GREASING THE SERVICE
CHARLES CHRISTOPHER JENKINS
THE taking of tips,' observed a wag as he scanned it reproduction of Egyptian plaques, is evidently a practice as old as civilization itself.'' `How's that?" his friend asked innocently. "Look at those picturos,' the first speaker indicated. `Notice the mute eloquence in the gestures of the ancient Egyptians? `J'he graceful insinuation of their outstretched hands always sends me scurrying through my pockets to make sure I }iaven't neglected to get some small change. 4ee how the ladies have both palms extended, and in some caSes they're equipped with a few extra pair of hands, ol)ViouSlv to make rapid collections while the tipping was `~KT.~ t~''1
g000. No doubt." he cogitated, "no doubt Egypt is the place where the tipping evil originated and the ancient Gyps were pastmasters of the Gentle Touch." The wag may have had a `true hunch." At any rate, the practice of tipping appears to date back as far as our un derstandable literature. In mediaeval times, gay knights made a charming indoor pastime of tossing their purses to inn-keepers and serving-people. Those deeds of generosity always read very prettily in the story-books, though a mean curiosity keeps one wondering where the knights picked up all the purses of gold they flung around so care lessly.
To-day, common, everyday Man, shorn of his plumed hat, his buff coat, sword, bell-top boots, jingling spurs and lastly—alas—his drinking-mug, never has enough of old-time pep to do anything so spectacular as tossing his purse around.
Instead, on the road he falls into the current habit of delving into the money pocket for small change at every turn where he expects to get the full benefit of the service he has to all intents and purposes already paid in full for. So has the wretched male of the species latterly fallen on prosaic ways.
Just the same, quite a bulging purse could be made up of the tips a traveler is expected to dole out during a trip from Vancouver to Halifax and back. As a matter of fact, seasoned travelers who contemplate a more or less extended journey in Canada include in their estimate of expenditures a round sum to be devoted to “greasing the wheels of service”—in other words, payment of tips to sleeping-car porters, red-cap hand-bag boys, hotel waiters and incidentals.
Incidentals may mean anything from bribing a highway robber -in the guise of a taxi-driver to get you somewhere in a hurry down to rewarding a newsboy for giving you directions in a strange locality.
Most people practise tipping when traveling. Furthermore, most people tip with considerable eclat and in an offhand manner that would lead the unlearned in the ways of this mundane sphere to believe they actually enjoyed the melancholy business of parting with money. The same people will roundly condemn tipping as a cursed nuisance when they are talking to you privately. That happens to be human nature and people do dearly love to have something to kick about, The average man and woman pretend to enjoy paying out tips where tipping is supposed to be proper, or better—fashionable.
Is tipping absolutely necessary in this country? Heads of railways and big hotels throughout the land emphatically reply: “No, it is not. Our help is paid to deliver service; if the traveler or guest insists on supplementing our help’s wages with gifts in the way of tips it is none of our affair.”
I asked a railway executive if the porter in a Pullman sleeper was not entitled to his tip for shining shoes, whisking clothes, carrying out luggage and other attentions he gave to passengers, to which he replied: “Not a bit of it. All those details are duties the porter is expected to perform for the patrons of the road, who in buying their tickets for travel and sleeping accommodation paid in full for the inclusion of the porter’s services. Tipping is an unnecessary expense and a practice wholly established and maintained by the travellers themselves.”
’But,” I challenged this railwayman, “when you are traveling yourself do you practise what you were preaching just now?”
He smiled broadly at that. “No,” he admitted, “I do not. I cheerfully do what the rest of you do; I tip where it is customary to tip.”
So there you are! They all do it. Until tipping becomes unfashionable there’s little else one can do except “do as the Romans do”—that is standardize the tip to an amount within one’s means. Men constantly on the road for business or pleasure learn to do that. The costly little errors which novices fall into are those of tipping too high and tipping where there is no necessity for it, There is nothing
that stamps an individual as new to the traveling game so much as over-tipping. The recipient of an over-tip will thank you profusely and smile pityingly at your back when it is turned. Mentally he has catalogued your status as that of a boob. Sane men of means do not tip lavishly except when inebriated, on their honeymoon or otherwise irresponsible for the time being. It is only the inexperienced who do not standardize their tips.
