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Archive for the ‘Etiquette’ Category

Trials and Travails of ‘Splitting the Bill’

Posted by gratrueities on April 14, 2010

You’ve just enjoyed a wonderful (one hopes!) dinner out with friends and then comes the moment of truth…the bill arrives.

Splitting the bill can, too frequently, be an awkward experience. The practice I’m  most comfortable with is adding in the gratuity and splitting the total by the number of people – then each person/couple/family contributes accordingly, per person. My rationale:  if you are dining as a group, you mostly likely are doing so because you want to do so, you enjoy one another’s company and your expectations regarding the experience and expense involved are fairly consistent.

However, it’s recently come to my attention that not everyone is in agreement on this subject!

From the price of the items ordered to the amount of the tip, there seem to be many points open to question. A recent example…I was in the process of dividing a check and adding a 20% gratuity on the total bill, including tax, when someone asked “why are you tipping on the tax – shouldn’t you just double the tax? That’s what I always do.” (a formula that equated to about 16% where we were dining). This did not become a heated discussion by any means, but it highlights one area of confusion that surrounds splitting the bill – every person has different practices. To further complicate things, if the person figuring the bill is a poor tipper, do you speak up or just quietly bump up the tip at your own expense?

Then consider the “small-orderer” – the person who only orders a salad or appetizer (Worse…just a cup of coffee. Worse yet…just drinks the tap water!) while everyone else orders a meal. Or, the person who doesn’t drink alcohol while the rest of the group swills down cocktails and/or wine. In those instances, it may be more sensitive to tell the person who did not partake to “throw in” whatever they think is fair and split the remaining balance . Since I am never that person who doesn’t indulge, I can’t say for sure – but I think I would still be inclined to want to be included in regular split. This is definitely a case where I know (from experience, unfortunately) not everyone agrees!

Let’s not forget to look at the flip side – the person who decides they want to order every appetizer on the menu, an exotic item (think truffles or lobster) or that pricey bottle of wine – at the everyone else’s expense. Not fair…and there should be consequences! Unless they offer to cover their personal indulgence, they may not want to expect to be included the next time!

These are my only my opinions. I, therefore, decided to do a little research to see what it actually considered customary today. I was happy to see that I am somewhat in line with current thinking…or at least half. A recent FoxBusiness article addressing the etiquette of splitting the check offers opposing arguments:

One opinon: “Times are tight, and if a person or couple orders appetizers, dessert and drank alcohol, and you choose not to, it’s OK to discreetly say, ‘I am going to take care of my end,’” said Elaine Swann, lifestyle and etiquette coach. “But be sure to adequately cover what you ordered, plus tip.”

Arguing for the other side: Mirza Grotts, an etiquette and protocol consultant,  said situations regarding money are already awkward enough, and by asking to individually pay will make matters worse.“Asking for separate checks is very passé, it’s too much work for the waiter and if you have lost your job you probably shouldn’t be going out in the first place,” she said. “Asking for separate checks is very passé, it’s too much work for the waiter and if you have lost your job you probably shouldn’t be going out in the first place,” she said.She said it’s much easier to split the bill evenly, particularly if it’s a friend you go out with repeatedly. “It becomes a wash and will even out in the long run,” she said.

So…my conclusion: Let sensitivity and common sense prevail. If you are dining with friends with whom you socialize regularly, it probably will all even out in the end…just split and make it easy. If you are dining with someone in a difficult financial situation who orders frugally, let them pay accordingly (or better yet, treat them if you have the means and it’s comfortable to do so). If dining with a repeat offender – the “big orderer” who burdens you, make a decision. Bottom line, if you resent the bill split, you probably shouldn’t repeat the circumstances.

Side notes:

Make it clear from the beginning that the check will be split, avoiding unpleasant surprises at the end of the meal.

Do not let the check sit on the table at the end of the meal: Grotts also said it’s rude to let the bill sit on the table when it arrives. “Always be the first to grab the bill, it is embarrassing to let it linger.”

