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!