My all- time most unfavourite subject, but something we live with daily is tipping. The habit of tipping has always been something of an enigma to me. When does it begin and end. I don’t tip my doctor, even less my lawyer, so, is tipping reserved only for the unprofessional of us who need extra bucks? So, when do you tip, how much do you tip, and the million dollar question, does the expectant recipient deserve it, or do we just pay it ‘because why’? The dilemma is, if you don’t tip him, what may be the possible repercussions? My best of course, is that quick trip to the supermarket for a pint ( remember that), of milk. Your duration will be ten minutes tops. You are greeted by a car guard when you park. You may, as a reflex, greet him back – you now have a de facto contract sealed if not signed for his protection, dubious as it might be. Now after a ten minute stop what, you ask yourself should you tip? If you have multiple stops of equal short duration, you might need an overdraft to cover these tipping costs. The car guard concept was, when it was conceived, a great idea and accepted avidly. To-day, though crime is worse than ever, they sadly seem to have become a curse. When is a car guard bona fide? Some will say , when he wears a reflective jacket. I have to tell you, those jackets are the cheapest garment available at any shop selling such things. As the old saying actually doesn’t go, “ A green reflective jacket butters no parsnips!”. You may recall where you were when 911 occurred or when Lady Di, died. I recall where (not when) I saw my first car guard. It was at a supermarket parking lot in Richards Bay. He was a large ‘front Rank’ Afrikaans guy who would stop a bullet on his chest and shrug at the irritation. What a novelty this was. I think he retired on the tip I gave him as I had no idea what the hell to do!
Where did tipping or even the concept of tipping begin? Lawdy knows, but I suspect either the UK or USA. I had a disconcerting experience in London about 40 years ago. I tipped a Cab driver with all the change in my pocket, ‘cause that was all I had. I was sure it amounted to something meaningful. He dumped it on the road then told me that I probably needed it more than him – which I probably did! Taking a taxi in London is a stressful experience. You know you are going to need cash for a tip but how much. Now London Taxi cabs have mystical meters. Take for example if you like the fool I was, take a cab from Paddington Station to Covent Gardens – (I could have taken the subway). Your eyes don’t leave the meter where, instead, you should be savouring the sights and sounds of the city. The meter starts at some outrageous figure, presumably just because you got in. Then, it seems to slip into temporary dormancy or, as I like to call it ‘temporary meter amnesia’, as it forgets somehow that you are rolling. You start to relax a little. Then, like someone just gave it a shot of steroids, it leaps into action and seems to skip a whole bunch of numbers and slots in at some scary number far surpassing your own uneducated estimate – and you are not ‘there’ yet. A red traffic light sends it into a frenzy where the adrenalin gland of the meter starts secreting at an alarming rate. You start praying to the Patron Saint of traffic lights, whoever he may be and beg for ‘green’. When finally you get to your destination, you are faced with the ritual of payment. Being a South African, you are naturally at this time, traumatized. A Valium seems at this stage, a reasonable course of treatment as a pre-emptive measure to a heart attack or at the very least, a stroke.
Now what you must avoid at all costs, is paying a fare inclusive of a tip, that requires change. The Cabby hates that. He feels that whatever the change, he is due that as well. The trick is to pay and run lest you be guilty of something really awful like tipping too small. If you are in America, and fortunate enough to be staying in a reasonably classy hotel, there will be a ‘Bell Hop’ or Porter who will take your bag to your room. The best hotels have very old looking Bell Hops that like to stop every few minutes and with a hand over their heart, shake their head sadly, then wheezing, shuffle on. Believe me when I say this is a ruse. This fellow is as strong and as agile as a Rocky Mountain Goat, but he is also an Academy Award winner. When he has dropped the bags in your room he will stand expectantly. So what do you say to the ‘bugger’. Nice weather you’re having? No! He is waiting for his tip. If it isn’t immediately forthcoming, the wily street wise chap will cough gently and put out his hand. Don’t shake it, you are not Australian. Also advice on who you think will win the third race at Arlington Park won’t ‘cut it’. You gotta tip!
Now I did some research on this very subject and discovered that the word ‘Tip’ is an acronym for “ To insure promptness”. If that is true, than I respectfully submit, we are all doing it wrong. Theoretically, we should be tipping before the fact as opposed to after it if the very act is a form of ‘insurance’ pre-empting good service. A wealthy uncle of mine had a great solution, he would tip the hotel Concierge and restaurant Head Waiter when he arrived with a promise of the ‘other half’ at the end of his stay. Worked like a charm. Some restaurants like to automatically put a gratuity (fancy word for tip) on to your bill. I hate that. This suggests that the restaurant pre-supposes the service will be great and that the waiter thusly is deserved of some cash at their pre-determined rate. I have even seen one particular restaurant put in the customary ‘very fine print’, the legend that if you object to this automatic gratuity, it will be deducted on request. If that is your intention, I strongly suggest you do it after you have had your coffee, then make a run for your car. With major functions such practise of pre-arranged tips or tips guised within the venue charge, I have no objection at all. Most often than not, staff have to work long and hard to make the function a success.
Tipping in a restaurant has a flaw. The guest has a great meal, compliments the waiter who had absolutely nothing to do with its preparation and then, happily, slides over a buck or two for good measure. The poor cook didn’t get a leg in the door. But, having said that, good service these days is a rare commodity, something we at The Nest strive to not only maintain but also improve upon. So although a ‘general gratuity’ finds its way to everyone, truthfully, when ‘greatness’ comes my way, I am first in line to reward individuals where it is due. After all exceptional circumstances deserve exceptional recognition.
So another month has gone by. The Nest continues with style and stamina in its own time tested way. Come and succumb to the magic. It awaits no-one else but you.
The ‘Conor’ – tributor.