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STUMBLING-BLOCK OF THE TIP
THE TIP A MENACE TO TRAVEL
A WORD OF PRAISE FOR THE TIP
TIPPING NOT AN EXACT SCIENCE
POOLING THE TIPS
"TEN PER CENT" PLAN
SUBTLE ENGLISH "THANK YOU"
THE "POURBOIRE" IN THE SMALL FRENCH HOTEL
WHEN THE GERMAN SOUNDS THE GONG
TIPS AT THE AVERAGE TOURIST HOTEL
GOLD-BRAIDED BRIGADE OF THE GRAND HOTEL
TIPPING SYSTEM OF THE PALACE HOTEL
"TEN PER CENT OF THE BILL" DON'T ALWAYS GO THIRTY-THREE AND ONE-THIRD PER CENT OF THE BILL
THE AUTOMOBILE AND ITS SATELLITES
NO SYSTEM INFALLIBLE
A GALLANT AMERICAN MAN
TIPS AND TIPPING
NEXT to the handicap of the language in a foreign country comes the stumbling-block of the tip. These two things take the bloom off the pleasure of travel more than anything else. The TIP (it might as well be put in capitals since it is so important) has pushed itself entirely too far forward in the scheme of European travel; it menaces one from all sides, not so much from its size as from its frequency. It is not that the right-minded traveller seeks to shirk responsibility and thus worries over the thing unduly, but rather it is that one is inflicted with a sort of nervous strain in the effort to do the right thing.
The unknowing are never sure that the tip is not waiting in ambush to spring upon one unawares. To many tired brains surcharged with dates, new impressions and new experiences it comes as a last burden, and often, not having the strength to reason it out logically, one follows that line of the least resistance which spells demoralisation and succumbs forthwith.
The tip has been so often blamed that it is not amiss to give it a word of praise. In its inception it was not altogether a bad thing, but formed a part of the legitimate price one expected to pay for a pleasurable emotion, a service cheerfully and willingly rendered, or a good dinner well served. What more natural that your contentment should overflow and that you should reward the one who had been the humble instrument which made these things possible. In those times the tip was appreciated, was gratefully received, even warmly, and a cordial relationship was established that left a genial glow on both sides. It was the personal expression of one's satisfaction and was so looked upon by giver and receiver. After all, we buy so much in our journey through this world, why not buy a little politeness?
From being a spontaneous expression of gratitude the tip has since become a classified demand of the "stand and deliver" order and must be considered from a purely dispassionate business viewpoint.
Unfortunately tipping is not an exact science; if one could regulate it as they do the food and drink problem the question would be simply one of finance, but when the personal equation enters, one risks going adrift on an unknown sea. Everything depends upon time and place, the services rendered and that frequently unknown quantity, the custom of the country. Nothing marks the seasoned traveller, or betrays the novice, so much as the manner of tipping. To give too much is as bad as to give too little.
There are many formulæ but, like most of the delicate points of conduct, the correct solution depends largely upon the individual. Specific advice is difficult to give and no set of rules can cover all eventualities.
Women travellers are supposed to be less lavish with the pourboire than men, and this with truth. Woman's instinct is more frugal and she has the moral courage not to tip to impress the waiter, a point of contact where the lack of nerve in mere man causes him to sometimes suffer. Her instincts are to deal fairly on a just, if close, margin of expenditure, until, in a harassed moment, she shuts her lips tightly and declares she won't give another cent. Man in such a crisis weakens and empties his pockets. Each instance shows a lack of dignity.
The tip bogey catches the traveller in its grip from the moment foot is set on shipboard. About the fourth day out the confidentially whispered query begins to circulate: "How much do you think one ought to give, etc.?" Each hopes to gain strength from a knowledge of the views of neighbours. The captain not infrequently has the question propounded to him, thus adding to the long list of problems to solve with which he is already perplexed. Always gallant, a ship's captain will usually side with the ladies, and may even give them an intimation that tips are pooled anyway. Blessed solution l This only means handing over a lump sum to the chief steward and receiving his lordly thanks. This plan has worked, and apparently well, under some circumstances, but it is by no means a universal practice. It is certainly a less complicated procedure than being obliged to apportion the sum of one's fees with discrimination and has much in its favour.
There is of course a natural and well-recognised feeling that if some special service has been well rendered that one should personally hand over the emolument therefor. But the embarrassing question of "How much" automatically imposes itself.
For the traveller of modest means, with the average duration of the period of sea-sickness – one to two days – and who makes the average demands upon the patience and services of the ship's servants, ten dollars should be an ample tax, and one which will allow her to leave even the most luxurious and fashionable of the modern flyers without embarrassment. The thing can be cut twenty-five per cent, or even one-third, but there is a tendency, as the prices of steamship passages advance, for the ratio of the proportion of tips to advance also.
