So You Want To Be A Waiter

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Oh, Canada

No really. Oh Canada :sigh: Why don’t you know any better?

$30 on $300 is a really shitty tip. It really is.

What astounds me is, from all accounts, you’re supposed to have roughly the same tip standards as us in the US, 15% as the “average”. I’ve already given up the idea that, unlike many in the US, you’re just not going to tip on the final post-tax total. I get it, really I do, so, when the bill is $330 and you leave me $30, I give you the fact that you’re actually only tipping on $300. I also give up any notion of getting 20% even with the most outstanding service. That’s just a given.

So why is it that 10% is such a common tip? Is it because you know you’ll never be back in the same restaurant, so you feel you can save money on the back of your server? Is it because you’re proud of being thrifty? Anyone who spends $330 on a meal for you adults and two young adults is obviously not so very concerned about “thrift”, if you catch my drift. Do I really have to tell you that I make 2.13 an hour? I know it’s not that way everywhere in the States, but 9 times out of ten, it’s well below the $7 or whatever minimum wage is today.

You are all so nice and well-scrubbed and well-spoken. Your grooming is above average. You like to watch men with sticks and dangerously sharp shoes slam into each other, occasionally slash at each other with said sticks and get into massive fights. I can dig that. Hell, those very people know how to tip, even when they come from the Uzbekistan or Finland.

I guess what I want to know is where this 10% thing that you have become so famous for comes from. Apparently it doesn’t come  from your own restaurant tipping traditions. How is it that so many of you are on the same page on this?

Could you please turn the page?

PS, I almost made $200 tonight. I would have had you even bothered to tip $35 on $300 (pretax), which would have still been a shitty tip (five more bucks would have killed you?). It makes it really shitty when you make $196 having had 20% of your business leave you a bad tip and leaves you just short of a milestone number. That’s right, your shitty four top was 1/5th of my whole night from a sales standpoint. On a Saturday night. It was actually a fourth of my covers, having waited on 16 people total (6 tables total). I can hear you say, “Well, I spent money, didn’t I? If I had only spend $200 and left you $30, you would have done about the same amount of work and you would have gotten your darned 15%, right? Well, my friend from the North, it doesn’t work that way. It’s a percentage game, which you know, since you lift me almost exactly 10%. You knew what you were doing, didn’t you? Plus, if you had only spent $200, you would have left me $20, you smartass!. I don’t think people outside the industry know how we feel about our percentages. I know it’s all about how much you take home in the end, but we really do gain job satisfaction out of hitting our marks, and that includes hitting our percentages. I would have rather ended up with $180 in sales if you had spent $150 and left me $ 22. I would have felt better about the night. Yes, I know it’s really not about my feelings and all that, but I just wanted you to know.  

OK, rant over. I feel better now.


21 responses to “Oh, Canada

  1. vandervecken February 7, 2010 at 8:07 am

    i have to say that i like quebecois for more than ‘normal’ canadians … because you’re not getting squat from them, ever, period. at least you know what you’re in for. the others are hit or miss. it’s like trying to fill an inside straight.

    i can tell you from some british and kiwi friends who have family ‘back home’ that they know, and don’t care. but it seems strange it would be the same with canadians because [1] they tend to be nicer and [2] they come back to the same places year after year.

    in any case, have seen much of canada this year. i wonder what’s keeping them away?

  2. teleburst February 7, 2010 at 9:04 am

    I think that the frustrating thing for me is the fact that we have a similar culture and a similar value set, the exact same language absent an identifiable “regional accent”, and, maddingly, the same tipping standards.

    It just doesn’t compute.

    American tourists are often less-than-adequate tippers because of the fact that they aren’t invested in their restaurant. They may or may not be back and the people who are waiting on them aren’t part of their community (in fact, they might seem a little strange by their standards of speech and bearing). but even American toursists aren’t so like-minded when it comes to tipping. I’ve found that well over 50% (dare I say 75%) of Canadians leave 10%, and that’s on the pre-tax subtotal. Most US tourists leave more than that, even when they fall short (13%, etc.)

