Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tipping the scales

Gratuities. They're popular fodder in a lot of financial blogs, with opinions raining in on all sides with personal takes on the fundamental question -- who gets it, and how much.

Me? With apologies to Malcolm Gladwell (and Mike from Four Pillars who similarly absconded with the pun for his lede) I reached my own particular tipping point this weekend.

After a very nice steak dinner with some friends on Saturday night, I excused myself to use the men's room. Which was where I encountered my own particular tipping-related white whale: the bathroom attendant. After using the urinal, I moseyed over to the sinks, searching for the soap. The smiling elderly gentleman in the corner who was holding it insisted upon squirting it into my hands, before flicking the tap on for me. 30 awkward seconds later, I was looking around for some paper towel, when he sauntered up from the opposite side and threw one over my hands with a smile. Noticing the tip jar, and feeling guilty, I threw in a loonie and excused myself as fast as possible. Where I come from, $1 for holding soap hostage and spouting inane weather-related banter is pretty good non-work if you can get it. But I'm just relieved he wasn't around for the follow-up jiggle.

Having received both notably good and notably bad service in my life for a variety of tasks, I'm generally a pretty decent tipper. Barring some sort of calamity, waitresses, cabbies and barbers can be pretty much assured of a little something extra in the neighbourhood of 10-20%, after taxes, from me, for going above and beyond. But I draw the line at jobs being made up for unnecessary middle men in the service assembly line. Is this really a service somebody needed? Was anyone actually out there thinking "Boy, that was a great meal. The only thing that would have made my evening better was if some old dude was there to blow my hands dry after I peed, because I'm a deeply insecure big shot."

I don't even begrudge him his entrepreneurial spirit, but the restaurant? It seems like an asinine way to run a business. It's particularly mystifying in that there's no way this is a profit centre for the establishment. At best, it costs them nothing as the attendant is paid entirely via gratuities. But I certainly don't see how it's making any money for the restaurant or bar. Couldn't one make the argument that that's money that might have otherwise ended up in the bar's cash register had it not been taken by the bathroom attendant? What other business dreams up ways for its customers to give away money to other people while inside their location?

If the intention was to make patron's start budgeting their bathroom breaks, and deciding to go home early after calculating the ROI to be had from urination, mission accomplished. But in general, I think I'll frequent those Luddite places with do-it-yourself soap dispensers from now on. I love the retro.

Anyway, just had to share. If you liked this post, send me some money. It's rude not to.


Frank said...

I'd have to agree with you on this one...though I'll likely continue to tip people with jobs like that.. I can't seem to escape that sinking feeling I get when I don't!

Andrea said...

Where was this steak place? I'll make sure I avoid it.

Four Pillars said...

Thanks for the link!


guinness416 said...

They catch you at a very vulnerable point that's for sure. Although I do remember, when I was about 17 or 18, a nightclub bathroom attendant at home in Dublin knocking on the stall door & bringing me back to life when I passed out due to too many shots of something or other. And she didn't get a tip! I assume you've seen this oldie but goodie?

Krupo said...

Still waiting to learn where this place was located.

I'll invite you to send your cash somewhere more productive in a moment. :)

It's all about trying to be 'classy' or something. Or patron safety in some cases I guess.

GIV said...

to everyone who cares, it was The Keg in Niagara Falls.

Great view. Just stay out of the bathroom.