Tuesday, May 19, 2015

When in Rome, Tip 10%

Okay, I know we're not in Rome. But the saying doesn't sound as good with "when in Krakow." We are finishing up our time here in Poland. As expected, we love everything and now we want to live here, along every other place we've visited. Our list of places to live is going to exceed our years left to live pretty soon. Traveling reveals a lot. But when it comes to Mrs. Done by Forty and me, it mostly reveals that we want to live in all the places, and do all the things...and eat all the things.

(Oh, and before I forget, this week I was lucky enough to be on the Stacking Benjamins podcast, talking about our worst investing mistakes and more. Please click and listen to me blather. Now, back to the post.)


Besides expanding our waistlines and destroying the progress we've made on Tim Ferris' 4 Hour Body diet, all this eating out has involved a lot of chances to tip. Or not to tip that much, as various guides make recommendations to only tip when you get exemplary service, or to round up to the nearest round dollar amount, or maybe up to 10%.

Tipping's a tricky subject. On par with religion and politics, suggesting the proper way to tip is a short walk to a heated debate. You'll get the folks who proudly claim they never tip less than 20%, even for bad service. You'll get the former restaurant employee explaining the long term benefits of tipping even higher amounts. And there's the popular approach of varying the tip based on the level of service received.

But my favorite tipping strategy is from 3rd Rock from the Sun (starting at the 2:00 mark):


The best part of the scene is that it illustrates that tipping is just another arbitrary man-made convention. Sure, there are rules. But they're made up by schmucks like you and me. There's no "right" amount to tip: there is only what's popularly accepted. Tipping 10% is great in Budapest or Krakow, but it's insulting in New York or Phoenix. Tipping a hotel employee might be expected in the U.S., but I got a surprised look when we tipped the woman who brought up a snack to our hotel room.

Picking which social conventions we have to adhere to, and which can be bent or broken, is delicate work. It might be perfectly acceptable to jaywalk even though it's technically against the law. But it's almost never a good idea to french kiss a stranger's dog, even though it's perfectly legal.

Because someone's livelihood depends on certain assumptions about tipping, Mrs. Done by Forty and I comply with the generally accepted 15-20% range (the past two weeks notwithstanding).

But we've tried going against the stream with some other conventions, with bad results. One year we told all our relatives we were going to give to charity in their names instead of exchanging gifts. We gave months of notice, and we confirmed several times with everyone. But when all they got from us was a postcard of some poor African family who'd be enjoying chickens or ducks that Christmas, I could tell from their faces that they were disappointed.

It's not really their fault, either: Mrs. Done by Forty and I were messing with a sacred cow. Christmas is the closest thing we have to a shared tradition. And breaking years of tradition is neither easy or recommended.

As with tipping, and most of our other popular social conventions, it's better to play along and get along.

Alright, enough of that. Time to wrap it up and get back to vacation. More photos to come, but here are a few from the past week or so.
Old Town Bratislava

Buda...
and Pest.


Parliament

Belgian Beer Festival in Budapest

Wawel Cathedral in Krakow



 


21 comments:

  1. That's was a funny video. I only saw a few episodes of 3rd Rock, but it seems very funny. Thanks for the update on how to tip in Budapest and Rome, I guess it depends on how the big tipping is in specific cultures. ITs safe to stay within 10-15% in most areas.

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    1. I loved 3rd Rock. A great look at weird human customs, like tipping.

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  2. Ha ha I really wish I would have watched that show because I love both JGL and John Lithgow! It's true though that sometimes it's best to suck it up and go with the social norm then be perceived as cheap. I still won't tip the cold stone people though, mainly because I don't want them to sing to me.

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    1. Hi, Tonya! I didn't realize the cold stone folks sang for tips. Good to know!

      I am sensitive to social pressures, so probably adhere a bit too much.

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  3. Good reminder to check local trends before traveling. I believe in France it's actually built in, so Americans who tip are considered either strange or a little gullible.

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    1. Good tip. You have to really read some receipts carefully.

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  4. Wow, Bratislava looks beautiful!

    I went to Budapest in '03 and they were doing up the parliament building so it was covered in scaffolding, looks much better now :)

    Glad to see you are seeing a lot of places and having fun. I get the same thing as you whenever I go anywhere, I love it and want to stay longer/live there!

    Tipping is a bit weird. I am sure I have offended many bell boys or hotel staff on our trips to America by not tipping, I just find it really awkward and never know how much to give etc... Always tip at least 10% in the US for restaurants and in the UK any tip depending on service/how much cash we have left on us at the end of the meal :OD

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    1. Tha amount of cash we have really is a factor. Most restaurants don't allow for tips on a card here, even if we can pay with a card.

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  5. I loved 3rd Rock...hilarious! I remember that episode regarding tipping and referenced it when I wrote a post about tipping. Tipping is a tricking subject. My uncle was on a trip to China and was met with poor service at a restaurant...he thinks it's because he wasn't dressed that well so they assumed he didn't have much money. To show the wait staff that he did indeed have money, he gave them a huge tip. Yea, that'll show them!

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    1. I've had moments like that, too. Like I want others to know I have money or something.

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  6. Nice photos! I hope you guys have a great rest of your vacation. I typically tip at least 20%. If it's a situation where I'm getting good service and I will be getting multiple drinks from someone I'll tip a lot. I was at the casino last weekend (personal finance sin) and I tipped the drink girl a decent amount so that she wouldn't take forever to stop by again. They had only one on duty for a ton of guests so it worked out well.

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    1. It does seem like 20% is the new 15%, which is maybe indicative of a trend.

      Over-tipping the cocktail waitress is a veteran tip. True at casinos, strip clubs, really, any place that I'm not supposed to be in.

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  7. Tipping is a challenging topic - but doing it in Europe makes any percent a little more enjoyable. Great blog and I look forward to coming across it more frequently.

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    1. Thanks, Rob! Glad to have a new reader. Nomad your way back here sometime.

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  8. Ok I know I should be commenting about tipping, but PHOTOS!!! You're making me so nostalgic for our trip there. I know I keep saying it, but I'm super jealous! It's just such a marvelous part of the world. I'm so happy to hear that you enjoyed it!!!

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    1. Thanks so much for the kind words, Mrs. Frugalwoods. We have over 1,000 photos from the trip, but I'm always torn on whether we should share them at all. I always feel like the weird old uncle forcing a slideshow on his loved ones...

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  9. I've never heard of anyone trying the Ferris diet. Was it working for you?

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    1. It really is working. We actually lost another couple pounds on the vacation, somehow.

      The diet was recommended to us by another financial blogger, Go Curry Cracker.

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  10. I typically tip about 20%. If the service is HORRIBLE I might tip less, but otherwise I tip 20% or more.

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    1. I hear you: we feel bad undertipping for bad service. It really has to be awful.

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  11. had the same problem in Budapest, I didnt give a tip when I had to, and then when I went to the next country, I gave when I shouldnt have given it! This can be really embarrassing.

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