    I have to wonder if Canadians know what an insult tip 10% is considered here in the States. Perhaps it isn’t considered that in Canada because many, if not most of their waiters already make US$8 an hour. Perhaps the mindset is “That waiter is making decent money already – so what if our tipping standard is 15% for decent service – it’s not going to hurt my waiter much to leave 10%”.

    Well, it DOES hurt here. My other 4 top basically doubled their tip plus some for a slightly larger bill. And we’re not talking about a $10 going to $20; we’re talking about a $30 tip going up to $75 for a $400 (post tax) bill.

    It’s a real headscratcher, that’s for sure.

    • bek February 7, 2010 at 11:36 am

      I’m quite curious to see where you got your statistics for the over $11US an hour, particularly which provinces/territory you’re sourcing and which year.

      • teleburst February 7, 2010 at 11:59 am

        You know, I think I might have misremembered this from conversations with Canadian waiters. In doing some further research, it seems that I was over-optimistic. My friend Steve at Waiter Extraordinare has written that the hourly wage in the Toronto area makes CND$8 an hour ($8 an hour (current exchange rate). And that just went up last year (from what, I don’t know). There might be other provinces where it’s lower, although I don’t know this for sure.

        So I stand corrected. I’ll correct the record.

        For the record, there are three states in the US that require $8 as a minimum wage for all workers, even tipped employees. All of those states are on the West Coast, where the cost of living is insanely high for most workers. For the rest of US waiters and other tipped employees, tip credits are allowed, with hourly wages ranging from 2.13 an hour, as in my state, to $5 – $6 an hour.

        Fortunately for Canadians, they don’t have to worry about paying for health insurance out of their wages. Heck, in the States, waiters are lucky to even be offered health insurance, but that’s a burden that’s shared by many workers in all industries and is a topic for a different discussion.

        Thanks for alerting me to this error in my posting!

  3. waiterextraordinaire February 7, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    Business people will generally tip well but if it is just a Canadian tourist then yeah you get 10% of gross amount. I have worked in some nice high clientele places and got good tip percentages here but if it is just the average joe that is your customer you get what you get and that is your 10% of gross and sometimes even net. It is just the way it is. Those places you make money on the volume of people you serve not the percentages.

    • teleburst February 8, 2010 at 8:54 am

      I guess the thing I can’t get my head around is the idea that the “tipping standard” is supposed to be the same as the US. It sounds to me more like wishful thinking than an actual standard. In the US, it’s generally held to (once again, it depends on where you work, I suppose, although my personal average hasn’t changed all that much even while working in 4 distinct restaurant niches.)

      Here in the US, a 10% tip is a 1 in 20 thing for most servers. 15% – 20% is probably between 13 – 17 out of 20 depending on where you work and how good of a waiter you are.

      Having said that, I suspect that our tipouts might be higher than yours. When I worked mass market, I only netted around 10 – 12% because of the very high tipout. That’s an unusually high amount as tipouts go but it’s not unheard of. Currently, I give about 28% back most nights. So I’m going to net around 14 – 16% of the post tax totals, which isn’t too bad.

      • waiterextraordinaire February 8, 2010 at 10:11 am

        My tip out is pretty big where I am but once again it depends on where you work. The other night I walked out with $156 but tipped out $50. Gross sales were about $1500. A lot of people I need to do that. That night was 34.

  4. canadian server February 11, 2010 at 10:26 am

    I am quite disappointed in all the people I have heard of bashing Canadian tippers. I find it quite disappointing that you’re judging us as a nation, and not on the individual people as would be more appropriate.

    That being said, I would not say that the tip standards are quite the same. I work in a small chain restaurant in Canada, just north of Toronto, with a relaxed beer and wings bar feel. I can’t speak for everyone, and percentages may up in fancier restaurants, but unless they caused me a lot of extra work or I really went the extra mile for them, I am never goinbg to complain about a 10% tip. Less than that will piss me off, and I don’t get excited about 15%, as plenty leave me that much, but a 20% can make my night.

