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## 小费“身价”值多少？

(2008-11-15 11:30:29)

### 杂谈

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?'

“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。

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