COVID-19 increased tipping generosity of Canadians, data finds

The tipping generosity of Canadians continues to remain above pre-pandemic levels, according to new data from point of sale provider Square.

According to Square, in-person tipping averaged 17.9 per cent across all businesses in the first three months of 2022. This is compared to the pre-pandemic average of 16.6 per cent in Canada.

Despite the increase, Square noted the tipping generosity of Canadians still lags behind their American counterparts with U.S. in-person tipping averaging 21.1 per cent across all businesses in early 2022.

Newsletter sign-up: Get The COVID-19 Brief sent to your inbox

Square’s Global Head of Product Hardware Mike MacLennan told CTV News Channel that Canadians have “a lot of empathy” for those who worked in industries severely hit by COVID-19 and lockdown measures, such as bars and restaurants.

He said in an interview on Friday this likely impacted how much they tipped. As well, MacLennan said Canadians chose to do more of their shopping locally to support small businesses.

“Canadians are spending more money in general with local businesses during the pandemic and so really finding those businesses in their neighbourhood that they want to support and putting their money there versus national chains,” MacLennan said.

The data from Square also found that tipping generosity varied between provinces.

According to Square, the average tip in the first three months of 2022 was highest in Alberta and the Prairies at 18.8 per cent, 18.1 per cent in Quebec and Ontario, and was the lowest in British Columbia at 17 per cent.

MacLennan said Canadians understand that tipping is a large portion of service employees’ salaries.

“It’s a big part of supporting the staff at these local businesses,” MacLennan said, adding that this generosity is needed to help small businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

MacLennan said the recovery also depends on local businesses being flexible in managing the changing needs of consumers, such as the convenience of curbside pickup or same day delivery, something he says business have done well at so far during the pandemic.

“They’re adapting to all different types of business models, whether it’s online or buy on device and pick up in store or curbside. They’re really looking for flexible ways to adapt to serve sellers and buyers in ways that they feel comfortable,” MacLennan said.

Watch the full video from CTV’s News Channel at the top of this article for MacLennan’s explanation of how tipping has changed during the pandemic.