Tipping is automatic in Vancouver, whether you like it or not

There’s no doubt that Vancouver is the “it” spot of the moment.

Lines continue to be hours long for a zip line across a downtown public square and for the official Olympic merchandise store. The parties are so raucous that cops have asked liquor stores to close early to ward off drunken marauders wreaking havoc on the city.

And on its image. Athletes and the IOC have raved about the energy in Vancouver during the Games.

The challenge for officials now is to translate that into people wanting to come here once the Games are over. It’s easy to lure people to come to the biggest party in the world – but how do you keep them coming back?

The federal government has spent millions through the Canadian Tourism Commission to try and make this happen. So, too, have the province of British Columbia and the city of Vancouver, through their various tourist agency partners.

One way they’ve tried to do this is to persuade hotels and restaurants not to hike prices too much during the Games. The theory is that if tourists feel gouged now, they not only won’t come back – they’ll spread the word.

In today’s viral marketplace, that’s a lot easier to do – so it’s too bad Vancouver restaurants haven’t received the memo. Seems like many of them are adding automatic gratuities to their bills, sometimes as high as 20 percent. The unspoken – or, in the case of one Whistler barmaid, spoken – reason for doing so is that while Canadians and Americans are used to tipping, people from other countries aren’t.

(Funny aside: In Whistler, long Party Central, business is actually down a bit during the Games, so perhaps that barmaid’s prophecy came true.)

Now, perhaps it’s fair to say that guests aren’t noticing anything wrong with the automatic tip because they’d have no way of knowing it wasn’t always there. And yes, restaurants are spending more during the Games, at least in some areas, making the choice to stay open later and take on more staff, so getting a piece of the pie could be seen as fair play.

But for all people that are saying about Canada’s aggression on the podium, price gouging isn’t a gold-medal strategy. Especially for the locals who patronized these restaurants before the Games but may stay away afterward.

So with a tip of the hat to Spiffle!, here’s a list of who is being naughty and nice with their prices and policies during the Games.

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