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小费“身价”值多少?

(2008-11-15 11:30:29)
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杂谈

分类: 时文

小费“身价”值多少?

 

Why do we give a $2 tip to the waitress in the coffee shop who brings us eggs and refills our coffee cup four times, and a $20 tip to the waiter who pops open a $100 bottle of wine?

Questions like that one poured in from readers in response to a column I wrote a couple of weeks ago on restaurant tips.

Many wanted to know if you calculate the tip on the pretax or the post-tax bill. Well, etiquette books say the pretax one. But the reality is most people use the full bill. That means if you calculate it only on the pretax amount, the server simply may view it as a smaller tip than you intended.

The tougher question is why seemingly easy tasks get higher tips than harder ones. Why should that server get a big tip for opening a pricey bottle of wine, something that takes just a minute or two?

Once again, custom dictates that we tip as a percentage of the bill. That automatically makes it a far more lucrative system for servers who work in upscale restaurants. Servers at coffee shops and diners -- mainly women -- work very hard for relatively little money. You can argue there's a lot more skill involved in being a server in a fancy restaurant than at a coffee shop; the waiter may know quite a bit about wine to serve up that $100 bottle. But it still seems a bit out of whack.

A few customers recognize this. One reader wrote me that he and three other neighborhood businessmen go out to breakfast every Saturday. The tab is always between $20 and $30, and they generally leave $10. That's a tip of between 33% and 50%, pretty much off the scales. But looked at another way, $10 to provide great service for four guys doesn't seem so extravagant.

'What do we get in return?,' wrote the reader. 'Our table is all set when we arrive at exactly 7 a.m., including the right coffee and tea cups. My V8 juice stands proudly on the table with ice in it (to keep it cold, in case we are a bit late), etc.

'She knows everything about us -- including whom we'll be voting for in November -- and we know whom she'll be voting for. ... She is a 35-year-old wonderful individual, who shows a deep interest in making her customers happy.'

Who can argue that these four businessmen are overpaying? But if we take a step back, I think there's a broader social question involved here on why we tip and why we tip some people better than other people.

How come we don't tip the guy at the supermarket cash register? Why don't we tip a flight attendant?

Orn Bodvarsson, an economics professor at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota who has researched tipping, says tipping encourages special service. Thus, employers like retailers and airlines that want uniform service often ban or discourage tipping. 'If people are handing out better tips, it encourages some people to get better service than others,' he says.

OK, I can understand that. So why don't we tip doctors, since medicine is an area in which specialized service can make a huge difference? One reason, says Dr. Bodvarsson, is that 'you don't know how well the medical doctor has performed the service until later.'

Then there are jobs where tipping has only taken hold in recent years. Take people working at a takeout counter. Tipping used to be rare. Now the tip jar is pretty standard, though many customers ignore it.

Dr. Bodvarsson theorizes it's because wages in many of these jobs haven't kept up with inflation. In essence, the employer, rather than raising salaries, is allowing customers to pay compensation directly to workers.

Be that as it may, many people are still confused about how much -- and whom -- to tip. Even the experts aren't always consistent. Michael Lynn, a professor at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, says he doesn't normally tip counterpeople. But if a bakery worker performs a special service, such as replacing a lightweight eclair with one that's stuffed with more cream, then he tips.

'I've demanded a little extra service,' Dr. Lynn says. 'So am I paying them for that service, or am I paying them not to think badly of me because I've requested so much extra work?'

对于咖啡店里为我们送上鸡蛋、四次续满咖啡杯的女服务员,我们会给2美元的小费。可是,打开价值100美元红酒的服务生却会拿到20美元的大钞。为什么?

几周前我曾写过一篇餐馆小费专栏的文章,读者们也不断提出这样的问题。

很多人想知道,我到底是以税前消费额还是税后来作为计算消费的基础。是这样的,礼仪书上说应该以税前金额为基准。但是,现实生活中大部分人按帐单全额计算。也就是说,如果你仅按税前金额计算,服务人员就会觉得他得到的小费比你本意要给的少一些。

另一个更难回答的问题是为什么貌似相对容易的工作得到的小费会更高。那个服务生不过是开启了一瓶价格不菲的红酒,这种差事一般也就是一两分钟的事情,他为什么就该拿到更多的小费?

惯例再一次告诉我们,小费多少是根据帐单金额计算出来的。这自然会让在一家高档餐厅工作的服务生获得数目更可观的小费。咖啡店或其他小餐馆的服务生--女性居多--工作虽十分努力,但只能拿到相对较少的酬劳。有人或许会说,与咖啡店相比,在高档餐厅工作的服务生需要更多的技能;为顾客打开那瓶价值100美元的红酒的服务生可能会对红酒有不少的了解。但是,这种小费体系似乎仍然不太合理。

一些消费者已经意识到这一点了。一位读者在给我的信中写道,他和另外三位社区里的生意人每个周六一起共进早餐。每次的帐单都在20美元至30美元,他们一般都会留10美元作为小费。这样算,小费的比例为33%-50%,比一般水平高出了不少。但换个角度想想,10美元让四位男士享受到优良的服务,听起来就没那么奢侈了。

这位读者写道,我们得到的回报是什么呢?当我们早上7点准时到达时,餐桌已经准备就绪,谁要咖啡谁要茶肯定不会弄错。我的V8果汁骄傲地立在桌上,里面还放了冰块(万一我们迟到一点,果汁依然清凉爽口)。

“她了解我们的一切--包括我们大选的时候会把票投给谁--我们也知道她支持谁……这位35岁的服务生是个个性很棒的人,为使自己的顾客开心花了很多心思。

谁会说这四位商务人士给的小费过多呢?但如果退一步看,我认为这反映了一个更广泛的社会问题:我们为什么付小费?为什么给一些人的小费金额比给其他人的要高?

我们为什么不给超市收银员小费?为什么不给飞机乘务员小费?

明尼苏达州圣克劳德州立大学(St. Cloud State University in Minnesota)经济学教授博德瓦森(Orn Bodvarsson)对小费问题进行了研究,他说,小费会鼓励特殊服务。因此,零售商和航空公司等提供统一服务的企业往往禁止或不鼓励收取小费的行为。他说,如果人们给更高的小费,它会使一些人比其他人享受到更好的服务。

好,我理解这一点。那么,我们为什么不给医生小费呢?要知道在医药这个领域,特殊服务会产生很大的不同。博德瓦森博士说,原因之一是因为人们只有在接受治疗一段时间后才知道医生当时的表现如何。

还有一些职业在最近几年才开始有小费,比如在外卖柜台工作的员工。以往,他们很少收到小费。但现在,柜台上摆放小费罐已相当常见了,不过很多顾客对此都视而不见。

博德瓦森博士认为,这主要是因为很多此类职业的薪酬上涨幅度不及物价涨幅。本质上,顾主允许客户直接向员工支付小费,而不给员工加薪。

尽管这些理论听上去有些道理,但是很多人仍然对小费的金额和对象感到迷惑不解。就连一些专业人士也不是总能作出明确的判断。康乃尔大学酒店管理学院(Cornell University School of Hotel Administration)教授迈克尔•林(Michael Lynn)说,他一般不会给柜台员工小费。但是,如果面包店的店员提供了特殊服务,如用奶油夹心更足的法式夹心小蛋糕换掉那些份量不足的,他就会给他们小费。

林博士说,因为我要求得到一点点额外的服务。不过,我到底是为那些服务付小费呢?还是为了让他们不要因为我的额外要求说我坏话而付小费呢?    

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