Is 20% the new standard tip at Calgary restaurants?

Tipping expectations continue to rise says Calgary-based etiquette expert.

Tipping expectations continue to rise, says Calgary-based etiquette expert

A Calgary etiquette expert says the standard tip in this city should be 20 per cent for good service. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

The standard practice for tipping is now 20 per cent, according to Calgary-based etiquette expert John Holt.

"Here in Calgary there is no excuse, ever, to leave a tip less than 15 per cent. You must do [at least] that," says Holt.

  • Listen to Holt explain the new tipping standard:

The high standard here is due to a young population, says Holt.

"That's right about the best possible demographic for tipping. Those are the people who tend to tip more and I think as we experience our success here in Calgary, we like to share that."

That percentage is up from seven years ago when Holt says it was 10 to 15 per cent across Canada, including Calgary.

"Now it's 15 to 20 per cent, and in the States, it's always the highest in the world, its now 20 to 25 per cent," says Holt.

He says the 15 per cent is the very minimum for standard service, he says.

"You have to remember that that tip doesn't just go to one individual, that tip goes to everybody in the restaurant."

Tipping alternatives

He suggests that if you are unhappy with the service, you should alert someone right away rather than leave a bad tip.

A good alternative Holt suggests is to give a yearly thank you gift.

"One of the things that I do if I get particularly good service at a coffee shop over a series of months or whatever, I will give somebody a gift card, maybe for a book or a bottle of wine at Christmas, or something. That's more in keeping with how I like to deal with people who give me good service."

Tipping is a notoriously contentious issue, says Holt.

"It has been since the 16th century when this whole idea of tipping started in England and you know, it just keeps moving up."

A tip began as a sort of bribe for quick service, he says.

"An individual would come in, walk through the bar, pull out a coin, drop it in the tin cup, everybody would hear it hit the tin cup and that person was clearly a gentleman who needed better service in the bar."

Less cash for bad service?

The issue may not be divide people as much as it seems, says Holt.

For most people, the difference between a good tip and a bad one is only four per cent, he says. 

"As much as people think that 'Oh, I'm going to tip more for good service and less for bad service,' statistics say absolutely not. The number is virtually the same."

As for more places having tip jars, Holt does admit there have been more popping up in places that previously did not require tipping but he says that's just a convenience dump.

"If there's a quarter in my change I might put it in my pocket. Nickels, dimes, pennies always go in the jar. That's not a tip."

What's your reason for how much you tip? Weigh in below. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)