A Geordie and a Scot arrive in Toronto. So what’s the first thing they do? Hit the pub, of course. Now that was not as bad as it seems – everybody had told us the way to get over jet lag was to change your body over to the new timezone as soon as possible, which is why, even though we’d now been up 20 hours and drank and eaten enough for a small army (the food and drink on is plentiful and good), we were heading downtown to keep going for a few more hours. And what else is there to do at 9pm but go to the pub?

Which was where we discovered that as good as Rough Guides are, the one for Canada had missed off an important part – as good as their coverage is on the best places to go and the types of alcohol you can expect, they fail to mention that you need to sell your kidneys to be able to afford to drink in Toronto.

“That’s not $8 for a pint, is it?” I asked Ged as we examined the menu. Turned out, it was. Around £5.14 for a bog-standard pint of lager.

“And then we’ve got to tip,” Ged said.

Ah, yes, tipping. Now tipping bar staff in Britain is easy – you don’t do it. It’s a little bit more complicated in Madrid in that only guiris leave a substantial amount so you have to learn to leave a small bit of shrapnel, if that. Here, though, it’s a whole new ballgame. The standard is 15 per cent, although some places will ask you to leave 18 per cent (or even just add it onto your bill – and yes, it’s a “bill” in Toronto, not a “cheque”), but you do have a voice if the service is substandard – then you only leave 10%. Yup, even if the bar staff are the surliest people around, you’re expected to still leave a tip. Demand a tip in Scotland and you’ll be rewarded with the Glasgow malkie.

“I know someone who had the barman run out of the bar after him, shouting because he hadn’t left a tip,” Old Wife Tale-teller Ged whispered. “They get paid less than minimum back home so tips are really important.”

Now it’s not that I’m tight, but the argument that I should subsidise an owner’s decision to pay his staff low wages doesn’t really hold much water with me. Especially when I’m paying $8 a pint that I can’t possibly get unless there’s a bartender pulling it for me. If the service is good, then I’ll tip. But why should I tip for someone just doing their job – especially when this particular barmaid didn’t even know how to smile?

“I’m not doing it.”

“You can’t not do it,” Ged said, checking the bill. “She’ll run out after us.”

“Watch me,” I said, putting on my stroppy “I’ve been travelling for an eternity so don’t mess with me” head in true Worzel Gummidge style while sinking further down into my seat so the barmaid wouldn’t notice the change.

We paid the bill, got the change – and result! Ms Surly went to chat to a friend leaving us free to leg it, which we did, all the while watching our backs, half expecting to see the barmaid emerging behind us, meat cleaver in hand, demanding her 15 per cent.

Amazingly, that didn’t happen. But I was glad I was wearing my trainers.

(Would you have left a tip? Let me know below)


9 thoughts on “Tips…

  1. I grew up here so I’m used to tipping. It’s just something you get used to building into your budget for a night out. Servers work crummy hours for minimum wage and they really do rely on tips. Not tipping is a huge faux pas in my circle of friends, many of whom have worked in the service industry at some point.

    • It’s just so not something we’re used to for bars in the UK that it threw me for six that someone merely handing over a drink should get a couple of dollars. Surely this encourages employers to keep wages low? Bar staff and waiters do an invaluable job and can make the night for their customers. They deserve a living wage.

      • Oh totally. It’s a bizarre system, to be sure, and I completely understand being thrown by it, but once you know about it, I don’t think deciding not to leave a tip is the way to go about changing it. Unfortunately you not leaving a tip isn’t going to make a restaurant owner pay that waitress a little extra that night.

      • This is true – and we have tipped ever since!!!!! I honestly couldn’t believe that barstaff behind the bar would be tipped too. My nephew runs a bar in the UK and occasionally they’ll get a drink bought for them for customers but that’s it.

      • I know! It’s so weird. Because I’m so used to it though, when I travel to places where tipping isn’t customary, I always feel guilty and nervous just leaving without leaving a tip behind. haha.

  2. I live in Canada and it’s completely normal to tip 15 percent. I’ve heard on the news that sometimes (for those who suck at math, myself included) we leave 20 per cent. When I lived in England we always tipped. I don’t remember anybody telling us that it wasn’t normal. And we tipped everywhere else. I just think not tipping is sort of… Well, tipping is a way of saying “thank you” I guess… It’s a culture thing.

    • We always tip in restaurants (not McDonalds etc, of course) and taxis, hairdressers but never in a bar. It’s not expected at all and certainly not the norm. We tend to go for 10 per cent but it’s very informal – if the bill is 31/2 then you would leave 35, for example. Bartenders are rarely tipped in the city centre.

    • By the way, tipping in bars in Spain is totally different. A barman I once talked to told me he didn’t need me “subsidising his wages” and was quite affronted by the idea. Usually you leave a little change – 20-30 centimos (around 10c) and that’s it.

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