Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Redistribute the wealth: Eat out in NYC!

It's frustrating to me, the “tip” situation. It's bad enough shopping in the U.S., with advertised prices jumping 5-8% at the register thanks to sales tax. And it’s bad enough eating outside of New York, adding in taxes and then another 15% for tip. (Why does everything have to be a damn accounting exercise?) But in the city you had better allocate 20% for the tip… at least that’s what I thought.

Last night I was generously offerred dinner with Mrlittlepant's office-folk at a middlebrow steakhouse. His company was even more generous towards the restaurant staff: they tipped $400. I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. Dinner for 12 came to $1,100, which is already la-la-land considering the food. But seriously, an over 35% tip? The service wasn’t even good, whatever that’s supposed to mean. People just came around and put down (rather ugly) plates, usually involving arms in my face, shoulders, or back. There were some free drinks involved, though there couldn’t have been that many considering the bill. (Again, all this ridiculous accounting. Waiter, bring me a green visor pronto!)

In trying to explain tip amounts in New York, people claim that most New Yorkers have been waiters at some point. I have no idea if this is true; I was a waiter once, but somehow I didn’t get the big tip bug. I waited tables as a teenager at a country club in Georgia, and that doesn't seem to have much to do with grown-up waiters making thousands in a night at New York restaurants.

I have an alternate explanation for big city tip inflation: business meals. It’s awfully easy to be generous with the working class when it’s not your money. I guess you get to feel like you’re sticking it to the man a little bit, teaming up with the cool characters serving you drinks. Meanwhile, the whole wait staff is cutting-up in the kitchen, making fun of your pompous attitude. Sounds like fun!

I’m asking all of you big spenders of other people’s money to cut it out. You’re driving up the cost of food, drinks, and (most obscenely) tips. You’ve pretty much priced me out of the market. We hardly eat out, Mrlittlepants and I. We can’t afford it. The waiter from last night probably can. Why did I bother with college, anyway?

Message to corporate wannabe marxists: put away your platinum cards, for the love of God!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Rager

Mrlittlepants and I are getting ready for our party, one we hope Marissa Cooper would call a “rager.” We’re serving sangria that’s been mellowing in the fridge since yesterday, and tequila based drinks, and everything else really. M.J. videos are playing in the makeout room… if the party has a theme, it’s potpourri. We’re setting out these cute little tags advertising our web site, Daydrinking, that we hope people will take home and rediscover tomorrow. We haven’t told many people about the site yet so this is pretty exciting, sort of a coming out party for our baby.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

STILL paying $50 a month for your mobile phone?

Everything is going as I have foreseen.

After a week of unexplained bureaucratic delays, I’m all set up with t-mobile pre-pay. Sweet! As ghetto as it sounds, this is the bomb. Once your regular t-mobile contract expires, you can convert it to a pre-pay/pay-as-you-go/to-go/whatever-they-call-it-this-week account. That’s a pretty good deal, since you would normally have to pay for a SIM card even if you already have an unlocked GSM phone.

The rate per minute depends on how many you buy at a time, the best value being 1000 minutes (anytime, of course) for $100. Oops, forgot about tax. $108. That’s right, it’s exactly the sales tax. No more of that $40 contract somehow costing you $50 a month. I feel better already!

This has got to be a more sane way to pay for service. You don’t have to worry about the time of the day, week, or month that it is, or whether or not you’re even going to use your phone very much a particular month. No strings!

Of course, if you talk on your phone very much the savings evaporate pretty quickly. But who’s talking anymore? Blackberries have invaded, for the rest of us, New Yorkers have finally discovered text messaging. How many months can I go with my one thousand minutes? I’ll let you know…

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Beer Aid

Continuing my alcoholic theme… you must be crazy if you buy beer in Manhattan anywhere besides Rite Aid. They always have some kind of special going on. Mrlittlepants and I are now on our third case of budweizers, 18 bottles for $11! The weird part is that it’s bottles for the same price as cans. Rite Aid, you’ve earned my unending loyalty. Food Emporium, you’re now almost completely useless. Of course, if you’re too good to drink the same branded beer they might be chugging in the midwest (for example), there’s not much I can do for you.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Where to get wine

If you like drinking wine regularly (or a little too regularly), Warehouse Wines & Spirits has the best prices in the city, and possibly the whole eastern seaboard. (It’s not France, but it’s as close you’re going to get.) They excel in other areas as well: being complete jerks. Mrlittlepants and I do our best to laugh it off, but the truth is that both of us hate to walk in the store. The salesmen inside are pushy, large, old white men (you know the type) and they always try to upsell. — Customer: Is this a dry wine? — You don’t want that one. Try this one. — Is it dry? — It’s a better quality wine. — Uhh… thanks. They may not know anything about wine, but they’re pros at engaging customers who don’t want to be bothered and directing them towards the more expensive wines, eager to condescend if you don’t follow their recommendations. Our advice: wear headphones and ignore them completely. Eventually they will walk away, befuddled. You may think you’re home free once you’ve got a bottle in hand, but don't underestimate the rudeness potential of the crazed check-out staff. At this point you should remove your headphones, do as you’re told, and scowl at them so you don’t feel like a complete flunkey. It will be over soon, then you can go home and pop out that cork. (Or better yet, unscrew that top!)

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Metro North does hiking

Scouring the metro north map for an upstate stop that might have cheap and convenient car rentals, I decided to figure out what the Appalachian Trail stop is all about. It’s not a town near the trail as I first supposed; it's actually a stop just for hikers. Leland and I took the train up on the Sunday before July 4th and had a nice 12 mile hike to Nuclear Lake (weird name!) and back. Taking the train to a trail is sweet. All you need to do is get to Grand Central with a book to read during the almost 2 hour trip and you can have a day on the A.T. To avoid missing the stop, you have to barge into the conductor’s party shack at the very back of the train (even if the back window is duct-taped, as ours was, and the conductor is a real jerk.) My next thought is to use this for a one way backpacking trip that ends at a different train stop. It’s like taking SNCF into the Pyrenees, except it’s actually a train and not a bus. Fun!