Monday, December 17, 2007

The Tipping Point

There is a very amusing article in the Times today about the conundrum of holiday tipping. The article is not so funny, what is funny are the comments. I detect a real resentment of having to tip in this town.
There were about 150 commenters, most of which, if I surmised correctly, are very annoyed at tipping.
The whole point of the comments was for people to spill the beans and say what they tip, but very few people were willing to do this. Everybody kvetched and moaned and yakked, but nobody fessed up, except for a person who disclosed her annual income at 2.5 million and proceeded to list in detail all the money they give their servants. Tacky, tacky, tacky. There is always someone like that in NY, that needs for all the world to know how well off they are, if only anonymously.
I have always maintained that the service in restaurants and bars should be included, like it is in Europe. I am tired of disappointing the wait staff when I ask for tap water or when I only order one dish. Some of them look at you funny. Like with contempt. Others feel your pain.
As for tipping the building staff, I come from Mexico, where people make so little money, they actually come here to make more, so tipping is as fact of life. However, because labor is cheap, tips are cheap too. Very few people leave more than 10% tips for waitstaff, for instance. They think 15% is an outrage. Which makes me think that it is true that the more you have, the less you give.
In countries like Mexico, however, it is the law to give company employees a year end bonus, an "aguinaldo" which I think is one month's salary. There is also a law about profit sharing. This is supposed to be received by everyone, whether they did the job or not.
In Mexico everybody who can afford one has at least one maid. The maids always get a Christmas tip. The supers, the mailman, the guys who deliver the gas tanks, everyone gets a handout. At one point policemen were making the neighborhood rounds and ringing my doorbell in Mexico City for a tip (it is yet to be determined what exemplary service they performed). So if you think NY is out of control...
but then again in Mexico people make miserable wages, so tipping does redress that a bit.
I don't mind tipping the super and the handymen and the doormen, but I am a bit taken aback by some of the figures people bandy about in NY. People are such show offs. I think the tip should be a simple token of appreciation for a job well done, not a financial booster. It is a gesture of good will, and it should be voluntary and meritocratic (of course, if you don't tip, you live in fear that the staff will never help you again).
A personal trainer commenter complained that his millionaire client gives him a bag of oranges as a present as a Xmas tip. This promptly became Orangegate, with people coming down hard on this guy for kvetching.
The fact that his client is a gazillionaire does not oblige him to be a generous tipper. And in fact, it does not oblige him to tip. He's already paying the guy his fees. The gesture should be enough.
On both sides of the debate, it seems to come down to greed and not generosity. There are those who want better tips, and those who have a hard time parting with their money on the grounds that the people are already being paid for the job.

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