Social situations are distinctly different from a business dinner, in which case the person extending the invitation is expected to pick up the bill.

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Posted in Dining experience, Etiquette, Paying the bill, Tipping | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“Latest Generation” Waiter

Posted by gratrueities on April 6, 2010

I like you! (“You Got Me” by Colbie Caillat)

It was bound to happen one day…introducing robo-waiters that serve not only food, but also cutting edge entertainment.

Hajime, a Japanese restaurant recently opened (to the tune of 30 million baht or $927,600!) in Thailand, brings high-tech dining to a whole new level. Customers order on touchscreens and are then served by imported Japanese “motorised servants” that (oops – almost wrote “who” here!) deliver meals along with some intriguing (and, dare we say, electric “techno”) dance moves!

Striking, that reference in the article to “motorised servants” – not exactly an interchangeable term for waiter…or certainly not an acceptable one. Perhaps more of a cultural reference – note the spelling?

And speaking of being politically correct, would one leave a tip in this case?

(Potential) GraTRUEity #54 – Time to reboot?

Posted in Dining experience, Etiquette, International, Tipping, Uncategorized, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

15% Tipper and Proud of It?

Posted by gratrueities on April 1, 2010

Well…that is the impression one gets when scrolling to the bottom of the recent New York Times City Room blog post by David Sax. The disclaimer at the end of the post states that he is a “journalist and the author of “Save the Deli” (Houghton Mifflin), lives in Park Slope and always tips 15 percent.”

Note – Mr. Sax does not claim to tip “at least” 15% – but, rather, “15 percent,” period. Hmmm…is that really what he means to say? If so, that is curious, considering he has written a book on dining (even if it is deli dining) from which he has, in theory, profited! See him in action doing research at right!

That said, the post, titled Hey, Waiter! Just How Much Extra Do You Really Expect? raises some valid points and, despite the title and surly tone, does not truly take an anti-server stance. For instance, Mr. Sax takes issue with the less-than-minimum wages servers are paid. He challenges the gratuitous tip, but supports rewarding a job well done. Not surprisingly, the article incited both the ire and support of many NYT readers and has, to date, generated well over 1200 comments.

Obviously, tipping remains a controversial subject  – who, when, how much and for what? Interestingly, the comments generated from the article did not divide straight down the line between customers and servers. Some of the most intriguing comments are featured in a follow-up piece – Readers Split the Difference on Tipping.

We’re always interested in the many points of view that surround the custom of the tip and these are particularly insightful comments.

Also, it makes us wonder what GraTRUEity might be appropriate for someone such as Mr. Sax: “I always tip 15% no matter what…so read nothing into this tip.”  “Underpaid workers unite!” ?? We’re open to suggestions!

Posted in Etiquette, GraTRUEities, Pet Peeves, Pop Culture, Service, Tipping, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Taking Service to the Next Level

Posted by gratrueities on January 25, 2010

And then some! A recent Forbes.com article recounts the World’s Most Outrageous Guest Requests at luxury hotels around the globe. Apparently, as the article states, “no task for the concierge is impossible.”

However, these requests are so far beyond the ordinary, it boggles the mind.

One example from this story:  “Raphael Pallais, the concierge at the newly re-opened Plaza Hotel in New York City, went on a crazy quest for live tarantulas for a guest obsessed with bringing some home to roast–then eat.”  “The ever resourceful Pallais contacted The New York-based Explorers Club, known for hosting controversial “exotic” dinners.”  He elaborates, “One of the attributes of the concierge is that we must remain unflappable at all times,” says Pallais who, like most concierges interviewed for this story, belongs to Les Clefs d’Or, the prestigious international association of concierges. “To us, no request is deemed outrageous. We prefer the term ‘unique.'”

At least two things came to mind while reading these tales!