    Canada and the US are so similar in most things that it had never occurred to me that the tipping standard would be significantly different, up until I started reading some of these blogs, I would have left 15% in an American restaurant and felt that I had left a decent tip. I had no idea that American servers make so little, in Canada we make less than minimum but it is $8.25 instead of $9.50, not nearly such a dramatic difference. We are also taxed differently, no one is tracking our tips too carefully, and as long as what we claim at the end of the year looks reasonable, no one is going to bother us.

    So, I apologize for Canadian bad tippers, but a little understanding would be nice. A lot of just don’t realize the difference, and while I would read up on local customs to go somewhere else, it would never occur to me to read a travel book to go to the US.

    • teleburst February 11, 2010 at 10:50 am

      I can appreciate this and not ALL Canadians are bad tippers, but those are in the definite minority. Heck, the only real way we know that we’re waiting on Canadians is if they tell us through conversation or they’re betrayed by their credit cards. The accent isn’t always a giveaway because people from Minnesota and Michgan can sound similar. Canadians, being a deservedly proud people, don’t hesitate to tell you that they’re from Canada if you ask them where they’re from.

      I’d be perfectly happy with 15%. I understand that virtually no Canadian is going to tip on the final amount, so I don’t judge you on doing that, although the majority of Americans seem to do it. I understand the thought process behind the question, “Why should I tip on the tax”?

      It’s just that so many Canadians even tip 10% on the subtotal, which especially stands out even more when you’re used to seeing 15 or 20% on the final total. The part that I have trouble understanding is that if you go to any Canadian travel guide, it says basically the same thing that American guides say. So where does this 10% thing come from?

      Steve at Waiter Extrordinare has written about this in the past day or two. He’s made some interesting points about the psychology of the average Canadian.

      For the record, in the US, 10% is considered an insult tip (either because we consider it an insult by the server because it’s so rare in the face of adequate or better service, or that it’s an insult given for bad service, as it should be). and I find that Canadians often round down, making things worse. A $48 subtotal garners a $4 tip. Of course, I hate when Americans do this as well, especially when you start rounding down on big checks (a $230 check becomes a $200 check, for instance – that’s the difference of almost $5 at 15%).

      Perhaps we’re a bit spoiled by our countrymen’s general largess. But as long as Canadians at least do the 15% thing in the face of good service, most of us would be very happy and it would cease being a continual topic.

      I guess I thought that the 10% came from Canadians’ own standards, so I was shocked to find out that this wasn’t true at all. I assumed that because a Canadain server can’t make less than a real minimum wage, the market had compensated. to find out that this was in error was a real head-scratcher, to be sure.

  5. Gracie March 3, 2010 at 2:35 am

    I am an American and have recently moved to Toronto. I’ve been a professional server for 10 years. Here in Ontario the minimum wage for servers is 8.25 an hour. I’m fortunate enough to work in a fine dining destination restaurant here. The standard tip here is 15%. I expected and typically got 20% in the USA, and often received 25%. Granted minimum wage here isn’t 2.13 like it was at home but after 4% tip outs on total sales, dine and dash funds and transportation costs servers are only walking with 10%. Here that’s still good money once you cross the border and try that with American servers you’re really hitting them where it hurts.

  6. Miss G March 4, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Serving in Canada myself, I find the 10% generalization a little hard to believe. Don’t get me wrong, I’m the first to admit that I will avoid serving groups of middle-aged women, seniors, as well as Asians and Europeans like the plague (there’s absolutely no racism, sexism etc. happening here guys, I’m just picking on the stereotypically poor tippers), so I’m very guilty of generalizing! However, even in my province known for having some very uncultured farmer/redneck types (sorry to any fellow Saskatchewanians!), I still am consistently walking away at the end of a shift with about 15% of my total sales, AFTER tipping out on 3% of that same number.

