Cons, Tipping, and You

First of all, hat tip to Filamena Young (@filamena) for bringing this up on twitter today:

Couple of thoughts, if you’re heading off to Gen Con this weekend, WorldCon at the end of the month, or really, any other con ever. (Or if you’re staying in hotels/going to restaurants in general.)

Many workers in the U.S. rely on tips as part of their wages.  I don’t know how much of housekeeping staff’s pay at a hotel is supposed to come from tips, but for sure most servers at restaurants are paid below the current minimum wage because it’s assumed they’ll make it back in tips. You might not agree with the practice of tipping, and yes, tipping is ideally a reward for good service, but I guess if you’re going to take a stand against it and deny someone a couple extra bucks because you’re Fighting the System, we probably shouldn’t have dinner together anyway.

That said, some handy dandy tips on, uh, tipping:

For housekeeping staff at your hotel:

  • Break your $20s now. If you haven’t gotten on the plane yet and can swing into a bank for some ones, do it. That way when you’re trying to find-your-pants-brush-your-teeth-shut-off-the-goddamned-alarm tomorrow morning, you don’t pause and think Oh fuck, all I have is a Jackson. (Do people even say that anymore? I dunno.)
  • If you can’t break ’em now, hoard your singles when you get change. Airport coffee? Put the fives and tens in one part of your wallet, the ones in another. Bought a water for the flight? Same. Snagged fast food dinner after check-in? Do it then (or, ask the concierge for change for that $20 when you check in). Gave someone in the dealer room $25 and got three ones back? Put them aside.
  • If it’s going to be tempting to spend those dollars, put them somewhere in your room. The safe, the pocket of your suitcase, inside that Gideon Bible in the drawer.
  • $2 per person per day. At minimum. So if you’re staying for five days, that’s $10 to put aside right the hell now if you can. If you have four people in your room, that’s $40 all told.
  • No, seriously, per day. The same person might not be making your bed on Friday as makes it on Saturday. Don’t assume you can leave the money at the start or end of your stay.
  • More if you make a mess. Really. The people coming to clean might be someone’s parents, but they’re probably not yours. If they have to do more than make the bed, wipe down the bathroom surfaces, and restock those fancy little shampoo bottles because you partied the fuck down in this room the night before, leave them some extra scratch, okay?
  • Set a reminder as part of your alarm. The kids these days tend to have fancy smartphones that lets you customize the alerts. Add some form of “Tip the housekeepers!” to yours so you remember to do it. If you’re more low-tech, put a note somewhere you’ll see it first thing in the morning.

For restaurants:

  • Keep a running tally of what you’ve ordered. Figure the tip in as you’re looking over the menu. If you’ve got a set amount budgeted for each meal, remember the tip is part of that.
  • If it cuts into the tip, don’t order it. Does having a third beer mean your waiter gets no tip from you? Either you’re going to have to ask your friends to cover you, or you nurse beer #2. (The answer here is not “Screw that waiter guy, I’m having another beer.”)
  • Get a tip calculator. Back in my bookstore days, we always had a little tray of credit card-sized tip tables at the register for $0.99. I looked up our sales on them one day, and they were in the thousands. People bought them all the time, stuck ’em right in their wallets. You just figured whether you were tipping 15% or 20%, flipped to that side, and ran your finger down the column until you found your bill amount. Boom. Tip calculated. These days, I’m sure there are like a hojillion smartphone apps that do the same. If you can’t find one, even my crappy late-90s flip phone had a calculator function. Or, if you don’t have that…
  • Easy tip math, with your brainz. One of my Stupid Human Tricks is the ability to accurately figure out a tip no matter my state of inebriation. It’s not because I’m a drunken math genius (though I do like math, so there), but because I have a sneaky-ass shortcut. Ready? Here it is. Look at the total for the bill. (Some people do this before tax, I tend to do it after, but whatever.) See that decimal point? Move it one spot over to the left. That’s 10%. Double that figure. That’s 20%. 15% is smack in the middle, if you’re not quite keen about giving 20%.

For both:

  • Work tipping into your trip budget going forward. You probably know how much you have to spend on food during your trip, have set aside the amount for the hotel (or come to grips with putting it on a credit card), shopped around for the best airfare you can get (or decided to drive and are splitting gas costs with your copilots) and have an upper limit on how much you’ll let yourself spend in the dealers’ room. Why not make sure you have tips set aside, too?
  • If you haven’t done it this year and money’s tight, can you shuffle any funds around? Could you order that tee shirt from the dealer when you get home and get your next paycheck? Go in on a 24-pack of water with your roommates rather than fork over $3+/bottle for sodas in the convention center? Have poptarts or cereal in your room for breakfast?

I know that a lot of con-goers are living paycheck to paycheck themselves. I know that there are plenty of attendees already shaving their budgets as close as they can. Sometimes that’ll mean skipping meals, or eating as cheaply as possible. I don’t want to be insensitive to people in those situations here — there’s plenty to be said about the need to get out and have fun and see your friends even when money’s tight, which is a right I’d never deny anyone. (Whoooole lot to unpack here, in fact. I’ve reined myself in from going off on a tangent. I’ll save it for another post, mayhaps.)

My point is, if you have the disposable cash, please tip, and tip appropriately. Not only is it just plain nice to do for another human being, it makes your con hotel or even your host city want to see you and your friends again next year.

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