Monday, March 14, 2011

Hey Big Spender

About twice a month I take my youngest two children out to lunch. I like to take them to different places, not so much for the variety in food, but because they tend to behave better in unfamiliar surroundings. In a new place, we can spend a lot more time enjoying the company of each other, and a lot less time being on opposing sides in deciding how much salt is an inappropriate amount to pour on the table.

The downside of being in an unfamiliar restaurant, however, is not knowing the rules. I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan, but I have no idea if I'm supposed to tip the butcher.

A normal restaurant waiter, a cab driver, the hotel doorman who hails you a cab - those are easy. I know I'm supposed to tip them, and my only flaw there is a tendency to tip extravagantly because I don't trust my math skills and don't want to insult someone by under tipping. Many a time my husband has pulled me aside to peel bills from my hand before I offered them up. "How much are you tipping? You don't tip that much for _______________."

(As an aside, my husband is a precision tipper. A waitress receives exactly twenty percent of the tab, excluding tax, down to the penny. No rounding, unless she perhaps did a stellar job.)

Outside the normal folks, I get confused. Am I supposed to tip the barista? Which one - the one who made my coffee, or the one who gave it to me? In the absence of a joint tip jar, I have no idea what to do. Furniture delivery people - yes? Only if they set it up? Or everyone?

And the most confusing of all: partial service restaurants. If I'm carrying my own food to the table I picked out myself....

Today we dined in a pizzeria. A place your order at the counter and take a number pizzeria. The order taker handed me my check, and there was room to write in a tip. While I was pondering this, she said, "Have a seat and I'll call your number when your pizza is ready."

I decided not to tip.

This was a mistake.

One rule I need to implement immediately: if my children are involved, I need to practice damage control tipping. My son spilled gobs of cheese on the floor. Two pizza slices landed face down under the table. Marinara sauce dotted every surface within three feet of us. And despite this being our first time in this pizzeria, there was a tussle about the salt and pepper shakers that MzMannerz spectacularly lost.

Generally, my children are fairly well behaved in restaurants and don't make too many messes. The last time they made a significant mess... was in another partial service restaurant that I'd decided not to offer a tip in. You would think I would have recalled that experience before I signed my check today.

Having no cash and lacking a way to ask the establishment to run another check that I could tip on because my children are pizza destruction forces, I instead dropped to my knees with flimsy paper napkins and attempted to remove as much of the mess as possible (and, really, I would have done this in any restaurant where the mess they made was of an unusual scope). I thoroughly cleaned the table. And I requested a to go box and hustled my children out of there.

I plan to return once they've grown a little and are perhaps unrecognizable. And that time... I'll tip.

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