Wednesday, May 24, 2023


Having grown up with it, and endured long exposure, I can navigate traditional American tipping. In a restaurant I add a heavy 20 percent on the total bill, a bit less if something is really wrong, and 25 plus if there's something unusually wonderful going on with the service. I love the idea of Europe, where the price is just the price, but there's still a great deal of tipping round the edges. On any trip to France I might try to get sorted on the situation by perusing the Internet, and I find it always unsatisfying. "Tipping is absolutely not required." Every authority invariably preaches. "Waiters are properly remunerated." All is good so far. But then we come to "So just round up, add a euro or two. And at more expensive restaurants it is customary to add five or ten percent to the bill."

Oh. So... that's very clear?

Last night I was at a restaurant that was at pains to assure me that they were taking care of the staff, all of them, by adding a 20% service charge to every bill. Cool. They even added "No further tip is required." But they couldn't resist offering me the opportunity. "Of course, any further tips are up to you." They concluded.

In practice, at the conclusion of the meal, the perfectly fine, to that point, waitress, asked if I understood the service charge. I thought I did, but no. Apparently some people got some of the 20 percent and she got 11 percent. 


That seems fair, or wildly unfair. Probably wildly unfair?

I don't know.

I am pretty sure that a service charge though is probably the worst of all worlds; a mandatory tip to rob it of being the freely given thank you that a tip is. Thus it leaves any actual tip as an unresolved question.

How many layers of tipping can we get to?

The one place that I have ever been that completely nailed it, as it did in several things through the years, was the late, lamented Kopplin's Coffee. They introduced the perfect cappuccino to Saint Minneapolis, were impeccable in their quality, always sourced from the best local places, and at some point raised their prices to compensate their staff properly and became a "No tip" operation. 

No tips. 

They didn't accept them.

Tips, for good or ill, mostly ill, are like light, or roaches, or water, or zombies- if you leave even a crack, they will find a way in.

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