Monday, February 12, 2007

To tip or be a prick?

It's been awhile since my last post. And the reasons? Most prominently, the lack of time, and other things...well, excuses none the less. But the last month's been fun too, lots of things happening at a pace that does not make me sit n brood that life is boring. But life is crazy I should say, and gives you twists and turns when you least expect it. If life was a crazy stage drama, that would make the actors on stage behave in ways that would have to seem crazy right? Which is why every once in a while you come across people who behave in ways that can surprise, shock, or even humiliate you. All this when you least expect it.

Let me elaborate.

Just the previous week, on a Friday night, my friends Sohan, Naveen and I were having a good time at Styx. We were just finishing up, Sohan had paid the bill graciously, adding a tip of around 30-40 Rupees, when the waiter came back to us. "Sorry Sir, but usually people tip us more here". Whhaaaaat The!!!...What is that supposed to mean...Was he asking us for more..Or did the guy suddenly decide to follow the unwritten US tip rule, which is 10-15% of the bill? Sohan looked a little ashamed and started reaching for his purse again, but I was in no mood for that. I didn't want to take the same BS again for the second time in just over a month.

Confused? Read On.

I think I must have given the waiter a quizzical/dirty look, for he came over to my side. The guy seemed pretty ashamed himself that he was asking us for more. "You see Sir" he said to me, "We do not get much salary. Tips are one way we earn cash". I tried to smile, but couldn't. "Don't you think we have already given you a decent sum?", I asked him. "But sir, please sir, people do give us more too." I gave him one of those pitiful but disdainful looks again, and he must have thought I'd explode or something, for he said pleadingly "Sir, please do not feel bad or angry Sir. Only if you're willing Sir". Atleast this fellow had manners, I said to myself, and so I told him, "It's ok. We're sorry. No problem." And I nodded to Sohan who paid him twenty more.

As we walked out, Sohan and Naveen were feeling pretty shocked. "Can't believe he just did that dude!" I was actually feeling a mix of deja vu and relief. Relief? Yes. This wasn't half as bad as what had happened a month earlier.

We were in Silver Spring, Maryland. It was past 9pm on a chilly December 29th. It was the last day of our US trip, and we were to board our return flights the next day. We had finished up with work, said our goodbyes to friends at office, when Charles offered to take us to this slightly upscale Ethiopian restaurant, aptly callded Addis-Ababa. David Tucker, another employee at office, was already there, sipping on Guinness Stout. We were happy to enter the warm cosy interiors of the place. Me, FatRat, WonderKid and Spandi along with Charles. It was a respite from the bitter cold outside. Now everything seemed good about this place, and the excitement of trying out a really different cuisine made our already-hungry stomachs growl with anticipation. Umm..atleast mine did. The waitress seemed very nice too, greeting us with warmth, and saying "Oh, we have Indians today!" She then surprised us all, saying "I've been to India!" Oh really? "Yes, I studied for two years at Pune". Excellent. And she gushed about how she loved the idlis and masala dosas and other Indian dishes. "That's very nice", we said, slightly surprised to having met someone who'd been to India in a place like this. Well, after a few more pleasantries had been exchanged, she took our orders and left. But she came back just a short while later, cos she'd got confused about the number of orders. She'd thought there were just five of us, but we literally finger-counted and explained to her that there were actually six in our group. "Oh my mistake", she gushed, "I'll be right back with your orders." Just as she was passing us, WonderKid muttered to me, "She sure didn't take math classes in India", and I snickered at the snide remark. But from the corner of my eye, I noticed her head turn by just the slightest of degrees, and wondered if she had heard his comment.

Alas.

Twenty minutes later, six happy people had finished their dinner. FatRat looked delirious with joy as he often did after a satisfactory meal, which for him, is rice and sambhar. The bill was brought and I decided to pay it on behalf on we 'Indians', as a farewell treat to Charles and David. The total was around 94$. Three seconds of quick mental math and I decided to put 105$ between the brown leather. (Which was exactly 11.7% I now know, but at that time I'd made sure it was between 10 and 15%, so I knew I was in the green. Pun intended.) However, less than sixty seconds later, our "oh-so-sweet" waitress came straight for us.

Revenge. Ethiopian Style.

Her previous cheerful demeanour had vanished. If looks could kill...(yeah you know the rest), or even cook, I would be spicy flavoured Ababa-65 Chicken gravy by now. She "almost" slammed the book in front of me and exclaimed "You have NOT paid 15% of the total. It's hardly 10%!!" Gulp. I think my face went through colours of mild orange to bright pink to dark crimson. All six of us looked shaken. "Oh sorry" I squeaked. Almost everyone reached for their wallets at the same time.We managed to hurriedly put in a few extra dollars. Even more than a few. Who knew she wouldn't go berserk if we again missed the mark by a few cents!? We totalled it to 112$ (19.1% for the quant-curious), gave it to her (who didn't even say a thankyou back if I remember correctly, but I maybe wrong cos everything was happening in a blur) and walked out of there as fast as we could. Phew.

It felt really bad at that time cos we all felt she'd behaved inappropriately. But one thing was certain - she had made sure that we got one thing straight.

She knew her math alright.

112 comments:

US said...

I only pay round up sums to the next 10 or max 20.

Clearly you bent over backwards to give that generous tip. $18 tip = Rs 792 = 132 per person. That's 2 days worth of food in India.

--
US

stan_da_man said...

@US: yeah i know, but we didnt feel like doing anything else at that moment...yea, I suppose we could get angry back and decide to NOT give anything, but when you're aliens in a foreign land, chances are that you will remain subdued, or *stay low* in my own words :)

Guru Panguji said...

@ Staney boy: Dude, was the service good? If not, you were totally justified in giving a lower amount as tip! She was yanking your chain and you tumbled.

I really don't think you needed to pay. Btw, 10-15% is still the norm. =D!!

But, yeah I just fear for spit and hopefully nothing more in your amazing Ethiopian food =P!!

Aslan said...

i read a wikihow article which said in the U.S., these people were taxed assuming u tipped them 10% (15% for drinks) so if u give less, u r actually taking money from their pockets.! absurd, but true. look it up. their annoyance hence is understandable, but in this case, u needn't have paid more..

stan_da_man said...

@pangu: Hey dude! SU-CHA longgggggg time...wher r u these days?? hibernating in Germany!? anywayz, yea maybe we shudnt hav paid more, but her look gave me d chills maaaaan....cudnt help it :|

@aslan: Interesting article. Dunno how true it is tho. u get taxed based on expected tips!? weird. But anything is possible thr naa, so can never say...anywayz, will try to pay around the 15% mark next time I'm thr...

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