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


分类: 时文



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?'











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。




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。



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