On this basis some such apportioning of the sum as follows should fill the bill: two dollars and a half to the table steward; the same to the stewardess; a dollar, or a dollar and a half, to the deck stewards who dispense broth and tea and toast and keep your deck chair and steamer rugs ready at hand; another dollar, or half as much again, would go to the individual who prepares your morning bath, if indeed this did not happen to be your stewardess. Then there is the "boots" for a trifle, and the library steward who hands out the latest novels for you to read, and finally the subscription for the band. On such a basis of reckoning, ten dollars is thus readily absorbed. Recently a new phase of the question has opened up. On one of the largest, though not the fastest of North Atlantic steamships a subscription was taken up for the cooks. Another tax, but was it not a deserving one?
Since ladies are now beginning to make use of the smoking-rooms, on the big Mediterranean-bound steamships in particular, one wonders if they ought not to contribute something in that direction also. There is the gymnasium, too, which certainly ought to be paid for if used, though it is down in the line's advertisements as free.
If one occupies a de luxe suite on the upper promenade deck and takes his, or her, meals in private, naturally the tips take on more or less the complexion of the surroundings of the giver. If five hundred dollars is paid for a crossing, a fifty-dollar tip is not disproportionate.
Again, if constant attention is required by the ordinarily modest travellers, meals served on deck at all hours, special dishes and special services all along the line, why, as for all such transactions, a readjustment of the scale must be made. With a little judicious care and forethought steamer tips can be easily kept down to their proper proportion, and it should be the duty of the conscientious traveller to see that they are.
Immediately one lands, a new set of troubles begin. Herr Baedeker's useful little red books indorse the "ten per cent plan," the tips amounting to ten per cent of the charge. Tips more often stand or fall on their own merits, their relation to the volume of service rendered rather than to the cost thereof. For a short stay the ten per cent plan may really prove economical, but for a protracted sojourn the reverse may be the case. Tips for a week, for instance, ought not, in the majority of cases, to be greatly in excess of those for three days, certainly not a hundred per cent more. Actually among the knowing the ratio is a diminishing one, which is logical.
Certain hotels have officially recognised this ten per cent plan and mark you down on the bill for ten per cent of its total for service. This is a retrograde movement, however, whatever its apparent advantages may be for the timid. One's brain is not racked with arithmetic, but the service deteriorates, inexplicably perhaps, but manifestly. What is everybody's business is apt to be neglected by all, and the personal incentive for a waiter to see that you are served with an extra fork at the desired moment is lacking.
The unit in France, Belgium, Italy and Spain being what corresponds to the franc (which is not twenty cents do not forget: the United States government in all its operations reckons it at but $.193), as against the shilling in England, a mark in Germany (which are valued at about twenty-five cents each) and little Holland's expensive florin at nearly forty cents, tipping in these twenty-cent countries comes a little less than at home where one so lavishly expends quarters. Replace these larger coins with that which is nearest our own dime and you will well solve the problem of the medium-priced tip abroad. Manipulated with just the right legerdemain the coin will work wonders and keep the bigger silver pieces, as the French have it, from rolling down hill too fast.
In England the little silver sixpence will unlock most doors, though one will often be amazed as to the class of people who will accept this insignificant talisman. Black silk-gowned housekeepers of earls' mansions, and the palms of stately, plush-garbed footmen and butlers will readily close over it, and people with top hats and frock coats will respond with an unctious "thank you" as readily as if you had handed them a dollar. Remember you must, however, that every one above the rank of a working man in England wears a frock coat, often your butcher who cuts you off your chops and steaks; it amounts almost to a livery of non-conformist respectability.
Oh! that subtle English "thank you"; how it can be made to run the gamut of politeness. It can be made to express every shade from servility to insolence. Note its gradations and you will thus be able to judge how nearly right was your tip. It is the most hard-worked expression in the' English language. One likes it when first coming over from "thankless" America, but the later mechanical repetitions get very much on the nerves, especially when the servants degenerate into the practice of thanking themselves, which is practically what it amounts to when they serve you to the accompaniment of a "thank you" from their own lips.
One should study the minor tips in all their phases if there is a desire to be respected. In England give a tu'pence only to the railway porter when he carries your rug and bag from the cab to your seat in the railway carriage; then he will think you are on speaking terms, at least, with the nobility. If there is also a trunk to be weighed and looked after, labelled and put in the "van," a sixpence will keep him from suspecting that you are one of those spendthrift people from "the States."
The auto-taxi has largely done away with the widely speculative feature of one's dealing with an unprincipled cabby of other days, though the question still remains to be wrestled with. Here again it is, or should be, the tu'pence, or, in taking a ride with an English friend, you may find that he pays only the registered fare.
The skidding hansom is still in evidence in London's streets, but the taxi has reduced its fare to sixpence a mile. In some ways it still remains a typical mode of conveyance, the etiquette of which is that if you have a male companion the doors must remain open. There is no such unwritten law for the taxi.