    Knowing first-hand how difficult serving can be, as a rule I always tip 20% or $5, whichever is more. That being said, I have to agree with Gracie on the standard here being 15%. Obviously I’m getting more than a few 20%+ tips, if you follow my math, however I don’t necessarily expect it. On an average night in the busy lounge that I work, I’ll maybe get 2 or 3 10%ers out of 20 or so tabs, which I’m clearly not happy with, but generally don’t view as an insult either…I’m just going to assume you’re a cheap f***. Most servers that I’ve worked with have actually said that they hate serving American tourists, which I find odd because they certainly should be used to tipping more! Must be something about being away from home that makes any tourist think it’s okay to stiff?…

    I do absolutely agree though that Canadians need to be aware of how low the hourly pay is in most of the USA, and tip accordingly. I’m lucky enough to make a $9.25 minimum wage, but kudos to you guys in the south who are making $2.13 an hour – I would never do it, good on ya! I kinda wanna go on vacation to the States now so I can do my part to break the stereotype. Please don’t spit in my water? 🙂

  7. Round Mirror November 22, 2010 at 3:21 am

    most american restaurants serves fatty foods that is why sometimes i avoid them –*

  8. Alex July 24, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    Listen, here in Canada our servers aren’t paid nearly as bad. So 10 to 15% is generally an acceptable or fair tip. (Maybe our tourist guides says something else about our tipping traditions but that doesn’t make it so.). Furthermore US and Canada have very similar standards so you won’t find many or any Canadians reading a tourist guide to America. Therefore instead of bashing Canada as a nation or generalizing Canadian tippers as assholes or the like, why don’t you just politely educate them on the servers financial situation. Trust me they will be more then happy to compensate. I am a Canadian and I would not have known about this, nor would I have expected anything of the sort to exist in a first world. If you can still call America that.

    To sum up yes, you do have to tell them you make $2.13 an hour. They are foreign to your country, don’t expect them to know the customs if you don’t care enough to tell them.

    So quit internet bitching and tell them.


    • teleburst July 24, 2011 at 9:25 pm

      Actually, we really aren’t allowed to say what we make per hour because that would imply talking about tips with the guest. Sorry I got your dander up. Most Canadians aren’t as prickly. But just as Canadians sometimes complain that ‘mericans don’t respect that Canada is a sovereign country, you are falling into the same trap. When I travel to a different country, I try to know the customs. We are a different country even if you doubt that we are a ” first country” based on a long-standing tipping custom. Well, I’m glad you’ve been informed now. I’m happy with 15% from you guys and I’ve seen more of it than in the past. And, believe me, some of or own tourists take the same short of advantage of undertipping since they figure they’ll never be back.

  9. Francine February 2, 2012 at 1:29 am

    Just like to say, as a recently graduated grad student (23) with no job, I still try to go out to eat…and never ever ever have tipped 10%. I do 15-20%, because I know that I should try to tip when possible. 15% for me is minimum, always. The only exceptions I have made to that is when either a) it is 20 more cents and I just don’t have the random 20 cents in my wallet, or b) it was a taxi driver who was late and who then made me late (ugh!). But after speaking to my friends- who have jobs, don’t have jobs, etc- all university graduates living in Toronto, who regularly go down to the states, we all tip 15%. I have never ever heard of 10%. Though, I also did not know that servers in the states got so much less! It seems unbelievable to me!

  10. James July 13, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    So let me get this straight, you just made nearly $200 in one shift to bring people food and drinks and clean up the table when they’re done? You’re complaining about this? I’m a journeyman carpenter and you make more than I do, I had to work for years to hone my skills to be worthy of $20 an hour for hard labour, what skills do you have? If you don’t think you make enough money maybe you should quit your bitching and get a real job!!!

