Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Tipping Blog

(WARNING: There is a lot of math in this blog so if you have a short attention span or are easily distracted by shiny stuff, you might want to pass on this one.)

Today’s subject has been rolling around us at South Gate for several weeks now, and since * B * hasn’t piped up on the subject, although I have given him a WEEK, (They don’t call me Slave Driver for nuthin’, ya’ know…) I figured I would jump into the pool. Actually, I have Pools on my mind because it’s getting to be about time that I set mine up, but the weather here has been so bad I’m afraid I’d be ice skating on it, not swimming.

Anyway, I digress.

Tipping is a very touchy and emotional subject with Carriage Drivers and anyone else who has ever worked in any kind of service industry. The custom differs throughout United States as well as the world. And here is the thing, I invite you to join in the conversation, make this a dialogue. PLEASE leave a comment concerning this blog. You know, as long as it’s about The Tipping Blog, not a comment about how I’m short and fugly looking. Crap, I already know that.

When I lived in Kansas City I went to work as a waitress at a sports bar that was 25 miles away from my house. I could have worked at a local diner that was 3 miles away. Why did I choose to go the extra distance? Because, having eaten at the diner, which was in a very rural area, I notice that the farmers tipped the girls a dollar. Didn’t matter what their bill was, $5.00 or $25.00, they got a dollar. That was the local custom.

A DOLLAR is NOT a good tip.

Now, a dollar on a $5 tab is good. Rule of thumb, the 15% rule that is, would make that a .75-cent tip. However tip on $25 is $3.75, not a dollar. So, bad tip. When I waitressed in KC we were paid $2.17 and hour. We were charged 10% income tax on the total amount of product (food) we sold. So whether you made 19% in tips that day or 7%, you paid 10%. Plus the income tax you were changed on the whopping $2.17 and hour.

Friday night I went to Dees with my fellow Breakfasteers. My bill was $9.20. I gave Leah 12.00 and said, “Keep the change.” That gave her a $2.80 tip. (Even though you probably knew that, I’m doing all the computations for you because this is a blog about tipping and many, many people in the world are mathematically-challenged.) The tip she would have gotten from a person who pulls out their phone and uses the calculator would have been $1.38. So my tip was about 30%.

Here’s the deal with me. Being that I have worked in the service industry for a while, I tend to tip a person based on the quality of the service I receive, not the price of the service. Leah always makes sure my coffee is fresh and hasn’t been sitting on the warmer for 3 hours. She refills my cup at just the right time. She remembers that I like the half and half creamers, not that foofy flavored crap. She makes sure I don’t get mushrooms on my Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich, or guacamole on my Quesidilla, and she bring us extra napkins, because, well, we’re slobs.

In other words, she takes good care of me, and, her care of me is not based on the fact that I ordered the $6.00 meal tonight so my service will be so-so but when I order a $10.00 meal I’m treated like a Goddess.

So, that brings us to tipping your local carriage driver. My job, such as it is, involves me driving customers around town in a horse-drawn vehicle. Most of the time I sell the ride. I get paid a commission on the ride. So my base pay fluctuates dependant on how many ride I sell. Sell no ride, make no money.

Not really...

Now, as previously stated, my job, the thing I am hired to do, is to drive the customer around in the carriage. What happens during the ride is up to the customer. Do you want a romantic ride? I can shut up. I have blankets on my carriage, so you can keep warm. I have my iPod hooked up to speakers, so I can play romantic music for you.

Tasty,yes, but a good tip? No.

In the winter I keep a foot warmer ready, just for you, dear customer, so your feet stay toasty warm for the 30-45 minutes you go round the town with me. And I have pretty flowers, and red Christmas light aglow on my carriage, so you look like Royalty while we gad about town. Except for the blankets, everything else is at my expense. I bought the speakers, foot warmers, charcoal for the food warmers, lights, flowers, batteries to run the lights, speakers and charge the iPod (I keep a 12-volt lawnmower battery under my seat. I can charge my iPod and my Phone while I roll around town. I charged Ro’s phone for her one time at Christmas. Yes, I am a techno-Geek.) And I cannot forget the Inverter I bought to run the lights. I cannot forget it because I have bought 4 of them now because I’m such an idiot I keep frying them out. Grrrrrrrrrrr! I also can give you 4 different historic tours; depending on which one you want. And, unlike some of the drivers, I have actually researched my information (and can site my source, so it’s all authentic, not stuff I make up on the spot.

You're getting warmer.

(Note: The following is a Private Rant which will probably make no sense what so ever to most of you straights: Ottinger Hall is NOT A FIRE STATION! It was a built as a Social Hall. Isn’t the name hint enough? And if you still don’t believe me get off your fat a** and read the freakin historic marker! Like I did. Jeeze, crack a book once in a while, why don’t cha?)

Okay, every body has the blankets. I’m the only one with all the rest of that stuff. So if that’s the kind of stuff you’re looking for, ask for me, Carlos. (Plug, plug, shameless plug)

So, you could tip me the RoT 15%. That means on the $40.00 ride you tip me $6.00, and if all I did for you was $6.00 worth of service, then yes, I deserve that.

