Our weekends, laced with fun and a sort of festive fervor, would invariably end up our dining out in a restaurant near the beach. My wife, an incorrigible, high-strung stingy soul who cherishes unfastening her vanity bag come what may, would lavishly litter handsome bucks to waiters as tips. Never mind, she would be taking a cuppa in a food-joint [the cost which will come around Rs. 30 only] but my philanthropist better-half would toss away Rs. 15 as tips.
While I’m not against tipping waiters, cab drivers, delivery persons and domestic helps, I don’t like giving them extra large bucks as tips. ‘You may throw litters and litters of rice into a river, but do so after measuring their quantum,’ is a Tamil proverb being meticulously followed by me all through my life, and of course, at times, to the chagrin of my wife. So, I always content giving tips to the hotel servants or others 10% of the food-bill and this is normally standard.
However, this is not agreeable to my Stingy-Half [SH] at home that would glower at me and breathes fire when I try browbeating her at the time of giving sumptuous tips. Added to our Monday Blues, there arise pitched battles between me and her over the quantum of giving tips. ‘Damn it,’ she would snarl at me at such times. ‘I can’t be as mean as you are. I have my own dignity to keep always. Further I tip for emotional reasons too. For, when I give fat tips to the waiters or others and see them smile, I feel better about me. Tipping is an act of gratitude, dear. You should show it wherever you can.’
‘On that score,’ I would snap at her, red-faced, ‘you can’t be like the King Sibi, you know. When the waiters do an extra job [i.e., if he brings everything quickly, is friendly, not annoying] you may tip him 10 to 15% of the food-bill. Anything more than that is a colossal waste of your hard-earned money or an act of snobbery.
Tips were once given out of sympathy … a voluntary charitable act. But now that the society having re-oriented its outlook toward a sort of snobbery, tips giving becomes an act showing one’s status or the strength of one’s pelf. You feel infra dig if you don’t give tips. Further, tips giving were once optional but are now considered by establishments and diners as almost obligatory. It becomes compulsory too when some, goon-waiters demand out rightly a big cut in your food-bill. They demand tips as if it is their fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution.
I had met a host of self-styled ‘Good Samaritans’ at hotels and saw them tipping heavily to the servants. But what disgusted me at the time was not their out of box tipping, but their waxing eloquent like Mark Antony about their so called noble act. Their didactic on giving tips would always go like this: ‘One of the marks of the civilized society is the politeness and appreciation strangers show to each other in public situations. Tipping is a form of social appreciation and politeness.’
‘Go on Mark Anotonys… go on,’ I would moan rather mawkishly.
I don’t fidget giving tips to some one as a token of gratitude for a job well done. That waiter hurrying back and forth between the kitchen door and your table and attending your needs with a smile needs to be appreciated monetarily. Again, that depends on your being prudent and sensible and not on your hefty wallet. I never pay a single penny to those waiters who are rude and brusque though they always call me names.
There came another weekend and we found ourselves sitting in our usual restaurant with the same lanky waiter attending to our table. We didn’t dine out this time; we had our coffee. The bill was around Rs.50 inclusive of vat or rat. When the waiter brought the bill keeping it inside a small rectangular bill-folder, I became wise; passed on the bill to my wife along with my wallet. After settling the bill, she left a ten rupee note on the folder as tips. We then sauntered toward the exit and reached the parking lot.
‘Madam’, I heard the waiter calling my wife. He came running over to her. Handing her the ten rupee note that was given to him as tips, he said nonchalantly: ‘Ma’am, please have your money back. This is in appreciation of your patronage … a discount for your frequenting our hotel.’ He disappeared as fast as he had come.
While my wife stood speechless watching his retreating figure, I burst into laughter. ‘Three cheers to your ‘Quantum Theory’. It pays you discount,’ I said and laughed heartily until we reached home.