hair stylist but not the shoe salesperson?
  • The liquor delivery person but not the grocery deliverer?
  • The newspaper deliverer but not the mail carrier?
  • The furniture assembler but not the appliance repair person?
  • Servers in restaurants but not in fast food joints?
  • The auto detailer but not the gas bar attendant?

There are a lot of people that serve the public in various capacities that are pleasant to deal with, sometimes take a certain amount of abuse, work hard at their jobs and are paid little more than minimum wage.  Why do we tip some people even if they give terrible service just because it’s expected, and withhold our monetary appreciation to those who help us just because it’s their job?

Related: Good Customer Service – Finish What You Start

My Final Thoughts

Just because tipping is considered optional doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.

However, I think we should go back to the original intention of tipping – as a reward for good service.  It lets someone who has done you a service know how much you appreciate their work.

What do you think about the art of tipping?

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  1. Mary on August 15, 2012 at 8:00 am

    I only tip for good service, I really could care less what others think about whether or not I’m cheap. Tipping is only deserved by ones who make a service pleasant and enjoyable. If we went back to the days of leaving pennies for unacceptable service, things might improve. As it is now, all seem to feel that “entitlement” that just because they work the industry, they deserve the tip.

  2. Alissa on August 15, 2012 at 8:03 am

    I am very torn about tipping. Having worked in service-orinted industry, tipping was always welcomed.

    However, after having lived in Japan, where there is no culture of tipping and customer service is outstanding (I have never encountered anything remotely close in North America), I do wish that employers paid a living wage instead of passing the cost to the consumer.

    • Sam on August 15, 2012 at 5:48 pm

      Thanks for your insight re: Japan. I’d love to visit and was interested to read your comments about the no culture of tipping yet still receiving good service.

      However, I think you are misinformed about one of your statements. You say you wish employers paid a living wage instead of passing the cost to consumers. Come on, the cost ALWAYS gets passed on to the consumer, directly or indirectly. Isn’t Japan one of the most expensive countries in the world?

      • Alissa on November 28, 2012 at 9:23 am

        Hi Sam,
        Certain things in Japan are certainly more expensive compared to North America (gas, real estate). However items/services where we traditionally give tips are on-par, and sometimes even cheaper than in North America. I usually paid about $40 for a very good women’s haircut, and the level of service I got in Japan was never matched in Canada. I could also get a very nice lunch (sometimes including a glass of wine) for about $12.

  3. Earth and Money on August 15, 2012 at 8:46 am

    I personally find it very annoying that tipping is expected in restaurants. Why should the consumer be responsible for paying part of the server’s wages. I would rather have the employer pay a proper wage and integrate that cost into the price of food. I generally tip servers 10%-15%. I tip the person who cuts my hair a couple of bucks because I like that they do a great job every time and they remember me – I’m not just a random customer to them. As a general rule, I don’t tip anyone else unless I feel guilty about the fact that they aren’t making a good wage to begin with. I have been called cheap before when it comes to tipping…it doesn’t bother me 🙂

  4. Garry on August 15, 2012 at 9:22 am

    I found this to be a VERY interesting article and one that is near and dear to my heart, since I feel the service industry needs a real shake-up, at least in Canada.

    I have found over the years, that service is being eroded even more quickly than government is hiking our taxes – which is pretty fast.

    I find that waiters and waitresses expect a tip regardless of the service they give. This even applies now to fast food joints – AND, believe it or not – “Drive Throughs”. Why in the world are we tipping people in a drive through!!!! For doing their job? Most of the time, I find them unpleasant, even rude, and the speed of the service is deplorable. One of the worst I’ve encountered of late is Canada’s coffee stop – Tim Horton’s. It’s become sooooo bad that I don’t even go to Tim Horton’s anymore.

    I’m a firm believer in rewarding for good service, but I’m equally firm in my belief that if the service is poor – NO TIP!!!!!

    I do not agree with the “Emily Post” guideline of “… and no less than 10% for poor service.” There is absolutely NO WAY I will reward someone for bad service.

    I will, however, reward the Owner of the establishment by not coming back to their establishment – maybe if enough of us stood up for what we know is right in this case, the owners will get the message and “Teach” their staff just what service is and how it should be delivered.

    Ticked off with current Service.

  5. Lisa on August 15, 2012 at 9:32 am

    If I remember correctly “TIP” stands for “To Insure Prompt service”, so the theory behind tipping was to pay the tip up front to make sure that you received good service, not as a reward for the service provided. I am, however, on the fence about tipping as well. I don’t like the feeling of being forced to pay extra just because it’s expected and feeling ashamed if I choose not to tip or can’t afford the extra money. Employers should pay a fair wage and not pass on their operational costs to the consumers.

