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Thursday, January 3, 2013

What Makes Vancouver One of the Greenest Cities in the World?

Posted by on Thu, Jan 3, 2013 at 9:38 AM

Density (13,051 people/sq mi), its main of energy source (90 percent hydro electricity), and recycling (55 percent of its waste is retained)...

That said, I want to turn to something that happened to me a few days ago while visiting this green city. I was in a bar. The bar was in a hotel. I ordered a shot of whiskey. I received exactly a shot of whisky (not a drop more or less—Canadians are very scientific when it comes to their pours). It cost $7 before tax; $8 after. When it came time to pay, the machine the waiter used to charge my card insisted on using Blink (contactless-payment). This function withdrew money from my account without a thought. The waiter, a rather old man, was, however, not happy with Blink. "It wont let you tip me," he said with some gravity. I had no cash, so I couldn't solve this problem. But here is the truth of the matter: If I were in the same situation in the US, I would have gone out of my way to find a way to tip the waiter. Why? Because our waiters have none of the social benefits that Canadians enjoy. Indeed, a US citizen is always left to wonder about tipping in Canada. The practice makes perfect sense back home; tips really mean something there, tips are vital, tips fill some of the hole left by the absent government. But in Canada, the tips seem less crucial and much more about generosity.


Comments (46) RSS

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Servers in Canada live on their tips, Charles -- wage rates are pathetic, just like in the U.S. Sure, they don't have to pay beyond taxes for health care, but the government won't feed them. Their tips do.
Posted by Jo M M on January 3, 2013 at 9:53 AM · Report this
jBee 2
I had the same thought when I was in France this year. On the one hand, it feels wrong NOT to tip a server, even if the service is par or below. On the other hand, those servers in France have healthcare, paid vacation, and a host of other benefits that Americans in the hospitality industry do not enjoy. What is the right answer, Charles? I don't do well with ambiguity.
Posted by jBee on January 3, 2013 at 9:57 AM · Report this
So he has all the benefits of Canada's nanny state, and the high taxes to go with it, yet he's still so rude to ask for a tip? Just goes to show you, throw the dog a bone, he'll just demand another.

No wonder so many Canadians have permanently settled in Seattleā€¦.freedom
Posted by Sugartit on January 3, 2013 at 10:00 AM · Report this
Timrrr 4
And because Canadaland follows in the British tradition of measured pours, there is absolutely no hope for a reciprocal gratuity from your bartender -- something that would provide at least a selfish self-interest for you to tip the barman for his pour.
Posted by Timrrr on January 3, 2013 at 10:01 AM · Report this
fletc3her 5
Anything approaching a standard American tip is way too much in just about every other country. I had waiters in France try to give back my tip thinking I'd just left a Euro on the table by accident.
Posted by fletc3her on January 3, 2013 at 10:02 AM · Report this
Charles Mudede 6
@4, i actually want to study this kind of reciprocity as a socially produced form of corruption.
Posted by Charles Mudede on January 3, 2013 at 10:04 AM · Report this
It's customary to tip in Canada, just not quite as high as here. The bartenders are paid and they do have healthcare, but they're not paid so much that they don't need the tips.
Posted by kathamster on January 3, 2013 at 10:08 AM · Report this
Customer service staff in Iceland are not just confused but actually offended by tips. It's like you're treating them as underlings and you're the feudal overlord.
Posted by originalcinner on January 3, 2013 at 10:13 AM · Report this
Sir Vic 9
@6 Such a study will inevitably lead to a discussion of gender & sexuality. (e.g., Male patrons tip female bartenders more than their male counterparts.)
Posted by Sir Vic on January 3, 2013 at 10:25 AM · Report this
Tipping is getting so complicated. I just saw an acupuncturist for the first time and there was a line on the receipt for a tip, so I did. But I don't tip my doctor so why would I tip the acupuncturist? I would rather people just charge a flat rate for all services and get rid of tipping all together.

