Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Urban etiquette: an occasional series

Today's topic: The mysteries of tipping

Tipping used to be easy. Go to a restaurant, get service, leave tip. Now everywhere I go, some counter jockey with a sense of entitlement wants me to leave money for them doing their job. Confused? Here are the guidelines to follow. Clip 'n save.

Restaurants: This is the easy one. 20% minimum, more if you feel like it or the service was extra good. Going below 20% is only justified if the service was really, really bad or the waitron was totally rude. Luckily, this doesn't happen very often, even in SF.

Hotels: About $5 a day, depending on whether they have to change the sheets every day or it's one of those hotels where they don't change the sheets the whole time you're there. Leave the money on the table with a note that says "Thanks so much!" If you're questioning tipping the hotel maid, remember that she (because it's always a "she") makes about $1.50 an hour and changes 50 beds a day and cleaned up the snotty Kleenex you left on the floor, you fucking slob.

Taxis: Usually a couple of bucks, if it's under $20. I try to round to the nearest 5, if possible. So if it's $12, I give $15, for example. If not, just kick down an extra 3 or 4 bucks on top of the fare. If it's over 20, adjust accordingly. I rarely have fares that high, but I remember giving $30 on a $21 fare once.

Bartenders: Standard rule is a dollar a drink, every time. More if he or she is really good. Word to the wise - if you want to get good service all night, start out with about 2 bucks a drink on that first round. Works like a charm.

Counter jars: This is the toughest one. Seems like everywhere you go now, any place that has a cash register has a cup asking you for tips.

Well, you know what? Fuck that. Here's my basic rule - unless the person behind the counter performed some value-added service above and beyond simply doing their job, no fucking tip. EXAMPLES: (1) Cashier rings up product I selected. Are you fucking kidding? No tip. (2) Barista pours cup of coffee, hand it to me. No tip. BUT (3) Barista makes complicated double half-cap caramel mocchiato. If you're gay enough to drink something like that, yes, you have to tip. (4) Burrito Assembly Tech puts together your super w/ carne asada, hold the guac. Yes, an extra buck in the cup next to the cashier won't kill you.

I know, it's somewhat arbitrary, but you get a feel for it after a while. Anyway, if it's confusing, just listen to the little voice in your heart.

I have no fucking idea. Do I seem to you like the kind of person who gets massages?

I know this isn't totally comprehensive, but I'm sure once you absorb and internalize these general guidelines, you'll be able to figure out what to do with the valet and your gardener and the gift-wrap girl at Macy's.


Stephen said...

Mailman at Christmas, esp. when you talk to him occasionally, and ask him to hold mail a few times a year: $25 gift card of some sort. There's a $20 limit imposed by the USPS, but who's counting?

TK said...

Yeah, I didn't think about the mailperson. What about the garbage guys?