Canada’s top tippers? Ottawa residents the best of a bad bunch

A waiter carries pizzas at the Ai Marmi restaurant in the Rome neighborhood of Trastevere May 11, 2007. REUTERS/Dario Pignatelli

You may not realize it, with your sweaty palms clenched so tightly around your bursting wallet, but Canada has a bit of a reputation for bad tipping.

We've been called the world's worst tippers on a New York-based customer service blog, we've had our names besmirched by waiters in Vermont, who cringe at the sight of Quebec and Ontario licence plates in the parking lot, and a document recently distributed to new Canadians was criticized for recommending gratuities considered well below the accepted practice.

And now, a new survey about Canada's tipping habits doesn't do much to discredit that reputation, at least when stacked up against Americans.

The survey, recently conducted by Square Canada, did determine that Ottawa is the best tipping city in Canada. Though that is about the same as saying someone the most talented player on the Toronto Maple Leafs.

[ Related: Pollsters have Liberals poised to win Quebec election ]

Square is a mobile payment company – best known for those tiny devices that allow cellphones to be used as credit card readers by small businesses.

The details of the survey are based on information gleaned from credit card transactions from some 52,000 Canadian businesses that subscribe to the service, and parsed down to a list of the country's five largest cities.

Here is how residents of those cities measure up against one another:

  • Ottawa tips 76.7 per cent of the time, with an average tip of 15.6 per cent.

  • Montreal tips 70.4 per cent of the time, with an average of 14.4 per cent

  • Toronto tips 65.5 per cent of the time, at an average of 14.5 per cent

  • Vancouver tips 62 per cent of the time, at an average of 13.4 per cent.

  • Calgary tips 59.4 per cent of the time, with an average tip of 13.3 per cent.

[ Related: Bill Clinton lays judgment on Rob Ford as investigation slows ]

The results can be read to conclude that either Vancouver or Calgary is the worst-tipping city in Canada, depending on whether you value frequency or amount.

But by either measure, Ottawa comes out on top.

Why is that? Is it the bevvy of government expense accounts? The high frequency of lobbying and glad handing? The Senate? Let's just all assume yes, grumble "damn government" and be done with it.

The numbers released by Square do not, sadly, contradict Canada's reputation for being poor tippers.

A similar Square survey done for America's largest cities found that Chicago has the highest frequency of tipping, at 63 per cent. This would place America's best below Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto, but above Vancouver and Calgary.

America's average tip, however, was found to be 16.8 per cent from those charitable folks in Denver. But even San Francisco's 15.5 per cent average – the lowest listed average of the 10 cities surveyed – runs in line with Canada's highest average.

From a national perspective, congratulations to Ottawa for being the best tippers. If only there were some way for the rest of the country to show its appreciation.

Want to know what news is brewing in Canada?
Follow @MRCoutts on Twitter.