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Pattie Lovett-Reid

Chief Financial Commentator, CTV


Is it awkward or just plain cheap if you don't tip?

Of course there is the added element how much to tip, and do you tip pre-tax or after tax? And if that isn’t enough, how do you respond when a vendor makes the decision for you and simply adds the tip to the bill?

How you respond to these situations can be influenced by a number of factors.

Let’s begin with your budget.

A colleague in the newsroom highlighted the obvious to me: if you can’t afford to tip at a fancy restaurant, then you probably can’t afford the restaurant in the first place. There might be some truth to this. Budgeting has to factor in the type of spender you are, and the fancier the services, the higher the tip.

To this point, I was at a fancy hotel having a manicure and never thought to ask the price as I had a $100 gift card. When I received the bill, I was outraged that it was over US$100, with a tip of just over 20 per cent automatically added on. Can I afford that? Yes, but I was frustrated by the experience. Was the service exceptional? No. If the service had been good, I would have liked to decide myself whether or not to tip and how much to leave. We can illustrate countless times when we have been placed in this situation.

The question is, how do you respond?

That’s personal, but here is what I’ve come to realize: tipping is part of our culture and not all services are created equal. I look at the time that goes into a service. Some things appear to cost the same, but the time and effort required to accomplish a task can be very different. I’m also hyper-sensitive to how a service may have been customized to me. If you put in a little extra effort, I’m going to leave a little extra tip. If weather conditions are bad and extra care is warranted so is an extra tip, in my opinion. If timing is tight, or your service provided is booked solid and somehow they still fit you in, a bigger tip is warranted. Of course, it’s always wise to check the customs of country you may be visiting to avoid inadvertently insulting your provider.

I also think your salary matters. Our salary allows us to always tip at least 15 per cent. If we don’t like the service, it’s better to complain to the manager. The tip isn’t where we want to take a public stand. I completely understand not everyone feels this way, and this is one of the reasons the tipping debate is so heated. In addition, nothing is more satisfying to us than leaving a much bigger tip than expected, at an unexpected time to someone deserving.

Bottom line: whether you tip pre-tax or after tax, or the amount is simply added to the bill, it is really up to you. Do what feels right to the situation while considering your budget and your income level. But if you are like me and believe in karma – what goes around comes around.

Tipper beware.

February is Your Money Month at BNN Bloomberg. For more content like this, visit


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If you get bad service, how much will you tip?

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