First, one can’t help but wonder what kinds of gratuity a concierge might receive for procuring 21 deer to be shipped home for birthday party (you guessed it, a 21st birthday!) or covering a sandy beach with carpet for a guest who desired a private film screening on the beach but did not care for sand? Pallais explains that in some cases he sees himself as a “dream weaver,” helping people fulfill fantasies they could not otherwise realize, while  some of the requests are simply “wealth whims.” We can only assume (and hope) that, in cases such as these, people are “sharing the wealth!

Secondly, these stories certainly put asking for a substitution in a meal or a water refill into perspective!

Posted in concierge, Etiquette, Pop Culture, Service, Tipping, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Has The Spirit Moved You?

Posted by gratrueities on December 21, 2009

Have you completed your holiday tipping yet – or at least strategized as to how you plan to recognize those who have made your life a little bit better or easier this past year?  If not, time is running out!

On another note, have you felt the urge to spread a little extra joy by beefing up your regular tips?  Or…are you feeling pinched by all the extra holiday expenses?  Do servers find that their tip percentages are greater or reduced during the holidays?

Personally, I feel moved to be  more generous at this time of year  – caught up in the spirit of the season – and “pay the price” in January!

Posted in Etiquette, Holiday tipping, Tipping, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

’tis the Season (continued)…

Posted by gratrueities on December 7, 2009

to be jolly…and to spread some holiday cheer!  The question, as usual, is how much “cheer?”

As we get further into the season, there is more concern about appropriate tipping for the holidays. We want to be vigilant about keeping up to date on the subject so, in addition to the links on Holiday Tipping, are referencing some other recent discussions we’ve come across.

From publications such as Consumer Reports to The New York Times, from Yelp to blogs such as Bargaineering, holiday tipping is a hot topic.

Consumer Reports publishes results from a survey on tipping during an economic downturn. Not the most complete list, in our opinon, but possibly a view of what is most relevant to many!

The New York Times presents a three-part series with questions and answers about holiday tipping etiquette from expert, Peter Post, director of the Emily Post Institute: Part IPart IIPart III

A Reuters article puts a positive spin on the current economic challenges, suggesting that cutting back on holiday tips provides the opportunity to really say “thank you” – a concept undoubtedly met with mixed reactions!

Bargaineering, a personal finance blog, looks as tipping as an investment – The Best Investment Ever – rather than as simply a matter of etiquette, but also includes a holiday tipping guide compiled from many of the sources we have also referenced.

Yelp also has perplexed consumers looking for advice about how much to tip for the holidays – with questions about the appropriate amounts to give – from doormen to hair stylists.

Posted in Economy, Etiquette, Holiday tipping, Tipping | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Call 911 – GraTRUEities!

Posted by gratrueities on November 19, 2009

Maybe if they had had an alternative way to to express themselves, the Bethlehem, PA couple arrested for not leaving a gratuity at the Lehigh Pub would have not ended up in handcuffs. Yes, that’s right…the couple was arrested for refusing to leave a $16 tip – for sub-par service.

This was a case where the gratuity was included in the bill – a “mandatory” 18%. The patrons paid the $73 dollars owed for food, drink and tax but protested paying the “tip” for what they claim was poor to non-existent service. Leslie Pope and John Wagner attempted to explain the reason for refusing to leave a gratuity and the bartender took decisive action – he called the police and had the couple arrested for theft! That’s one way to get a tip.

This is certainly a case where using the “simple, time-tested system” of letting ones tips do the talking (see page 2 comment, Grub Street ‘Editor’s Pick’) did not work out so well for the customer. Perhaps they would have been better off  in this case  going with our motto – “put your mouth where your money is.”

Leaving an appropriate message along with a tip may work out better in the end for all.

Posted in Bars, Dining experience, Etiquette, GraTRUEities In Use, Paying the bill, Tipping, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Time to Give Thanks

Posted by gratrueities on November 9, 2009

The holidays are just around the corner and it will soon be time to give thanks to those who have provided us with year-round services. These thanks are traditionally given in the form of a monetary tip or a gift.