    • Alexandra on August 15, 2012 at 11:55 am

      A tip paid beforehand is more like a bribe these days, and I don’t think our guilt-culture would let us continue with that as it doesn’t seem honest. I love the idea of someone who works harder and better being paid more – that sounds fair to me. Having served in a few different tipping capacities, I will tip from 0-%20 or more for a small bill, depending on whether the service was above the bare-bones of their duties. Anyone who goes out of their way to make me feel comfortable deserves a good tip. Don’t forget about the assistant who does your shampoo if she includes a nice massage; $1 here and there really adds up for them! Another thing I take into account is my personal wealth. As two students, my boyfriend and I are not spectacular tippers, because we simply can’t afford it. A big “Thank You!” on the back of a bill hopefully makes up for that a bit. Compliments fit backs of bills nicely too.

    • Boomer on August 16, 2012 at 10:46 am

      @Lisa: I think this stems from the days when someone would, for example, get a youngster to run an errand. It was not actually their job, but a service they were doing for this one time and they were paid up front. I wonder how many just ran away with the money!

      I don’t really like to pay someone extra just for doing their job. That’s what their paycheque is for. But there’s nothing wrong with rewarding someone for going above and beyond what’s expected – and it’s a nice surprise.

  6. Ross Brown on August 15, 2012 at 9:37 am

    I believe that if the service is good, I should leave a decent tip. If the service is really good, I leave a generous tip.

    If the service is poor, so is my tip. I have left as little as about 5%, but on one occasion, where the server treated me like I was bothering her, where she acted like she didn’t want to be there, I left no money. I did leave something: a note that explained why no tip was warranted. If she didn’t want to be there, she shouldn’t have been: just because she was miserable was no reason to make a customer miserable.

  7. krantcents on August 15, 2012 at 10:12 am

    Tipping has become expected and good service is not routine. I tend to want to do what is right versus what is expected. On rare occasions, I will complain due to bad service and adjust my tipping accordingly.

    • SE Book on August 17, 2012 at 1:32 pm

      There is never really an excuse for bad service. yes on rare occasions but don’t feel bad for complaining when you get bad service. Let the manager decide if it was a fluke or just all around a bad employee.

  8. Steve @ Grocery Alerts on August 15, 2012 at 10:48 am

    I honestly hate to tip (always tip too much I think) – I wish Canada was like New Zealand (tip is included in the price – so no tipping).

    • Boomer on August 16, 2012 at 10:48 am

      @Steve: It’s interesting to note how different countries and cultures view tipping. In many places it’s not expected – like you say, just added to the price like everything else – and in some cultures it’s almost an insult.

  9. NormaK on August 15, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    I know someone who chooses not to tip. EVER. She cites the following justifications: no one tips her at her job (she earns a living wage) and since her household budget is quite tight, and eating at restaurants is a rare treat, she prioritizes, balancing the family budget over tipping. She thinks that a business/service is being compensated sufficiently by her patronization.

    My practice, at restaurants, is to tip 20% on the total bill (with taxes included) or more for excellent service down to zero for unsatisfactory service.

    I don’t tip if the business owner personally provides the service. An example is when my hairstylist, the salon owner, shampoos and cuts my hair.

    • Sam on August 15, 2012 at 5:41 pm

      Can you explain your logic as to why the hairstylist/owner doesn’t get a tip while the hairstylist/employee does?

      • NormaK on August 15, 2012 at 7:31 pm

        Yes, I can, and I will. The salon owner who styles my hair and his manager refuse tipping. I don’t know why. This is a single, privately owned salon; not sure if that makes a difference. I assumed that he’s structured his prices to earn acceptable profit for himself. He charges more than the junior stylist. Besides charging less, the junior stylist gives the owner a percentage of her earnings, so, were she to cut my hair, I would tip her.

        What’s your tipping experience?

        • Boomer on August 16, 2012 at 10:51 am

          It used to be that you would not be expected to tip an owner, but apparently it’s now more accepted (again, who makes these rules?)

          • NoramK on August 16, 2012 at 11:06 am

            Hi Boomer: Yeah, I agree. I ‘googled’ following that interaction and read some interesting comments from folks in the ‘industry.’ One wrote that it used to be considered ‘classy’ of a salon owner not to accept tips but that, as you said, it’s more accepted, now. My stylist has been in business for many years. Maybe, he’s choosing to follow that older custom. It’s interesting. I know him well so I may discuss the issue with him at my next appointment. 🙂

        • Sam on August 17, 2012 at 11:46 pm

          My tipping experience has been as follows: I’ve never had anyone refuse a tip when I have offered one, owner or not. Not only that, but now-a-days, everywhere you go there’s a “tip jar” at the front. It seems like everyone wants an extra buck or two, regardless of level of service, type of service, etc. Even big companies have gotten in on the action! As far as I’m concerned, a $2 dollar “green” fee for a paper bill from your cable or phone provider is nothing more than a euphemism for “tip”.