Five sous, twenty-five centimes, five cents should be the minor tip elsewhere in Europe, perhaps ten or twenty pfennigs in Germany or twenty Dutch cents. Such a schedule or rate of payment can usually be applied to the minor services asked for, or offered en route, and in most cases will be accepted graciously. In Belgium even the street-car conductors are not averse to accepting even the odd sou. In England one is expected to give the postman a tip if his services have been made use of for any but the briefest of periods. This charge if met at all calls for a shilling, though the usual tourist will not often stay long enough in any one place to come under this reckoning. In France about the same state of affairs exists, unless one stays in a pension or hotel, where the porter, concierge or clerk serves as a buffer.
The small European hotel has many advantages over the great caravanseries, and not the least of these is the freedom from the obligation, real or implied, of superfluous tipping. The staff is smaller to begin with, and its duties are distinctly defined. In the English inn there will be a mutton-chop-whiskered waiter in the coffee-room, in other words, the dining-room, and a white-capped maid upstairs, with a small "boots" somewhere in the background. These are to be remembered, but there are no others. Two shillings and sixpence, half a crown, ought to cover all services rendered for a twenty-four hour stay, and even if there are two maids this should not alter the tip's total. For taking the baggage to and from the station a supplementary tu'pence, or even sixpence, can be added to the former sum without a loss of self-respect or a feeling that it may be misunderstood.
In the French country hotel one deals with an obliging bonne more often than with a garçon, and there will be no "boots" in the English sense. Your shoes will be looked after all the same, and for the service you can increase the bonne's tip for cleaning them and she will be all the more grateful. If you dispense a couple of francs of largesse for a thirty-six hours' stay every one will feel that they have been well paid and four or five francs for a week will prove a figure to command respect. It is quite uncalled for that one should remember the chef in the French country inn, though you may see him often enough in cook's cap and apron hanging ingratiatingly around. More often than not, in spite of the garb, it will be the proprietor himself, and he doesn't make his money that way, so don't commit a faux pas. In the purely country hotels of Italy one gets off as easily as in France. Two servants run the establishment as a rule and their scale of expectations does not strike a very high note.
In Germany the feeling is that the small hotel away from the large centres is given to exploiting the stranger on all hands. Evidently the tourist is looked upon as an idle, wandering person of a certain tangible wealth from which he has a desire to be parted. Perhaps, in many cases, this is a logical point of view after all. Especially may the woman traveller notice this. The Germans have a saying: "The man and the dog can go out, but the woman and the cat must stay in." The Germans are responsible for the ingenious plan of sounding a gong to warn the servants of the departure of a guest that the "line up" may not be found wanting. A suspicion that there is a "pooling" of interests is certainly justified here.
The Swiss is the most calculating person that ever held out an itching palm for a pourboire, and yet he is not as insistent as the Parisian Frenchman, nor as vociferous as the Italian of the Tuscan towns beloved of tourists. It is simply that he is ever ready and on the spot, looking hard for whatever may be coming to him. He is rarely demonstratively grateful, and his thanks are invariably perfunctory, but always he does his duty towards the traveller according to his creed, which has made him the greatest nation of hotel keepers extant. The traveller he regards as he does the rain sent from heaven, the manna fallen from the trees, and his chief joy is to push one of these money spenders into more confined quarters in order that he may double up another couple where only a single person lodged before. As for the personnel of the class that lives on tips they expect always that the present prey will be found more juicy than the last, and, again, if he falls short of his expectations with you he can be depended upon to take it out of the next comer. His is like any other business and his chief aim is to have the balance as far over on the right side of the profit and loss account as possible. At the small Swiss hotel one can make an admirable showing with a franc tip properly bestowed, but it must be done with the air of being to the manner born. Two francs a day per head, judiciously divided and bestowed, will accomplish a great deal even in the great palace hotels of the resorts. The Swiss have a college which fits the youth of the land for the business of hotel keeping; whether it has a chair of tipping or not the writer does not know.
The European hotel, whether it be great or small, that caters for the tourist exclusively is the best exponent of the successful tip system of graft. Here the tippees are an organised body, and even in the more modest establishments each one's service is so attenuated that the greatest possible return is assured the combination. Your bill may have been a modest enough one to begin with; eight, ten or twelve lire a day perhaps, or as many francs, but should you have been in the house for but a period of twenty-four hours this is about what the staff would work out in their own minds as being their due.
