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'It was inappropriate': 'Tip-flation' spreads in untraditional ways in Canada

Some say prompts for bigger tips have been the norm since the pandemic when many were supporting local businesses. (energepic.com via Pexels) Some say prompts for bigger tips have been the norm since the pandemic when many were supporting local businesses. (energepic.com via Pexels)
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Some Canadians say they are fed up with tipping partly because they think it has become common in places it didn't exist before.

Some say prompts for bigger tips have been the norm since the pandemic when many were supporting local businesses.

"Mental yardsticks for tipping have moved somewhat and expectations have changed, putting more pressure on consumers to pay more tips," Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax, said in an email to CTVNews.ca. Charlebois will release a report on tipping practices and the related consumer behaviour in the spring. "This practice can make tipping feel more compulsory and may lead to higher overall costs for consumers." 

Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, spokesperson for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, says the reasons can vary for why a business owner's point of sale machine may propose higher rates.

"However, it's crucial to understand that bars and restaurants have been facing mounting pressures in the last four years, including lockdowns, labour shortages, lower consumer demand, and higher taxes, minimum wages, and interest rates," Baiguzhiyeva said in an email to CTVNews.ca.

CTVNews.ca asked Canadians their opinions about what many believe is the rise of "tip-flation" and "tip creep."

CTVNews.ca has not independently verified all the emailed responses.

One of the major themes of the responses was criticism over what they're being asked to tip for. Here's what Canadians had to say about where they were asked to leave a tip and what they thought about it.

Places prompting tips

Bruce Thornhill of Rocky Mountain House, Alta., says tipping culture has gotten out of hand.

"In only a few years, it has spread from dine-in restaurants and hair salons to practically everywhere with a payment machine," he said in an email to CTVNews.ca. "I recently experienced it from a professional paramedical provider (registered massage therapist) who bills at $90/hour."

Bev Burgess of Medicine Hat, Alta., agrees, noting it should be at the discretion of the customer.

As an example, she says she was the last one to receive her meal at a restaurant when 14 of her family members were nearly done eating.

"When my bill was brought to me I was automatically charged 14 (per cent) extra for a tip," Burgess said in an email to CTVNews.ca. "I did not feel a tip was deserved because of the poor service but was told it was automatic."

Christine Sorensen, vice-president of a market research company in Toronto, says she was surprised when the payment machine prompted her for a tip when she paid to have a copy of her condo key fob made.

"Because they (took) payment before actually making the fob, I felt compelled to tip as I was worried they would purposely mess it up if I didn't," Sorensen said in an email to CTVNews.ca.

Jim Davis from Banff, Alta., said the first time he noticed "tip creep" was a few years ago at a local florist.

"I had ordered a bouquet for my wife's birthday and while the florist was making the arrangement I went across the street to (a) hardware store to purchase some paint," Davis said in an email to CTVNews.ca. "Returning to the florist to pay for the flowers I was surprised to see a tip prompt (15-20-25 I think). The service I received at the hardware store in the preparation of my paint order was at least equivalent to what I received at the florist so I felt it was inappropriate for the florist to suggest a tip."

Davis said he was also surprised when the payment machine prompted him to add a tip for the coffee he poured himself in the cafeteria of a ski resort.

"I did not tip - it would have been more appropriate to tip the liftie who actually performs a service in helping skiers get on and off the chairlift safely," Davis said. "I do find it odd that coffee shops and other fast food establishments prompt for a tip before any actual service is delivered."

Maria Elizabeth Pereira, a retiree from Vancouver, says she had a clothing item altered and was surprised to see a 15 per cent tip prompt on the credit card machine. "I did not tip," Pereira said in an email to CTVNews.ca. "What they were charging me for the alteration was more than enough."

Drawing the line on tipping

Richard Chin, an extra in the TV and film industry in Vancouver, says he had a recent experience with "tipping fatigue" at a local independent beer and wine store.

"After selecting a couple of craft beers for purchase, I took them to the cashier, where the credit card machine tip options started at 15 per cent (and went up from there)," he wrote in an email to CTVNews.ca. "Of course, I selected the option for no tip, as none was justified. The cashier seemed indifferent, and offered no positive customer service to promote a tip."

Chin says he would never skip the tip for dine-in "unless the service was absolutely atrocious." For takeaway orders, he usually doesn't tip and delivery service will get around 15 per cent.

"In the end, it's about how much 'service' I received from the individual," he said.

Doug Hendry of Simcoe County, Ont., near Toronto, says tipping in fast-food restaurants should stop.

"Overall, a tipping income should not be a consideration by restaurant owners when hiring potential employees," Hendry said in an email to CTVNews.ca. "They should be paid a scale based on the server's ability to satisfy customer expectations. Any tips received above that are in consideration of exemplary service."

Karen Hermeston of Calgary says she draws the line on tipping if the business offers no greeting or help to customers.

As an example, she says she visited a liquor store in Victoria, B.C., last year with her sister.

Hermeston recounted choosing a few pre-made cocktails at the cooler and waited for the sales associate. "Much to my surprise, the debit machine asked for a tip!" Hermeston said in an email to CTVNews.ca. "There was no way I was going to leave a tip for anyone who is only ringing up a purchase."

Sorensen says she doesn't agree that people should tip registered massage therapists whose hourly rates are high. "It's professional training and a licensed profession. They should be making enough not to have to rely on tips for their income."

Paul Groulx of Brantford, Ont., says he wouldn't tip in certain cases. He recalls one example when he bought two diet colas at a cashless arena during a Junior A hockey game.

"The attendant at the counter took the two drinks from a refrigerator a few feet away (and) placed them on the counter and the device had tip options starting at 18 (per cent)," Groulx said in an email to CTVNews.ca. "Call me old fashioned but I bypassed the tip. $8.00 is enough for two drinks that I can pay $3.99 for a six pack at the grocery store."

Thornhill says he will no longer tip for standing in line for service or at drive-thrus. "There needs to be a significant personal interaction that forms part of the overall purchase experience."

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