    • teleburst July 13, 2012 at 5:10 pm

      First of all, I have also worked for years to “hone my skills” to be worthy of a place where you can spend $330 on a dinner for 4. You know, it would be just peachy if I always made $200 a shift. You know, sometimes I might come in for lunch and not wait on a single table. Or I might walk with $80 for 8 hours of work. And ask yourself this, woodman – if you are expecting to be paid your customary piece rate and someone handed you a folded wad of bills and says that it’s all there and you unroll it later to find that they shorted you 25%, how would YOU feel, regardless of how many other pieces that you sold that day? Or how about a customer that orders a table with fine burled walnut but decides to pay you for plywood? That’s basically what a guest who orders a lobster and nice wine but decides to pay you for beer and flank steak. Oh yeah, out of that $30, I only got to keep $22 of it after my tipout to my bartender (even though he didn’t serve the wine) and my server assistant, who DID clear and reset the table. And one last word – you sound just the kind of person who would expect spotless service because it was your anniversary or first date. You should hope that you have a waiter that has the sort of experience to be able to give you that sort of service in the middle of a Saturday night. You might not want a server who has been working at Chili’s for 2 months. You might instead want a server who can rake in $200 on a shift because they have the experience and confidence and knowledge to make your evening go well.

      PS, the “get a real job” thing is tired and cliched.

  11. scott July 21, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    I tip you for the quality of your service. Give me prompt and polite service, you get 5-10%. End your shift during my meal and insist I pay now, you get 0%. Give me crappy service, you get 0%. Give me outstanding service, you get more than 10%. Not a fixed amount – it is a TIP, I am not responsible for the fact that your employer doesn’t pay you enough. If you don’t like it, don’t complain to me – either don’t become a waiter or complain to your government for having abysmal minimum wage laws.

    • scott July 21, 2013 at 12:41 pm

      Oh, an incidentally, I don’t get a tip for my work. When is the last time you left a 20% tip, say, to the cashier at your grocery store? No, I thought not. Why you think you are ENTITLED to a tip, just for showing up, is beyond me. Why you would bash a nation and then insult us by hanging the flag upside down just because people think differently than you is also beyond me. With that attitude of self-entitlement, it doesn’t surprise me people don’t automatically give you tips. Seriously, you need to get out (of your country) and travel a bit more.

      • teleburst July 21, 2013 at 1:34 pm

        Son, incidentally, I lived in Germany for 7 years. Maybe YOU should get out of your country and learn the local customs when you travel. I am entitled to a reasonable compensations for services rendered, based on the customary market value established by the market that I work in. I am NOT entitled to a tip simply for showing up. When I lived in Germany, I tipped according to the local customs. There, waiters receive a salary which is based on the MANDATORY 15% service charge added to every bill. The custom there is to leave additional money to the next level (IOW, if the bill was DM52, you left DM55. If you left more, it was considered a bit of an insult (or you were an American tourist who didn’t know any better).

        Regarding to your own wage scheme, that’s fine. And if tipping the cashier at my grocery store ever becomes customary, I will tip them according the local standard. That’s because, unlike you, I’m not a dick.

    • teleburst July 21, 2013 at 1:42 pm

      If you tip that way in the US, you are simply being ignorant of local custom. That’s your own ignorance and laziness in learning the local custom. While I grant that it’s your right to be willfully ignorant, you would simply be written off as an aberration. Certainly, if you were a tourist and would never return, you could get away with it. But you would never be a welcomed regular and, if outed as such a tipper, would only receive 50% of the usual service since that’s what you were paying for. No, you’re “not responsible” for my wage scheme. However, you are the beneficiary of artificially LOW menu prices based on this over 50 year old custom. If you willfully continue to tip inappropriately, you are riding on the coattails of that 95% of people who tip appropriately. In other words, you’re a welfare diner. I’d be ashamed of that if I were you. Since you live in Amsterdam, you are tipping appropriately IN AMSTERDAM, since most restaurants make you tip 15% as part of the bill. I’ve been to Amsterdam countless times and I never bitched about “having to tip without a choice”. So you are already tipping 20 – 25%. Actually, I prefer the American way, where you actually have a choice to penalize bad service by leaving less than 15%.

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