You Can’t Dodge the Tip
YITHAT then is a standard tip? Railway and hotel * * executives say the tip is unnecessary. Taking their word for it, it should be nil.
Ah, but you say: “The point is that I don’t want to be different from the crowd. Of the two things I’d rather tip than have to complain to the management of poor service. It is obvious that the man who does not tip fails to get the service that is coming to him,” all of which is pretty close to the truth. The answer then is: If you feel you must tip, tip within your means. There’s a tremendous lot of self-satisfaction in the after-feeling that you have not made an ass of yourself just to make a display of pretended wealth.
In some cases the possibilities are that the recipient of your tip is considerably better off financially than you are.
COME sixteen years or more ago a Western representative ^ at Ottawa attempted to put through a hill to prohibit the giving or taking of tips.
After the proposed bill was announced its sponsor received letters from all over the Dominion congratulating him and wishing his bill success. But in the restaurants, hotels, cafes and dining-cars the representative became a marked man. Everywhere he had to wait for service and table help was just as incivil as it dared be to him. Being the father of the bill to abolish tipping he dared not tip himself—at least not when there was anyone about who knew him. The unkindest cut of all was that his brother solons and his friends who had professed to admire his courage actually seemed to take a cruel enjoyment out of his predicament, and he was constantly twitted about it in and out of the House.
Its author breathed a deep sigh of relief when the bill died a natural death.
A Pullman porter on an eastern division of a Canadian road was pointed out to me as a man who owned three houses in Westmount, Montreal. He’s a colored diplomat, and he has a way of making every passenger in his care feel that he, the porter, is the original genie that Aladdin called up with his magic lamp. There are few desires on the part of his charges that this particular porter cannot satisfy. That’s how he earned the money that paid for the three houses.
On the other hand, it is better not to tip at all than to proffer a mean tip. A porter in making change for me on a transcontinental displayed a handful of copper cent pieces. “Do you often get coppers for tips?” I asked. “Oh, yas, sah, yas, sah,” he replied. “Sometime gent’emen don’t have other change. Dat old lady in number ten gave me three coppers this mawnin’.”
A business man who travels across Canada twice and sometimes three times a year told me the money he paid out in tips never averaged less than a dollar a day. Frequently, he said, the amount was higher. “If you’re on the train,” he pointed out, “there’s twenty-five cents a day for your porter and seventy-five cents for the waiters in the dining-car. If you’re stopping at a hotel there’s the same in tips for your meals and the bell-boy or some other incidental is sure to take another quarter or two from you. You can’t get service any more unless you tip; if you don’t believe that try putting up for a couple of days at a big hotel without tipping the help and I’ll guarantee you’ll get something to write about.”
What Happens When You Don’t Tip
AMAN in the writing profession learns best from first-hand experience. I did try it once, and once was enough. I had an excellent chance to put my business friend’s contentions to the test, as on a subsequent journey I was to stop at two first-class hotels for three days each in different cities, both hotels being conducted on the American plan. At the first hotel I placed a quarter of a dollar under my plate after every meal. I received wonderful
attention. The waitress never failed to inquire if such and such a thing were to my taste, and “is there anything else you wish for, sir?” My food was brought to me in a manner that would lead you to believe human hands had not dared to touch the plates that it rested on. No Oriental panjandrum was ever more solicitously cared for. On the third day when I casually remarked that I would not be in my accustomed place on the following morning there came genuine grief into the face of my waitress. She expressed a hope that I would soon return and even went so far as to say that the weather had been beautiful since I had been in town. No wonder; I had been a paying silver mine while I lasted.
But alas for what happened me at the next hotel where it was ordained that the waiters who took care of me should go tipless. I had, however, stopped there before and had found the service fine on the former occasion. And I received satisfactory service this time up till about the third meal when the word seemed to have gone abroad among the waiters that I was in the “cheap-john” class. The second day I was looked after in a lackadaisical fashion, and the third day’s experiences are painful to ponder over. The waitress would half-pass and half-toss my serviette to me instead of delicately placing it in my lap with a Mona Lisa smile thrown in as had my welltipped waitress in the other hotel. Invariably she brought me things I did not order and forgot all about something she deemed I was particular about having. Then she would busy herself elsewhere and pretend she did not hear my complaint till I fairly shouted at her.
