I’m writing some internet content for a company in San Diego and I’m staying in town for the week — at the Hyatt downtown. I love staying in hotels. I love seeing all the tourists and business people. I love big hotel lobbies. The one thing I don’t like about hotel life is all the "tipping" you have to do. This is something I’ve inherited from my parents, who are always nervous about being seen as "under-tipping." Even today, when my parents go out to eat and pay with their Visa card, my father always goes over to the waitress and says "I left you something on the Visa," just to make sure she doesn’t give him "the evil eye" as he leaves the restaurant.
I haven’t been in the hotel for five minutes before I’m tipping the valet guy for parking my car (which is already costing me eighteen dollars a day!). I tipped the bellboy after he carried up my one piece of luggage. I noticed how he kept on telling me about the "great bars" in the Gaslight District in order to make me feel like he was my buddy. Did he really care? No, he wanted a nice tip. There’s nothing wrong with that. I know that’s how this guy makes his living. It just makes for a very phony relationship. Couldn’t he just be honest and say "I’ll tell you where the hot girls are in San Diego, if you give me five extra bucks."
I wasn’t able to blog for half the day because the wi-fi didn’t work in the room — and I know how many people depend on me. A technician came to my room and fixed the internet access. I gave him a tip, even though it was the hotel’s own fault that it didn’t work. Since they caused the problem, shouldn’t the hotel offer to tip him for me? A half hour later, the wi-fi wasn’t working again. The technician came up and fixed it again, and then had the chutzpah to wait around for another tip, which I never gave him (but felt guilty about, like I was Ebenezer Scrooge not giving one of my poor employees a ham for Christmas).
Let’s see how fast this technician comes to my room the next time the wi-fi goes kaput.
Some countries don’t tip. I’m sure that’s why this hotel’s restaurant adds a 15% "gratuity" to the bill whether you like it or not — basically to force the Japanese and Swedes to tip. Of course, like a dock worker in the former Soviet Union, when there’s not much incentive for a waitress to work hard, she just doesn’t. The service in the restaurant was atrocious, and I had no choice but to tip this moron 15% — which I probably would have done away, being a wimp like my father. I couldn’t bear a waitress looking at me with an evil eye.
I grew up in an apartment building in New York where we had "supers" — guys who came up to your apartment to fix things like your toilet and kitchen sink. Even though they made a pretty good salary, my father always tipped them for their services. What really used to bug me was how during Christmas, the apartment building gave each "super" a big bonus, and every apartment resident would give them a big tip as well. It never seemed as if these tips were really from the heart. They always seemed like the forced blackmail of the Mafioso. God forbid you didn’t tip the super! Your toilet would be overflowing all over your apartment, and the super would always be "busy." But of course, he always had time to help someone who gave him a big tip. Luckily, he always helped my big tipper father, but I don’t think any of the supers ever visited the cheapskate Weiselfeiffer family in apartment 3C — and I mean not even once in twenty years.
My own personal experience in tipping came at an early age. When we were very young, my friend Rob and I were not allowed to take the subway by ourselves. One afternoon, being adventurous (or at least Rob was), we decided to disobey our parents and took the long ride on the 7 train to Times Square. We even had a final destination — one of the last remaining "Chock full o’ Nuts" coffee shops that our fathers used to go to. A Chock Full of o’ Nuts cafe, for those not in the know, was like a Starbucks before its time — a place mostly for coffee and a muffin. We sat down at the counter, thinking that people would think we were adults if we just acted like it. We ordered two coffees.
Waitress: Do your parents know you drink coffee?
Rob and I: Sure… yeah… we always drink coffee…
The waitress shrugged. I’m sure she saw weirder things working in Times Square (this was before the Disneyfication).
Waitress: You want it regular or black?
We said black, since it sounded more adult.
The waitress gave us our coffee and we forced ourselves to drink this awful-tasting sludge. When we were done:
Waitress: Anything else?
Me: No, thank you, Miss.
She gave us the check. Rob took one glance at it and broke out in a sweat.
Rob: We only have enough money for the coffee and the train ride home. We don’t have anything for the tip!
We both lived in the same apartment building as our Mafioso supers, so we knew that tipping was extremely important. There was only one solution: We would write the waitress a nice thank you note.
I took out the Bic pen I always carried with me and we both composed our masterpiece on the back of the Chock full o’ Nuts napkin.
We are sorry, but we don’t have enough money for a tip. But you were the best waitress we ever had. If we had money, we would give you the biggest tip you ever got. Thank you for the cofffee.
Neil and Rob
We took out the money we owed and left it on the table. We turned the napkin towards the waitress and we ran out.
To this day, Rob and I still wonder how this waitress responded to our little note. We hope that she was incredibly touched and framed the napkin and put it on her wall at home. Maybe she’s retired now, and sometimes looks at this napkin as the highlight of her waitressing career.
I hope she wasn’t upset. I would hate to think that as we ran out of the Chock Full o’ Nuts, she gave us the evil eye for not leaving a tip.