Posted by: martinworster | August 13, 2007


Best tip: Don’t eat yellow snow.

In a world where having a therapist is the norm and a portfolio of neurosis is worn with pride, it’s reassuring to see I am taking the ‘when in Rome’ approach. I haven’t actually got a shrink yet – that’s down my to do list behind ‘start pilates’ and ‘stop smoking’. I am however developing a strong personality disorder that frequently leaves me clammy palmed in retail outlets and edgy in restaurants and pubs. I think it is a common affliction, especially for resident non-Americans. I have developed a strong case of Tip Anxiety.

Tipping culture here is far reaching and daunting – largely so that bloated corporations can further increase the bottom line by paying service workers the bare minimum. Bus boys, alet parkers, Starbucks Baristas, waitresses and hostesses all rely on tips for the bulk of their wage. Often it’s difficult to gauge the right approach and amounts. In bars every order is expected to be tipped – even when you order a pint AT the bar and all the barman did was pull the pump lever. It’s understandable with waitresses who come to your table eager with white toothed smiles as bigger tips help you get premium service.

Tip anxiety hits me most in coffee bars. My blended ice lite-Frappachino mocha with no cream comes to $3.50. Do I keep the change and turn on my heels for the door, leaving the poor server tip-less? Or if I flip 50 Cents into the plastic tip cup is that a mockery, an insult the could lead to bogeys or worst in my next Frappachino?

In the land of the automobile, Valet Parking is a whole other sub culture with it’s own set of unspoken rules and etiquettes with regard to tipping. My car even comes with a special valet key which doesn’t open the glove box (unlike the other keys) in case you want to leave something valuable in there. Strange. It’s a key I’ve never used. There’s obviously been a high spate of thieving valet boys recently. $5 is the normal fee for them to get your car at the end of the night.

Then there’s taxis. What’s generous and not? Why can’t they just figure in the tip to the price? And don’t get me started when you go to trendy bars and clubs where they have a guy waiting to spray your hand with cheap perfume and offer you gum every time you take a piss.

I miss England. It was fine there if the only tips you left were for the 13.35 at Epsom or to never eat yellow snow.


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