Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Tips on Tipping

Spent some time reading waitservice blogs today. Read a lot about what they feel about tips. Well, I feel strongly on tips too. And since this is my blog, whaddya know, I will write my views here.

I was a poor student till less than a year ago, and that meant going out somewhere posh was an Event, almost always something to be saved up for, or to be paid for by not having something else that I really wanted. Those days I tried to make sure I always ordered enough to be able to afford a 10% tip (which is still considered decent in India, as far as I know). You see, I started out with the assumption that the service would be good. When it wasn't, I didn't bother tipping. It was good money, tough to come by, and I wasn't spending it on poor service, thank you very much. But sometimes the service was better than good, and I tried, I promise you faithfully dear reader I did, to pay that bit extra to show my appreciation.

What I minded, particularly when I was out with other people, was when my host or co-diner (i.e. when the bill was split between us) tried to skimp on the tip. Now I believe bad (read 'inconsiderate') tipping reflects your upbringing, so I used to pay the extra, to make it what I believed the service had been worth. Usually, the co-diner/host was happy about letting me do it. May I point out that you put your parents down every time you allowed me to show that mine had taught me a little respect for the person serving me?

I also minded when people overtipped, because they weren't confident enough to state that the service had not been up to the mark.

Now, things to think over:
1. In India, regardless of where you're dining, the service folks don't usually make a lot of money. City guides request visitors of various metros to tip the waiters, since that is their largest source of (an usually meagre) income.

2. Good tips will be remembered. Invariably.

3. The quality of service in many high-end restaurants is shocking. I've had a waiter almost empty my leftovers into my lap because he was too busy smiling at me to hold the dish steady (The Hyatt Regency); I've had waiters who have no idea what they are serving, and no, they don't think it's necessary to know (too many places to name); I've had waiters who think they are too good to serve me because I looked too young to be able to afford their service?/I'm a woman sitting alone/whatever reason they came up with. And I went in about a year ago to book a table at Bar-B-Que, one of Calcutta's best-known restaurants for a family dinner I was hosting, only to be asked if I was certain I really wanted a table for fourteen. Why? Because I had come in early by myself, and what would a chit like me do with a table that large? In an almost empty dining-room they tried to tell me I couldn't have my table. Eventually though I convinced them that I meant business and was not about to be ordered around by a bunch of men. The dinner was a success and the service excellent. I tipped decently -- but it would have been an even larger tip if they had not tried to intimidate me in the beginning.

When V and I started frequenting The Tea-Table (T3) a little further down Park Street I noticed that a particular waiter gave him special service. Asked after him, remembered his favourites, stuff like that. Turned out that whenever he dropped in by himself, he usually sat at that guy's table, and usually tipped almost double. It paid off, literally, because, well, let's just say the guy gave him a nice freebie from time to time. (He doesn't any more, because of restaurant policy changes, and no, you cannot know who he is or which his tables are. We're jealous of our privileges.)

I picked up this thing about tipping from my father. In his student days he worked as a waiter and also as a bartender, and he is extremely demanding about the quality of service. When he gets what he wants though, he makes sure his server knows he appreciates it. I'm not just talking about tipping, though. Time was when he flew almost every other day, if not four, five days of a week. The airline hostesses of several flights got to know him and there was this one hostess who always remembered that my father's a diabetic and likes his tea black. Little things make a huge difference to business travellers. He often mentioned her, and when he went abroad, wanted to buy her a little something as a thank-you. I guess we just need to remember that waiters/service people are people with jobs. Like me. Or my father. Or, even, little old you.

Oh, and for those of you who were wondering, now that I'm a big girl and have a job an' all, I always tip like I believe the service deserved, and not necessarily only as much as I could afford. And if I'm going out with somebody I know is cheap about the orders and tips, I either go Dutch or pay for it all. It's worth it, just to avoid the embarrassment. And I get to eat as much as I want and just what I want.


indianpeppone said...

I have a different system.....
I have quite a decent number of friends and so everyweek I get some free dinner or party. As we enter I make it a point to tip the Bouncer and the head waiter.

Its fun after that when I get all the importance and the chump pays the bill.. :-)

Sue said...

Peppone - Smart move, that :-D

Rohini said...

Most people I know do tip but don't seem to have any system for doing so. I know very few who actually go upto a 10% and they will not go above Rs. 100 for a tip, even if they have run up a bill of 5000 bucks.

Also, I think in India people expect the service to be part of the bill that they are paying for anyway. They do not grasp the concept oh having to reward the waiter over and above that.

Sue said...

Rohini - I've seen that too. The other thing confusing matters is the service tax. Some places include that and some don't. So, in a place where it's included, is it ok to add extra for superb service? Or can you refuse to pay it if the service was terrible?

Rohini said...

I think there is a difference between service tax (which essentialy goes to the government) and service charge (which the hotel/ restaurant gets). But in case of the latter, I am not sure whether it actually gets to the waiter that served you.

Sue said...

Rohini - Sorry, I was referring to service charge. And yes, that is supposed to go to the waitservice. Not sure it does, though, and in any case, why should my tip be decided by anybody other than me?

Anonymous said...

Where did you find it? Interesting read » »