She had rather a pretty face, that girl, but the more I studied her the more I was convinced she had the soul of a mule. She stared into space and blinked just like one, and when I addressed her and she pretended not to hear I could imagine she wagged her ears just ever so little.
The last meal I had in that hotel was a nightmare. I had to ask for even a serviette, a knife and a spoon. The waitress let me sigh for dessert while she lavished smiles and attention on a he-vampire who sat opposite me. That mulish girl bumped my chair in some manner or other every time she passed. I had really intended leaving a tip after this last dinner, but she treated me so very badly I almost enjoyed the thought that a cheap kind of hate was consuming her while she outwardly affected such a sombre indifference. All this too simply because I had consistently refused to put the customary tribute under my plate. Of course I could have complained to the management of the hotel, but I was out to prove a thing one way or the other, and having proved it was quite satisfied to let it go at that.
The Kicker Scares Waiters
THERE are, however, some travelers who get thiough with scarcely any tipping. They make it a point to insist on service. On the first sign of inattention or incivility on the part of help, porters, waiters or bell-hops, they complain vigorously to the management and they keep up their kicks till they get action. They soon become known for the manner of men they are and are set down as grouches from one end of the country to the other. But, do they get service? Most of the time they get as good if not better service than the average man who tips. Waiters and the like have a wholesome respect for the chronic kicker.
Then again there are those who tip in a conservative way. For instance, there’s a professional man who also happens to be a member of parliament and travels considerably. He told me once that in ordinary travel he standardizes his tip at a maximum of fifteen cents for waiters, porters and the like and at ten cents for bellhops and messenger-boys. He says this system has always proved quite satisfactory.
The average tip of the seasoned traveling man seems to be about as follows: 15 to 25 cents for sleeping-car porters, 10 to 15 cents for bell-hops and messenger boys and 15 to 25 cents for cafe and diner waiters.
In some establishments the waiters pool their tips, all the silver so taken in being dropped into a common receptacle by the waiters as they pass into the kitchen. It is divided equally among them afterwards.
The Tyranny of Big Names
BUT it isn’t always tips or severity with those catering to your wants that brings the cream of service. A big name has sometimes a tremendous influence with a porter or waiter. As an illustration, the following story Continued on page J>6 is toldjof a sleeping-car porter on a Government transcontinental:
Greasing the Service
Continued from page 24
One night recently when the train was on its way from Ottawa for the Northwest, this particular porter was busy gathering up the shoes of the passengers to give them the conventional “shine.” He picked up a pair of new shoes outside the stateroom door and hurried down to his seat of shining operations near the smoker. When the porter turned one of the shoes over under the light he suddenly straightened with a gasp. Cautiously he looked at the sole of the other shoe. Then with a mumbled exclamation he went to work on those shoes with a vengeance. Never was he known to put so much time and energy into shining a passenger’s shoes.
Next day the porter put in most of his time hanging around the stateroom door to make sure there was no further service he could perform for the passenger, a gruff old fellow who neither tipped him nor
thanked him for his trouble. Finally, the porter became so obsequious that the passenger complained to the conductor that the black man was either crazy or drunk. The conductor went quietly to the porter and asked him why he was wasting his time on the stateroom passenger.
“Good Lawd, Boss,” exclaimed the darkey, “doan’ yo’ know who dat gent’eman is? Why, Boss, he’s da honohable at Ottawa who got charge ob all the railways in the kentry.”
“What—Honorable Dr. Reid, Minister of Railways? Why, George, I’m beginning to think you are crazy. That isn’t Dr. Reid nor anything like him.”
The porter scratched his kinky head. “Den, Boss,” he insisted, “this gent’eman musta done swipe Hon’able Doc. Reid’s shoes, ’cause last night when I was a-shining of them, I see writ on both of dem plain as the nose on ma face, ‘Dr. Reid’s Cushion Soles’.”