To @5's point, I did talk to a bartender in Victoria who said that Americans tip much better than Canadians.
Posted by sisyphusgal on January 3, 2013 at 10:26 AM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 11
When I lived in New York, bartenders in almost every bar would give "buybacks." After you'd had a few drinks, the next one would be free. Buy three Bud Lights, get the next Bud Light on the bartender. Buy three Johnnie Walker Blacks, the next Johnnie Walker Black was on the bartender. I never found out what they'd do if you drank a lot of different things. They'd do this regardless of whether you left a big or small tip; however, it did seem to encourage people to give big tips, from what I observed.

I've never encountered this reciprocity anywhere but NYC and Long Island.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on January 3, 2013 at 10:29 AM · Report this
doloresdaphne 12
@8 I get what you mean. I prefer to be served by adequately paid hospitality staff who I don't have to tip any day.

In Australia, where I live, I once saw a white man in his 50's try to tip a woman working at an a bakery / take away shop. In Australia, people rarely tip at bars, let alone take away food shops serving hot food from a bay marie. All the staff were younger Asian women with limited English, & to me it seemed like he was treating them like whores. The woman seemed uncomfortable.
Posted by doloresdaphne on January 3, 2013 at 10:38 AM · Report this
treacle 13
What IS the Canadian minimum wage?

May 1, 2012
British Columbia[7] $10.25/hr CND
$9.00/hr CND for liquor servers.[8]

So, pretty much in-line with Washington State's min.wage... which just bumped to $9.19/hr USD. (Previously $9.04)

Since the Canadian Dollar is currently trading at $1.01 USD, that makes Canada's liquor servers making $9.09/hr USD.

Liquor servers would most likely pay a tax rate of %15. (British Columbia currently has no sales tax, according to my limited research.)

Versus the US income tax of 15% for the same approximate wage (less than $45k), PLUS Washington State's 9.5% sales tax...

So yeah, it seems like Canadian minimum wage workers are apparently doing slightly better than our minimum wage workers. Oh, right, and American workers don't have health care like every other industrial state in the world.

Gee, I wonder where all that US money is going? Approximately the same tax rate... yet somehow Canada has universal health insurance. Weird.

The only outstanding question is whether Washington servers get forked by the US Federal standard where "tipped workers" can make as little as $2.13/hr.
Posted by treacle on January 3, 2013 at 10:40 AM · Report this
In France, a gratuity is included in every bill, so tips actually mean "great service" and are not expected. Some French tip, a few Euros at most, the majority don't. Again, it's included.

If you stiff a server in Canada, it's exactly the same as stiffing a server here. You can come up with all kinds of excuses (See Mudede's post for a common one), but you are what you are when you stiff a server in a culture where tips are included.
Posted by RKW on January 3, 2013 at 10:47 AM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 15
Hydro-power is not so green if you are a fish.
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on January 3, 2013 at 10:59 AM · Report this
stinky 16
Tipping is a social convention. The convention in Vancouver as I understand and practice it is the same as in Seattle: 20% of the pre-tax tab. The whole system is riddled with unfairness- for example, servers in various market tiers receive widely varying compensation for similar work. But to cough up less than is conventional based upon one's own analysis of the fairness is a self-serving violation of a social contract.

Personally, I try to equalize the relationship with service staff by sticking to a rigid formula, regardless the quality of the service.

Posted by stinky on January 3, 2013 at 11:02 AM · Report this
pragmatic 17
@13 They most certainly do have a sales tax. The GST is, for various categories, is listed here:…
Posted by pragmatic on January 3, 2013 at 11:03 AM · Report this
Charles Mudede 18
@14, honestly, was i really to run around looking for a cash machine for one drink? really? indeed, the whole experience gave me a poor impression of canadians. in the US, the waiter would, on one drink and in the same situation, most likely have said: no problem, tip me next time. you and i know this.
Posted by Charles Mudede on January 3, 2013 at 11:03 AM · Report this
pragmatic 19
@13 BC does have sales tax, the HST is 12%, you can find the rates here:…

Posted by pragmatic on January 3, 2013 at 11:07 AM · Report this
pragmatic 20
@17, @19 was to correct the old/bad information and to provide a Canadian government link.
Posted by pragmatic on January 3, 2013 at 11:09 AM · Report this
treacle 21
@20 - Thanks. Wikipedia suggests that "the HST was voted down in 60 of British Columbia's 85 districts" in August of 2011. Perhaps I'm not finding something more conclusive though.

