A canoe tips. Despite having made many visits to the US over the years I still find the rather quaint custom of tipping somewhat confusing. As I understand it, a tip is meant to be reserved for excellent service. In reality it appears to be universally expected, regardless of the quality of the service, and I have had some pretty negative reactions when I haven’t left one (like a waitress in New York chasing me down the street after I left her café). Not that it says in writing anywhere that a tip is compulsory or even how much I am supposed to give. Am I about to leave way too much or insultingly little, is one of my frequent worries. And why leave the tip at all? The taxi driver that picked me up from the airport, drove me to my hotel and dropped me off. I paid him whatever it said on his meter for this service. Now I am supposed to hand over another 18%, and for what? His excellent service? He barely engaged me in conversation during the trip and was unable to provide a weather forecast for the next day. Did he give me a cup of freshly brewed coffee or the daily newspaper to read during my journey? No. He did what was expected of any taxi driver anywhere in the world, yet he acted as if he had done me a terrific favour and I would be incredibly miserly if I did not part with an extra gratuitous sum of cash. It’s not like the fare was cheap to begin with.
And who exactly am I meant to tip? For some reason I am expected to tip the waitress who is only doing her job by bringing me the meal (if anything I’d rather tip the chef for preparing the magnificent repast and not spitting in it), but I’m not expected to tip the girl at McDonalds for handing over the food. Why? What’s the difference? Apparently the tip is designed to make up for the shortfall in income that occurs because the employer is too cheap to pay a decent wage. Why do we allow employers to get away with paying rubbish salaries to waitresses but we don’t care enough about the wages paid to McDonalds’ employees to bolster them up a bit?
If I am expected to fork out all this extra cash for no good reason, then fine, but how about making it official by adding it to the account, as is done in civilised places like Venice? That way there are no surprises and I know what I’m up for up front. Alas, there is no longer any pride taken in a job well done. There is only smarmy toadying in the hope that a large sum of money will appear to reward appropriately servile behaviour.
Dr. F. Bunny
Having said all that, I cannot fault the excellent service and food at the 8th Street Steakhouse in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I am sure my generous tip had nothing to do with it.