But, did you ask for a historic tour? Did I answer all of your questions without a grunt and a shrug? Did I stop at the perfect spot for you to take a picture, sing happy birthday or propose to the woman you want to (currently) spend the rest of your life with? Did you enjoy the ride? Or was it just eh? If you, as Ro likes to tell people, just loved your driver (and oh God, please not literally) the tip them like you did.

In other words, did I refill your coffee at just the right time?

Yeah, Okay, I'd take THAT.

And I am leaving those folks who don’t tip at all to *B*, because I know he’s just foaming at the mouth to discuss them.

Note to bridegrooms: Just because it’s your wedding day is no excuse not to carry any cash, and I’m sure the Doorman, Valet and Bellhop would all agree. Get a clue.
Now, just so you don’t think that I sympathize with all waitresses because I have been one (just recently, as a matter of fact, but it didn’t take this time.) We have been known to complain about and or ban one from waiting on us due to poor service. There was a little Troll of a girl at Dees who got into a shouting match with her sister in front of our table one night, and we complained.

I am the Mother of a 14-year old girl. I can see that shit at home all I want, for free.

She is banned from the Carriage Driver’s table for life, kind of like Pete Rose. Too bad for her too, because we tip quite well. And if you get involved in one of the Poker games some of the drivers have been know to have in the corner booth you might walk away with a nice chunk of change.

So what are your thoughts on tipping? Do we need a primer? A Tipping Manifesto, so to speak? Drop me a line and we can discuss.


Natalie said...

ROFL! Thank you for pointing out that Ottinger Hall is not a fire station - that one bugs me! Seriously, if you want to tell people about the tours, make sure you know the correct information first!

Anonymous said...

I always tip well, because I very much appreciate people doing things for me that I cannot or will not do for myself (like make breakfast).

Anonymous said...

So we're taking a carriage ride/tour on Sunday,our total for 2 was $234 and change there is both the tour guide and carriage driver to tip,plus we are stopping at 5 dif restaurants which will need 5 different tips. So normally we tip 20% of check any where we go but I feel like $46 for each plus tips in restaurants is a bit excessive? At the end of the night Wed end up paying over $100 in tips for a $234 ride. I'm not sure what to do? Any suggestions

Lisa Deon said...

Wow... While I wrap my head around a $234 carriage tour I'll be happy to give some advise for tipping from my perspective as a driver:

First off, this is a suggestion: if your driver and guide are the pits, tip accordingly. If they make your ride the experience of your lifetime (as in "I'm so blown away by the memories we've made today I'll judge every special thing I ever do again in my life by this one" kind of way, not a "And we started to 'Ooh and Ahh' then the carriage caught on fire and we plunged off a cliff" kind of way ) then feel free to open your wallet and shower the folks who made your ride so fantastic.

Like the waitress and chef at Bennihana, I would expect the driver and guide to split/share their tips. As such I would tip them collectively 20-25% of the bill. So say $50-$55 for them to split. That's a decent tip for a couple of hours(although you don't say how long the ride is but if you're going to five different restaurants I assume it's either a tour of the fast food franchises in the area, an all day tasting crawl, or you both have tapeworms)

Also unknown to me: are the driver/tour guide also the owner/operator? If yes then they will retain much of the $234 for themselves. So tip them but I'd go with 10% since they get to keep the whole vig anyway. If, like many of the operations that hire drivers (like the outfit I worked for), they get a commission, then your tip is not just to show your pleasure at good service but an integral part of their wages. On a $234 ride I would have made $68. And that's not bad, if I was driving you on a 3 hour ride ($68 plus a 15% tip ($35) = $103 } $34.00 per hour but I also did the tour concurrent with the driving.

As far as the restaurants go, all I can say is how on earth are you going to eat at five restaurants in what I assume is the same day? Are you insane? Or is this actually a cross country in a stagecoach trek you're going on? Now if this is like a winery tour, then tip 10%... it's not like your bartender is bringing you a seven course meal.

I hope this helped you decide how much cash to tote along with you on your tour. I've been paid a $50 tip on a $40 ride and a $3 tip on a $100 ride, so it's really a crap shoot. Just don't give them candy. Or a gift basket. Or the flu.

Anonymous said...

It's a 3 hour vino and bottles tour in st Augustine. It will just be wine and small bites at the restaurants. The company hires out the carriage so different companies for the tour guide and driver. I appreciate all your info,and have a better understanding of what I should tip now,thank you

Anonymous said...

Vino and vittles sry

Anonymous said...

Ok. So my wedding day is two weeks away. We are leaving the church in a carriage and the photographer follows on a bike and orchestrates all of the photo op stops. The 1 hr ride is $300. I normally tip in excess of 20% at restaurants, but this would just seem crazy to me. Would $25 suffice in this situation do you think? For an hour on top of his wages? Thank you so much for (hopefully seeing this) and replying.