In other: Washington State is powered 92.5% by Hydro.
Posted by treacle on January 3, 2013 at 11:25 AM · Report this
keshmeshi 22

No, they don't. Tipped employees make full minimum wage in Washington state. The tip is just bonus, as it should be.

Well, actually, it should be that they're paid more like $15/$20 per hour with benefits so we can do without tipping entirely (or only tip for above and beyond service), but that's never going to happen.


The French might leave a small gratuity, but tipping isn't common there. It's presumed that waiters and bartenders are paid a decent wage. And, as others have mentioned, many servers in other countries consider tipping to be insulting, which it is.
Posted by keshmeshi on January 3, 2013 at 11:28 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 23
@13 except the tax on the rich and corporations is MUCH HIGHER.

And you forgot to add that healthcare only costs something like $40 a month no matter how much you make.
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 3, 2013 at 11:29 AM · Report this
@21 - B.C. (like most Canadian provinces) has sales tax at both the provincial level as well as Canada's nation-wide 5% Goods and Services Tax. The vote that you refer to had to do with whether these two taxes should be combined into one (HST, or Harmonized Sales Tax), or applied separately. It wasn't a question of being taxed at all, but the administration of that tax.
Posted by CanadianLawyer on January 3, 2013 at 11:59 AM · Report this
Sargon Bighorn 25
I bet if the server where young and attractive you would have tipped him, double for a young lady.
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on January 3, 2013 at 12:09 PM · Report this
Don't worry about it. Just coming back from a trip home in Ontario. Most of my friends here tip a quarter or two per drink, whereas in Seattle I always tip a buck a drink. But in Seattle the drinks are stiff and the service great. I've given up ordering mix drinks in Canada because they're over priced and weak. Also don't tip for coffee in Canada. I've spent over six years working in coffee shops and most people don't tip, you're lucky to get a quarter from regulars. The downside is service sucks in Canada compared to the states.
Posted by j2patter on January 3, 2013 at 12:10 PM · Report this
snoopy 27
What Makes Vancouver One of the Greenest Cities in the World?

not the skyline?
Posted by snoopy on January 3, 2013 at 12:38 PM · Report this
While studying corruption, don't forget about unofficial unions:

  • The servers union where servers comp each other drinks.

  • The minimum-wage union where ticket-takers allow coffee servers into their theaters in exchange for lattes.

Don't mistake unorganized for not-powerful, either. Was it the Pita Pit that shut down recently, in part because they stole tips from their employees?

Also, is it still custom for business owners working their own counters to refuse tips, or has that stopped?
Posted by six shooter on January 3, 2013 at 12:45 PM · Report this
@11- That's exactly what it's like in the midwest. In Milwaukee your 3rd or 4th drink tends to be on the house. Or the bartender will cheerfully join you for a shot. I remember being so bewildered when I first moved to Portland and never received free drinks. I was a little dejected at first! I felt genuine surprise when the bartender would take my money on a third drink. But the shopkeepers who kindly left off the sales tax made up for it. THANK YOU, I would say, with a little extra emphasis. I did get it all figured out after a day or two ;)
Posted by Marph on January 3, 2013 at 1:02 PM · Report this
Please tip, even in Canada, and especially in Vancouver. Rent is heinously expensive there, and the minimum wage is not enough to live on.

You don't have to go nuts -- the norm is a dollar per drink, or 15% on food service. But please. It's not really "optional," it's expected, and it's the only way that it is feasible to live there on minimum wage. (Also, the government assumes that you are making a certain amount of tips, and taxes you accordingly. Hurray.)