          Bottom Line: This is an expensive country folks. When you add in taxes (also very high in Canada) and then have to ‘tip’ on top of that, simple pleasures turn out to be expensive pleasures (eating, taking a taxi, getting your hair done, etc). At the end of the day, I will agree with you, the owner shouldn’t get tipped. Women’s cuts especially (plus when you include colour, highlights, etc) cost a small fortune here. You’ll realize how much you overpay for these services (in addition to many others) when you patronize salons in other countries (and I’m not talking about places like UK, France, Monaco, etc). When you factor in everything (the total cost, taxes, tips) ordinary services become expensive. In a way I can understand why someone on a limited income would not tip (like this person you know).

          • NormaK on August 23, 2012 at 2:03 pm

            Sam: Had the most interesting discussion with my stylist, today, about tipping. Also, I need to correct some of my comments. I made an erroneous assumption. My stylist DOES accept tips. His office uses the old style (manually prepared) credit card sales drafts. When I receive the draft, the total amount is already written by the office manager. I asked her why and she gave a quick, “Don’t worry about it.” I assumed that that was their new policy. Turns out that my stylist feels that it’s presumptuous to leave a space for the tip to be added in, and as if that process is lacking in propriety and manners. Now, that’s a pleasant departure from the norm these days, isn’t it? 🙂 He says that he has very wealthy clients who don’t tip at all, and single moms who tip generously at every appointment. We also discussed tipping for, as Boomer and others have stated, superior service, rather than ‘station.’ So, I tipped my excellent stylist, and will from now on. He is now aware of this blog and this particular thread so I hope that he responds

  10. John on August 15, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Tipping is important . . . but I wasn’t always sure what to tip! Thanks for your excellent list. I was a cellphone salesperson once and received a few tips from customers… it was really nice of them and I will never forget it. 🙂

  11. SE Book on August 17, 2012 at 10:40 am

    I would have to agree with what Emily Post outlines. I have worked in the service industry and I think what is stated is fair.

  12. Sam on August 20, 2012 at 12:26 am

    I wholeheartedly give tips to those who deserve it. Most often, I give tips to taxi drivers when the traffic is really bad. I know they won’t be able to earn much in those situations plus the fact that gas is really expensive today. In some cases like in restaurants, if I see that there is a service charge in my bill, I don’t give tips anymore.

  13. Epon on August 20, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    I find tipping to be quite a bother. Why on earth would you want to tip a hairdresser? Are they not charging enough for their service already? $45 for a haircut that takes 20 mins. is well compensated. I think the whole tipping “industry” is out of hand. We travelled in Romania, received excellent food and service in a restaurant, and the waitress politely returned our tip saying she was getting paid for her job. I am sure the wages in that restaurant were much lower than what is required for living expenses. I cannot understand why certain people expect tips, and others who work just as hard, and who really receive no more wages, are not tipped. As far as I am concerned all tipping should be abolished. Employers should pay fair wages.

  14. Pat on August 7, 2013 at 7:02 am

    With respect to service in Canada vs elsewhere, I feel that most Canadian employers do not properly train employees on how to provide excellent service. The differences between excellent and average service can be quite subtle. Many employees in service industries are new to the workforce and are unaware of what constitutes great service.

  15. Grumpy Andy on September 20, 2013 at 11:21 am

    Originating from the UK where one tips only for exceptional service it was hard to find the right balance in Canada where tipping is and expected norm. My rule of thumb is that I will tip when I recieve good service when a product is being served, ie in a resturant or bar, but I dont tip where I am buying what I consider service in the first place, ie a haircut, a car detail, a delivery, If I dont haggle the price down, I expect good service when I buy it.

    Im also very happy to simply not leave a tip when service is IMHO poor, I have no qualms about it, no guilt, it my money and I work hard for it and its I who chooses to tip a server for a good service, or not for simply being treated like a number.

    • Boomer on September 23, 2013 at 3:03 pm

      @Grumpy Andy: I think your rules of thumb seems pretty fair.

      I also wonder why it is acceptable to tip for certain services (e.g. haircut) and not others (e.g. retail store sales associate).

  16. Tom on November 26, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    I had a waiter follow me out into the parking lot when I didn’t add a tip to my payment. ( I’d left a twonie under my plate.) He berated me saying he had a family to support and that he didn’t do anything. I should have asked to see the manager.
    The wine I ordered was served with cork in it. Then, upon checking the bill I noticed the wine wasn’t the one I ordered but rather a more expensive one. (”we ran out of the one you ordered.”)

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