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New poll shows gratuity trends have reached tipping point, Canadian service workers chime in

A restaurant bill and some coins are pictured in an undated file photo by CTV Vancouver. A new Angus Reid Institute poll shows nearly three-quarters of British Columbians have reached a tipping point when it comes to gratuity. A restaurant bill and some coins are pictured in an undated file photo by CTV Vancouver. A new Angus Reid Institute poll shows nearly three-quarters of British Columbians have reached a tipping point when it comes to gratuity.
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A new poll on gratuity trends shows Canadians have reached a tipping point.

According to data released Thursday by the Angus Reid Institute, more than three-in-five Canadians say they’re frustrated by “tip creep” and “tip-flation”—terms used to describe rising gratuity prompts and expectations.

“This phenomenon is not seen evenly across the country,” the non-profit wrote in a release. “In British Columbia, a province with one of the highest costs of living in the country, approaching three-quarters say they are asked to tip more and more often.”

As a result, 86 per cent of Canadians—regardless of whether they’ve worked a job that received tips—support scrapping the country’s gratuity-based service system for higher wages.

The majority of survey respondents who want a tipping system overhaul believe the current model allows employers to underpay their workers—a belief shared by 53 per cent of those who want gratuities to stay.

MIXED VIEWS ON 'SERVICE-INCLUDED' MODEL

Fifty-nine per cent of Canadians polled say they'd prefer tipping to be included in the overall price structure, and to abolish giving consumers the option altogether.

One small business owner who works in the food and beverage industry told CTV News that adopting a "service included" payment model is risky business.

"Increasing staff wages even more to negate having the tip option is going to drive more businesses under, unless they increase their retail sales price even more, but the market can't keep handling more inflation," said the business owner, who wanted to remain anonymous.

A Vancouver liquor store general manager also defender the store's use of a tip option.

"Our staff are product experts, not just cashiers, who help pair customers with the perfect item," said the general manager, who also wanted to remain anonymous. "We thought long and hard before deciding to implement a tip prompt, weighing the pros and cons. We had started to lose staff to stores that were offering this function. Thus, staff retention and satisfaction were the determining factors."

One Vancouver restaurant owner spoke to CTV News about their no tipping policy.

"I think as business owners, it's our responsibility to pay our staff, not the customers' responsibility to pay them," said Pricilla Deo, co-owner of Folke restaurant.

Deo says they've been open since June 2022 and she has no plans on introducing tipping anytime soon.

“We had the advantage of kind of just starting out already – paying our staff salary instead of doing an hourly wage with tips, so there was really no switch we had to make," said Deo. "So we didn’t have to increase our prices or anything – that was already the price point for us, so we didn’t have that shock point with customers at all.” 

WHAT PEOPLE WHO ARE PAID TIPS EXPECT

With more than two decades experience working in Canada’s service industry, Teresa Hall remembers a time when low prices on menus inspired generosity from customers.

“When I was in Calgary? It was like an oil boom, right? Everyone just had all this money and just went crazy with it,” Hall told CTV News during her bartending shift at Steamworks in Vancouver’s Gastown. “Now, if you don’t get tipped, you’re screwed.”

At Steamworks, servers share six per cent of their total tips with back-of-house staff in the kitchen, as well as bartenders, hosts and serving assistants on shift. Takeout orders aren’t counted as part of the server’s sales since, according to Hall, those rarely bring in tips. Hall says a standard tip nowadays is 18 to 20 per cent of a bill, though she’s seen prompts on card machines go much higher.

According to Angus Reid’s poll, one-in-five people say they left a tip of 20 per cent of more when they last dined out, compared to just eight per cent of people who said so in a similar poll conducted in 2016.

Recent findings by Research Co. showed one-third of Canadians think servers should always receive a tip, regardless of the quality of service or how busy the restaurant is. When it comes to tipping for other services, however, opinions varied.

TIPPING FOR TO-GO

At Au14, a family-run Vietnamese restaurant in Montreal, servers don’t have to share any portion of their tips.

Owner Cindy Ha’s grandmother opened the business in 1976 after leaving Vietnam following the war, and Ha has been in charge for the past two decades.

While take-out orders account for 30 per cent of the restaurant’s revenue, Ha says they rarely bring in tips for the business.

That’s in line with data from Research Co. showing 54 per cent of Canadians don’t believe gratuity for take-out is necessary.

Ha says she wishes she could hire a third server to handle takeout orders, since they take away from normal operations, but she can’t.

“With my servers having to be there to pack takeout, they’re neglecting that time with their customers,” Ha told CTV News Vancouver by phone. “That time could be spent improving the service and getting them better tips.”

SHOULD YOU TIP FOR FOOD DELIVERY?

Mirrian Fallon, a 36-year-old who has been working as an UberEats driver in Calgary for the last two years, says the distance between pickup and drop off is what matters to her, not the price of the order.

“It’s one thing to tip $1 to $2 if the trip is staying in the same community and the roads are in good shape. It’s another thing entirely to drive food for 20 minutes in -35C and get a $1 to $2 tip,” Fallon wrote in a Facebook message to CTV News Vancouver. “If people want their food taken farther than that they should tip based on the total distance from pickup to drop-off.”

EXTRA COINS FOR COFFEE?

People are more willing to tip for services that involve food, according to one barista in Calgary.

Gabi Racansky, 21, works at Monogram, a specialty coffee chain that roasts and sells its own beans, as well as java paraphernalia like pour-over style carafes, aero press machines and ceramic mugs.

“Sometimes, people ask why they’re being asked to tip when they’re just buying a bag of coffee,” Racansky said, referring to the prompt on card machines. “But I feel like most people understand why tipping exists and when it’s appropriate.”

She finds people don’t tend to tip as much for online orders.

When asked what she thinks people should tip for service in her industry, Racansky answered by email: “people should tip however much they think the service is worth; obviously higher tips are appreciated.”

At Monogram, tips are split up each shift between employees, and Larkin says they can add between $1 and $2 to her hourly wage.

TIPPING ETIQUETTE FOR NON-FOOD SERVICES

Similar tipping support exists amongst tattoo artists and tattoo enthusiasts, says Vegas Dixon of Toronto’s TRU Tattoo Studio.

“I think, for the most, part tipping etiquette is not well known,” Dixon told CTV News Vancouver by phone. “Folks who get tattoos don’t even know if they can tip; most people who do are big tattoo enthusiasts.”

The 29-year-old says the ethics of tipping is an ongoing conversation in the tattoo industry, especially because the high cost of permanent body art is already a barrier for marginalized clients.

“We’re service providers and with any service you tip, right? But we don’t work in the same way as 20 per cent as when you go in the restaurant,” Dixon says, adding people should tip whatever amount they feel comfortable with. “There are a lot of artists out there that appreciate gift giving as tips.”

Examples of gift tips include alcohol, homemade food, knitted goods and gift certificates. Dixon says customers and tattoo artists sometimes exchange services in lieu of payment.

Ultimately, Dixon recommends that people ask questions about tipping if they’re confused.

“Be mindful of what you are able to provide or give financially based on your own budget, and if it’s only enough to pay for something and not tip, there’s no shame in that,” says Dixon.

“More often than not, folks aren’t judging. We understand how financially precarious we all are right now.”

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