Today I parked at a Park and Fly lot. As I climbed into the shuttle van I glanced at the cup in the front of the van obviously intended for tips and paused. I can afford to give someone a tip, and I believe in tipping someone for good service. If only I good figure out a reasonable measure of who I should tip and how much.
Obviously you tip a waiter or bartender unless the service is downright abysmal. In general I’ll tip 15-20% most of the time in restaurants. There is nothing awkward about tipping a waiter, they hand you the bill, quietly walk away so you can choose how much to give them as a tip. I find it a bit more awkward with a doorman when you have to politely place a dollar bill or two into his hand.
The Americans may have a reputation for being less polite than Canadians, but they also have a reputation for being better tippers. When I travel in the US, by virtue of hanging around with my American friends, I have adopted the habit of keeping a few $1 bills in my wallet to hand as needed to a doorman who hails me a cab, or for a maid who stops by my room to clean up the glass deodorant container I knocked over that broke on the bathroom floor. I would happily do the same when I return home in Canada. But here’s my problem: loonies and toonies. It’s one thing to hand the doorman a dollar bill, but somehow a coin, even a coin worth a dollar or two dollars feels cheap. Our smallest bill is $5 but am I really going to give a $5 bill to a guy for blowing a whistle and asking a taxi to pull up to the curb or for picking up my suitcase putting it in a van and driving me in his shuttle bus to the terminal.
With maid service I can always leave a larger bill at the end of my stay. That doesn’t work so well with my Park and Fly driver who is different every time I have a flight, or the doorman who calls me a cab.
I love loonies and toonies. When I think I am broke, I can find enough change in my purse to buy lunch or pay for parking. But is handing a doorman a loonie or toonie a thank you or an insult? Maybe I should keep the cool Olympic loonies on hand so I can help them complete their Olympic coin collection, or make sure I hand out the anniversary Montreal Canadians loonie when I travel in Quebec. Or maybe I should just take advantage of the countries that still have bills for lower denominations, anyone know the exchange rate for a Kenyan dollar?
To finish up, my top 5 odd or awkward tipping situations, maybe I really am a scrooge.
- The hairdresser when the machine where I swipe my credit card doesn’t give me the option of adding the tip myself. What am I supposed to do when I have no cash and they’ve already entered the amount?
- The person who washes your hair at the salon, I once had one blatantly hinting at tips, do I really have to tip the shampoo person as well as the stylist? Doesn’t the stylist share tips with the hair washer?
- Bag check at hotels, do I tip the guy who takes my bag or the guy who brings it back, or both?
- Sometimes I wish I could tip certain airline staff, there are some who really do go above and beyond with a smile, those people make a difference in my day!
- The food court tip jar beside the cashier, especially when you pick up the food and drinks yourself and just walk to the cash to pay. I am really expected to tip you for taking a slice of pizza and putting it into a cardboard box for me?