Tipping Tips


March 17, 1991|By Dave Barry

To get "first-class" service, you have to know how to tip.

Look at Prince Charles. Everywhere he goes, he gets the "red-carpet treatment," and do you know why? Because he knows how to "take care" of people. The first thing he does, when he lands in a foreign country, is shake hands with the foreign head of state and quietly slip him a couple of folded bills. Likewise, when famous musical artists perform at the White House, they do their very best, because they know that President Bush will slip a crisp new dollar into the jar on the White House piano.

If you would like to have the same kind of "savoir-faire" (literally, "ear size") as these two sophisticated men, you need to follow these Recommended Tipping Guidelines:

Tipping in restaurants: The key to successful restaurant tipping is to avoid being in a large group where everybody "chips in" to pay the bill, because you'll always come up $147 short, and you'll have a huge embarrassing argument with people pulling out pens, paper, calculators, sextants, etc., and saying things like, "Well, my salad definitely did not have as much shredded carrot as Marge's." Also there will always be somebody who wants to leave a pathetic tip. You know the kind of person I mean. I mean a person who's never satisfied with the service; a person who, if he had a heart attack and the waiter saved his life via emergency open-heart surgery right there on the table, would complain that the waiter used the wrong knife.

Some people are just cheap. I used to go to lunch with a group of newspaper reporters, including one whom I'll call "Bob." When the bill came, we'd each throw in an appropriate amount of money, except for "Bob," who'd very reluctantly put in a few smallish coins, some of which were actually breath mints.

" 'Bob,' " we'd say. "You owe more than that."

"My name isn't 'Bob,' " he'd say. "It's Art."

"We know that," we'd say. "We're changing your name to protect you from embarrassment when this anecdote appears in the newspaper years from now."

So we see that being a bad tipper can come back to haunt you. Also, when you die you go to Bad Tipper Hell, where you spend eternity buried up to your neck in hot coals, and every few minutes a devil wearing a cummerbund comes around and says, "Would you care for some fresh ground pepper? Hahahahahahahahahaha."

Tipping in fancy hotels: At a fancy hotel you should be prepared to tip basically your life savings. The instant you arrive, uniformed men will surround your car and greet you in an aggressive manner while snatching your luggage, which they'll give to other men, who'll give it to other men, all of whom will have to be tipped if you ever hope to see your underwear again.

Also you're expected to tip the bellperson one dollar for every minute he spends lecturing you on the various features of your room, such as where the window is, how you work the light switch, etc. A really informative bellperson will find so many room features to tell you about ("And down here, you have your floor") that he may well elect to spend the night with you.

My most terrifying hotel-tipping experience occurred when a book publisher put me up for a night at a gymnasium-sized suite in an extremely fancy hotel in Beverly Hills, the kind of hotel where everywhere you turn there are men wearing tuxedos, and you feel obliged to hand them money, even though the only apparent service they perform is to make you nervous.

I tipped my way desperately through the lobby, thrusting money at everything in my path, including floral arrangements, and I made it to my room, and finally the bellperson left, and I thought I was safe. But immediately there was a knock at the door, and it was yet another hotel person, announcing that he had brought me some ice. I didn't need ice, but here was this person holding a silver ice bucket that cost more than my car, and I didn't want to look cheap, so I pulled out my wallet and gave him the smallest bill I had left, which was a five. Moments after he left, another hotel person came around, and this one, for some reason, had strawberries. I happen to hate strawberries, but this person had a tastefully arranged plate of them, and I felt I had no choice but to give her what was now the smallest bill in my wallet, namely: a 20. So now I had spent $25 for ice and strawberries.

I spent the rest of the evening huddled in bed, trying to ignore the people knocking on my door, bringing me God knows what. I was terrified that they'd become violent. "OK, Mr. Barry," they'd shout, using a bullhorn. "We know you're in there. We have a live pony out here for you, and if you don't come out and tip us, we're going to shove it under the door."

So we see the importance of proper tipping etiquette. I certainly hope that this information has been helpful, and that before you move along to the next article, you remember to show your appreciation for all the work I've done by . . . Hey! Come back here! *

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