- A Canadian.
Posted by TheLurker on January 3, 2013 at 1:11 PM · Report this
The minimum wage in Canada is lower for service staff because of tips.(at least in Ontario). If you don't tip your server you are an asshole. Just because your country is one step above banana republic doesn't mean you should be cheap and shitty over seas.
Posted by ottawa on January 3, 2013 at 1:15 PM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 32
Weird, I grew up in Minnesota and never got free drinks. Maybe Wisconsin has more generous bartenders?
Posted by Urgutha Forka on January 3, 2013 at 1:26 PM · Report this
Just move there already. You will soon find Vancouver is not the dream city you feel the need to tell everyone in Seattle once a month that it is.
Posted by isaidit on January 3, 2013 at 1:40 PM · Report this
@32- Huh, maybe it WAS just Wisconsin! I always thought it was a little more wide spread than that. It is certainly common practice in Milwaukee, especially at the little corner bars I liked to frequent. I guess drunk bartenders make for generous bartenders :)
Posted by Marph on January 3, 2013 at 2:09 PM · Report this
i haven't read all the comments but you folks seem to be misinformed. in europe tipping is not expected because they are paid a living wage. in canada they are generally paid minimum wage and still pay for some of those scary "socialist" benefits. so tip big...i usually tip between 15 and 20% for decent service.
Posted by stan on January 3, 2013 at 3:30 PM · Report this
Puty 36
Charles: the system screwed your server out of a tip, not you. Having said that, please, please tip Canadian servers. Given the cost of living in Vancouver this is especially important.
Posted by Puty on January 3, 2013 at 4:58 PM · Report this
Puty 37
@26: I tip for coffee and I get fine service.
Posted by Puty on January 3, 2013 at 4:59 PM · Report this
tuesday harmony 38
It's dumb of the restaurant to choose a payment system that doesn't allow patrons to easily tip the waitstaff.

It's also dumb -- and particularly American -- to go to a foreign country without local currency, and expect to be accomodated as you would be at home.

Ordering and consuming a drink implies that you have the means to pay the cost. The cost includes the tip. You are at fault; you did not pay what you owed.

Posted by tuesday harmony on January 3, 2013 at 5:01 PM · Report this
Charles Mudede 39
@38, please read what i posted again.
Posted by Charles Mudede on January 3, 2013 at 6:50 PM · Report this
You're being a dick not to leave a tip. There are ATMs all over Vancouver. Go to one and withdraw some money. Give your waiter a tip. Don't be a dick.
Posted by Weekilter on January 3, 2013 at 6:52 PM · Report this
Charles Mudede 41
@40 read @18.
@36, reading @35 put more light on the matter. if he is correct, then tipping makes much more sense to me.
Posted by Charles Mudede on January 3, 2013 at 6:58 PM · Report this
If you are unsure of the tipping conventions in the country you are visiting why don't you look it up before you go.……
Posted by Weekilter on January 3, 2013 at 6:58 PM · Report this
Having lived in Vancouver most of my life and having known more than a few servers, let me add my voice to the "please tip" chorus (although there wasn't much Mudede could have done in this situation and frankly the server was rude to bring it up). No matter how fancy the restaurant, the staff are all making minimum wage before deductions. Most of them don't get a full 40 hours a week. YOU try living in Vancouver on $1400 a month before tax. It's brutal. The only reason anyone works service here is for the tips.
Posted by teamcanada'sforgottenpassword on January 3, 2013 at 9:39 PM · Report this
(that said I will cheerfully grant you that bars are better in Seattle)
Posted by teamcanada'sforgottenpassword on January 3, 2013 at 9:41 PM · Report this
doloresdaphne 45
As for why Vancouver is one of the world's greenest cities, I think the massive mountains that circle it and prevent urban sprawl have a lot to do with it. (And it's full of Canadians).
Posted by doloresdaphne on January 4, 2013 at 3:37 AM · Report this
Bauhaus I 46
I actually thought minimum wage in BC was a little higher. Man, it's ruff-ruff-ruff to live on $9/hr in Seattle, but in Vancouver? Ouchy-ouchness. The prices up there for just about everything! When I lived up there for a year, I wondered how people who weren't making $60,000/yr. lived because in my estimation, it would take at least that.

We all know about starter homes and condos being a half-million and up, right? Well, you can guess what that's done to the rental market. Ten years ago you could fine a perfectly fine 1BR apartment in the West End for, say, $800/mo. Now it takes at least $1500-$1600.

I'm told in time all this will equal out - but it doesn't seem to be in any hurry, does it? Meanwhile, wages continue to stagnate while prices for many necessary things keep going up.
Posted by Bauhaus I on January 4, 2013 at 5:14 PM · Report this

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