Tip, from Alan Millhone

November 24, 2009 |

At our local Bob Evan's Restaurant I note on occasion a waiter dressed in all black with a high button collar — resembling the workers of old in the dining car on a train, who wore all white and were usually people of color.

At our Bob Evan's table-servers make a flat $2.13 per hour and have to hustle to make the rest on tips. What does tip mean? "To Insure Promptness"? It could come from old English "Tip of the hat". Jimmy Hatlo used that phrase in his comic strips some years ago.

In hard times people eat out less, which means less tipping. The table-servers thus suffer economically. I have one favorite waitress at Bob's. She knows what I drink when I sit down and knows I like real butter with my rolls. She is pleasant and takes very good care of me. I always leave her a nice tip. Many will say that Bob's and others should pay more so patrons will not have to tip.

Gregory Rehmke writes:

Tipping varies by country and culture. I was surprised when spending some weeks in Buenos Aires and regularly taking taxis, that tips were neither expected nor welcome. My only explanation was that taxi service was highly elastic, so if tips came to be expected that would push down quantity demanded enough to hurt the industry. It makes sense. If you are expected to tip, that figures into your decision to take a taxi. Plus tips don’t make for better taxi rides as they can with restaurant service.

I would have liked, however, to have been able to pay a “headlight fee” so taxi drivers would use their headlights at night. It seemed a strange custom to drive at night with headlights off, only flashing them at approaching cars. But maybe in an earlier time headlight lamps were expensive or alternators faulty. On a long nighttime drive through the countryside, in a small rental car, a bank of bright lights suddenly flashed on behind us. A large truck driving without headlights had caught up with us on a two-lane highway. Scary.

Dr. Rehmke is the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Global Economics, Alpha, 2008


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