In challenging economic times, it’s still important to remember that holiday tipping is about showing appreciation. From the dog walker to the hair dresser, the concierge to the post person, the list of those to thank can get rather long. True, for someone living in New York City the list will most likely be longer than that of someone who lives in, let’s say, Lost Springs, Wyoming.  However, it’s important for us all to plan ahead and even use some creativity to help fulfill our lists without breaking the bank!

To help you remember who to put on your list and determine how to show your appreciation, check out the Holiday Tipping page in Tipipedia!

Posted in Economy, Etiquette, Tipping | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Do You Believe in “Tip Coordination?”

Posted by gratrueities on November 6, 2009

You can even order a t-shirt that poses this very question! In the first ‘Seinfeld reunion‘ episode of ‘Curb Your Enthusiam,’ Larry David shares with Jason Alexander his feelings on the subject. What is “tip coordination” you may ask?  Basically, it is an agreement, when splitting a restaurant bill, that all will tip the same amount or percentage – price fixing, if you wish!  Here is an interesting commentary on the psychology of tipping and the subject of “tip coordination” from the blog cheeptalk.wordpress.com:

“Economists have often wondered why people tip.  We have lots of sophisticated explanations for why rational (i.e. selfish)    people pretend to be altruistic.  A leading explanation, the reputation model, relies on some repeated game concern but how would that apply in a one shot waiter game?  The puzzle is, of course, easily resolved if one allows homo economicus to have a heart. Warm, mushy feelings for waiters can easily explain tipping, even if you both know your relationship is the restaurant equivalent of the one night stand.

As our well-educated and well-read readers know, the heart is a complicated thing and often responds to incentives in odd ways.  Larry David is the dark Jane Austen of our cynical time and his (second!) magnum opus, Curb Your Enthusiasm, is the warped Sense and Sensibility.  I enjoyed the Seinfeld non-Reunion episode.  There were so many treasures in one half hour but the business lunch between Larry and Jason Alexander was my favorite bit. Larry and Alexander go dutch and Larry suggests they coordinate the tip.  He wishes to avoid the embarrassment of under-tipping.  It is just obvious to Larry that other people’s opinion matters so he must tip.  Note it is not morality but image and hence self-image that guide Larry.  He certainly does not want to tip low when his Dutch partner tips high.  But if your partner tips low, there is still an incentive to tip high, because it is quite natural that you want your image to be better than your partner’s.  In other words, there is a dominant strategy to tip high…a Prisoner’s Dilemma of tipping. Once we open up the heart of homo economicus, not only is there an incentive to tip, but toovertip.  No wonder Larry wants to collude and coordinate tips.”


Posted in Dining experience, Etiquette, Paying the bill, Pop Culture, Tipping | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Required Reading? 50 Rules for Wait Staff

Posted by gratrueities on November 4, 2009

Even we were taken aback by this list of 50 rules for wait staff posted in the New York Times  by Long Island restaurateur Bruce Buschel. And, these 50 are only Part 1. It sounds like there will be another 50 in an upcoming post for a total of 100 rules.

Not to say that these rules aren’t relevant, and useful, they are. But…pity the poor server who is handed a list of these rules on their first day on the job. It does seem a bit overwhelming.

Some of the rules are common  sense and virtually all of them touch on something that  could easily turn into an aggravation for the guest.

Here are some of GraTRUEities favorites, with our comments.

3. Never refuse to seat three guests because a fourth has not yet arrived.

 —Yes! It would be awesome if all restaurants were more relaxed about seating partial parties.

8. Do not interrupt a conversation. For any reason. Especially not to recite specials. Wait for the right moment.

—So true.

11. Do not hustle the lobsters. That is, do not say, “We only have two lobsters left.” Even if there are only two lobsters left.

—Thank-you for this one, Bruce.

12. Do not touch the rim of a water-glass. Or any other glass.

—Eeeck! We hope not.

And finally, saving the best for last,

50. Do not turn on the charm when it’s tip time. Be consistent throughout.

Posted in Dining experience, Etiquette, Pet Peeves, Tipping, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »