Friday, March 29, 2013

There's an 18 Percent Gratuity?

Sorry i don't have anything really useful to say right now. I'm just going to rant about what makes me angry. I like to eat at restaurants and I know the staff at restaurants are paid in large part by tips.

When I was an impoverished college student I went to a conference with the girl I was dating at the time--now my wife. We walked with our friends a long way to the nearest Pizza Hut restaurant. The place was a zoo! And the service was incredibly slow. There was one waitress for the entire restaurant and she was completely overwhelmed.

And we waited and waited. I grew angry about the wait. And I got over being angry. I'm a little fuzzy about how, either I just got so bugged that I turned it into a joke, or maybe my dear girlfriend informed me that the restaurant was seriously under-staffed. I hope it was the latter.

You see, when you start out angry, and then you understand, whatever's left of your anger evaporates. Suppose a guy cuts you off on the freeway. But then you learn he's rushing his mother with a heart-attack to the hospital. You understand and that changes your paradigm. Anger is transmogrified into sympathy. But if you don't understand, you'll stay grumpy.

So, I'm waiting for my pizza for a very long time. And then I understand that our waitress is dancing as fast as she can and that is not fast enough. And all her customers are as grumpy as I have been and she's likely to get zip in the way of tips. She's working much harder for much less money. Did I say I was an impoverished college student? I gave her a $10 or $20 tip. I forget which. It was enough to hurt back then. I thought it was the right thing to do and I still do.

That got me started giving generous tips in restaurants. I usually try to pick up the tab because the cheapskates I work with are less likely to give as generous a tip. My rule of thumb starts at 20% and goes up from there, because it's easy to calculate with some serious rounding upwards. I figure servers don't make as much as Engineers and generous tipping is Privatized Socialism.

However, there is one circumstance when I do not do this. If I see the check has been rung up with a gratuity included, then screw you. Your demand was for less than I planned to give, but you're not getting a penny more than that.

I think this is part of human nature. If you insist upon a surcharge above the stated price, you'll get exact change and I'll never come back. But if you are open to generosity, you'll be pleasantly surprised. By me at least. And I think most people are generous when they can afford it.

That's why I hate the various Digital Rights Management (DRM) schemes and love indie artists.

The DRM scheme is like the gratuity that's been tacked onto your bill. It is a hidden tax on your purchase. You paid for a song or an ebook or something, and you get something less something with restrictions that keep you from transferring it to your new computer/e-reader/ipod or something. You did not bargain for those DRM restrictions and there they are diminishing the utility of the goods you've received.

That's why I avoided Apple and Amazon when they put DRM on their tunes and ebooks, and why I ripped my own CDs and bought DRM-free books from Baen--that is until Apple and Amazon dropped their DRM schemes. And sometimes, I'll buy something extra from some author or singer just because I want to encourage her.

By the way, you may have noticed that I am selling The Aristotelian and Finding Time. If they look like ebooks you'd like to read, I'd appreciate it if you bought them. And if you can't afford it, lemme know and I'll sneak a copy to you gratis. They're not DRM encrypted to feel free to share.


  1. This past week I was at an inn at a state park that has a restaurant. I was there for an industry conference, and I stayed one night at the inn. Meals were provided by the conference -- breakfast both days, lunch both days, and dinner the first night. However, I noticed in the information packet in the room that ordinary non-conference guests who went to the restaurant would be charged an automatic 18% gratuity.

    Now, I usually tip anywhere from 15% to 20% depending on the type and level of service. The 15% is for minimum effort; a server has to do a LOT wrong, and do it blatantly intentionally or with obvious extreme negligence, before I'll even contemplate stiffing them. I have been known to tip more than 20%; last night I ordered pizza delivery, and it was messy and rainy, so I tipped about 25%.

    But it being automatically added -- and for buffet service -- rankled me. So after the conference ended, rather than stick around and have dinner onsite, I got in my car and drove home.

    1. I think the fact that the restaurant is in a state park might have something to do with its willingness to impose an 18% tax.

  2. I try to be generous to good servers. I recall once I left work at 6:00am, which is just thirty minutes later than usual, and decided I was starving and needed to go to Denny's. As I sat at the table and went through my early morning ordering and eating, exhausted and unwillingly impersonating a zombie, my server was the most cheerful and uplifting out of anyone I could ever remember waiting on me at a diner. After a long night and a poor mood, it was great having someone so pleasent end it so well so I could sleep easily. I tipped him 100% of my ticket. And before I drove away I noticed him pick up the tip cash like he couldn't believe it. I hope I made his day too.

    1. good story! a little bit of good karma is a great way to start the day. or in your case of 3rd-shift, end it

  3. I share your anger on this, particularly as card payment gratuities have no guarantee of going into the pocket of the staff themselves. Here in the UK we have a real problem with service, there is a majority attitude here that fails to recognise service is not servitude. The one place that never fails is the John Lewis partnership, but then they all have a stake in the company so it matters. I would much rather pay a little more for my meal and know that all the staff got paid a reasonable wage, not having to make up wages with the good will of the public.

    1. In the States servers are paid below minimum wage with the understanding that they'll receive tips. Here it is customary to give a 15% tip with more for better service and less to unsatisfactory service. When in the UK I was uncertain because I had heard US tourists tip too much. When I saw a 12.5% gratuity had been added I was simultaneously relieved and annoyed. Relieved because I didn't have to worry about offending UK sensitivities by over-tipping, but annoyed for reasons outlined above.

      I am a bit curious about "over-tipping" why would anyone have a problem with over-tipping? I'd expect the servers would be OK with it. The only problem I can see would be with other customers who's illiberality is disclosed.


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