Tip heavily and carry cash

12 Dec

After his book Waiter Rant came out, Steve Dublanica picked up the nickname “The Tipping Guru.”  However, he didn’t feel like the king of gratuities, beyond waiting tables, that is.  So he went on a quest to become one and he did so by interviewing those in the professions that are most notably tipped.   Not only did he want to know what was considered an appropriate tip for different kinds of services, but he wanted to know what the tippees thought of tippers.  Did they ever seek revenge for those who tipped poorly or not at all?  (Hint: you bet your ass they did.)

First, though, Dublanica tried to research the history of tipping.  Where did it come from and why did it start?  One legend is that a London coffee shop put jars on tables with a sign that read, “To Insure Prompt Service”, hence the acronym “tips”.  But there is no proof to back up the story.  More interestingly, though, is that in most languages, the word used for “tips” is synonymous with “drink money,” something Dublanica said he and his fellow waiters often used their tips for.  As for when tipping started in America, it’s even harder to pinpoint.  It is popularly believed that tipping in America became prominent in the early post-Civil War era.  The Pullman Palace Car Company hired ex-slaves to staff and service sleeping cars on trains.  George Pullman, founder and owner of the company, paid these ex-slaves wages so low that they depended on their income to derive from tips.  According to one editorial written at the time, “‘The Pullman Company [discovered] how to work the sympathies of the public…to make up, by gratuities…its failure to pay its employees a living wage…It was the Pullman Company which fastened the tipping habit on the American People and they used the [ex-slaves] as the instrument to do it'” (page 17).  There you have it: get the public to sympathize and as owner of a company, you don’t have to pay your workers a living wage, at least not back then.  Here’s the best part of that editorial: the author was Robert Todd Lincoln, son of Abraham.

We know that tipping a waiter should be between 15 and 20 percent of the bill, but did you know that includes alcohol?  Apparently, some people are unaware of this and will subtract the bar bill and tip the lower amount.  Bartenders need gratuities, too.  And often times waiters and bartenders need to pay out other workers in the restaurant, like the kitchen staff or the busboys.  So, keep in mind that when you tip, you’re probably not just tipping the waiter.

Now, when you’re staying in a hotel, don’t forget to leave a few bucks every day for the maid.  Not only does it insure that your bathroom gets clean, but it also insures that the person who cleans your place gets the money.  The same maid does not clean the same rooms day to day so it’s important to leave a couple bucks each day.  If you use a valet service for your car, it’s best to tip half up front and half when picking up the car.  This will give you prompt service.  Bad or no tippers sometimes end up having to wait longer for their cars.  One valet admitted to sweaty butt cheeks making contact with bad tippers’ front seats.  I’ve never used a valet, but you can bet that when I do, I’ll be tipping heavily up front.

Now, I could go on and on about all the professions that Dublanica researched, from doormen to taxi drivers, from pet groomers to sex workers.  (Yes, even sex workers receive tips.)  But to fully comprehend tipping, one should really read the book.  Tipping is an intricate business, one which Americans spend a lot of money on each year.  For me, the book was not only interesting but also eye-opening.  It will make you think about all the people you’ve stiffed over the years, even if you never intended to.  But after reading the book, you’ll never not tip again.  Need to know what to tip and whom during the holidays or if you’re throwing a wedding?  Then this book is for you.

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Posted by on December 12, 2010 in Literature


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