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Financial planning tips

March 28, 2012

How much should you tip?

Without hard and fast rules, tipping can be stressful. Here’s help from Toronto etiquette consultant Lisa Wright.

I find tipping a tad stressful mainly because there are no hard and fast rules about when to tip and how much. Sure, we all know that you should tip your waiter or waitress 15% but what if the service was excellent? Or poor? And what if you’re just getting takeout?

To help navigate the tricky field of tipping, I turned to Toronto etiquette consultant Lisa Wright of The Etiquette Advantage. The first thing she told me was I’m not alone in my confusion over tipping — it’s actually pretty common. “People do get anxious about tipping,” she said. “We’d love to tip everyone but if we did we’d be broke.”

This is where understanding the nuances of tipping comes in handy. When deciding whether to tip or how much, Wright recommends you consider both the level of service you received and the particular situation. (You also need to consider local cultural norms.)

In a business context — at least in North America — Wright says the way you tip (or don’t tip) can make or break your relationship with clients or colleagues. “Not tipping when you’re in front of business contacts is a mark against you,” she says, adding that over-tipping in front of clients or colleagues is also a bad sign. “It could show them that you spend their money too freely.”

Another rule of thumb when it comes to tipping — be discreet. Don’t wave big wads of cash around to impress your friends or staff. Subtlety is key. And even when you receive poor service, you should tip something, even if it’s only a small amount.

Who should you tip and how much?

W right offers the following examples of acceptable tipping in Canada:

Restaurant servers: 15% (or up to 20% if it’s a business-related meal). Getting takeout? No tip required.

Hair cutter: 10% to 15% (if it’s the salon owner, you do not have to tip, but if you get excellent service a tip is still a good way to show you’re pleased).

Hotel staff: Consider tipping housekeeping staff $1 a day. However, says Wright, put it in an envelope that is clearly marked “housekeeping” or “maid service,” otherwise they won’t be able to hold onto it (hotel rules!).

Taxi driver: 10% to 15% — if they handle your bags, add another $1 a bag.

The Emily Post Institute has even more examples on its website. For example, the Post folks say it’s okay to tip on the pre-tax amount on the bill (and in provinces like Ontario that have the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) that can save you big time!).

After talking to Wright, I definitely feel better about my tipping habits — at least I’m on the right track. 

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