This may virtually amount to but half your original bill, and is of course far too great a proportion. It is easy to see that the ten per cent plan is out of business here. Try and distribute a single franc, taking an average bill of ten francs as a basis, among six persons and see what would happen. Of course for two this might well be cut down to three francs, or perhaps even two francs, fifty centimes each when the proportions come a little nearer what they ought really to be, but even then they are in the neighbourhood of the twenty-five per cent mark. To all intents and purposes this is what happens in any French, Swiss or Italian hotel which lives exclusively off a tourist clientele. The axiom that the slower one travels the cheaper it becomes, applies as well to tipping. For a stay of several days, where one gives five lire for oneself alone, seven or seven and a half would cover it for two, and for a week's sojourn, ten lire would add as much to the hotel servant's seeming happiness as a larger sum. Where travellers make one-night stands the tippee scores.
The scale ascends rapidly to the "grand" and the "palace" hotels. It is here that the brigand of old has risen to the new conditions and disguised himself under a gold-buttoned and gold-laced uniform and becomes a minion of a great tourist caravansary. Here he finds business quite as profitable and less dangerous, and here, too, vanishes the last vestige of the old-time relation between the giver and receiver, the guest and the servant.
Here the gold-braided brigade is everlastingly at one's heels, giving one the feeling of being in an asylum looked after by an only too attentive staff of care-takers. Doors fly open before one and chairs fly from under, one is bowed through corridors and up staircases as only were the kings of old. Then monarchs made their subjects pay for the privilege, but to-day it is the subject who wins. All these menials speak the American language, at least to the extent of "good-morning," for they know how the American loves the sound of his native tongue, even though doled out in limited quantities.
As you walk down the line of expectant mortals on the day of departure and dispense commercial solace, figuring up value given and received, you see why the ten per cent plan does not always work.
At many a "palace" hotel, even, one can live for twenty or twenty-five francs a day, with another ten francs to cover wine and mineral waters and other incidentals. This works out six to seven dollars a day and may be considered good value for the money paid. These tips at these great tourist hotels, for thirty-six hours, would work out something as follows, provided one could not resist the "come on" look in the hungry eyes of the staff, otherwise they might be somewhat discounted.
And this again is nearer thirty-three and one-third per cent of the bill than ten per cent, which latter proportion, three francs, fifty centimes, would not go far among the expectant horde. One solution would be to stay on a while and run up your bill to ten or fifteen times its original amount, when again the ten per cent basis would overpay these grafters. Like the "systems" at Monte Carlo's Casino, no scheme of tipping of the preconceived order can be made to work both ways--the zero of uncertainty is always against the player.
No automobile tips have been included in the above schedule. The question may be asked: has the automobile increased the size of the tip? It has introduced an entirely new conglomeration of satellites into the planetary sphere of servantdom. What, then, are their demands? In the small foreign hotel the stable boy, hostler or garçon d'écurie has the big touring car under his charge instead of the chaises-de-poste and the berlins-de-voyage of other days. He runs around the corner to the grocer's for gasolene, or oil, fills up the water tank, and will lend a useful and willing hand wherever wanted. This service may usually be considered worth a franc, but can often be had, with an acceptant smile thrown in, for half that sum.
In a big hotel garage, like that of the Hôtel Univers at Tours, in the Chateaux country, the man who fills up your gasolene tank can readily absorb a franc without a quaver, while the young fellow who ostentatiously attempts to rub the varnish off your mud-guard or the lustre off your leather cushions will eye you expectantly for fifty centimes at least. If your chauffeur hands out this thirty sous himself, it will likely be increased one hundred per cent before you pay the bill. This is not much, according to the American scale, for often enough the lodging for your automobile has been thrown in free, but all the same, on a hundred days' tour, it is a round fifty dollars thrown away for service that ought to be included in the price one pays.
One gallant American, on his first trip abroad, with a party of ladies, decided that he would not annoy or inflict them with the small matter of tips. He began by paying them out of his own pocket, but after a week or two of these heart-breaking disbursements he finally suggested to the rest of the party that a common fund be opened for such disbursements, of which he was to be the cashier. And this, by the way, is not a bad method of collectively handling the tip question by all who travel in droves.
Take heed from the foreigner, especially the German, and get what hints you can. The Teuton, at least, is not always seen with his hands in his pockets about to bring forth a glitter of small coin, and yet he fares as well as the stranger from over-seas, whether from over the Channel or across the Atlantic.
Two sous will accomplish for the German on the Riviera what ten will do for most of the rest of us, and there will be no noticeable difference in the quality of the service. Well he knows the secret! It comes from familiarity with the situation. The solution of the problem is to go often enough. The "personally conducted" tour that can guarantee a tipless itinerary of Europe has a financial future ahead of it.
If the automobile is responsible for the rise in the scale of tips, to what heights will they not soar when the aëroplane becomes the preferred mode of conveyance. Then there will be a man to push you out of a hangar and give you a shove off, or there will be a whole army holding on to the guy-ropes of your dirigible, and all these will have to be paid. There is no limit to the possibilities of the profession which lives off of tips.
One thing that will help is to keep yourself supplied with small coin; then a mere ripple made in the reverse direction will sometimes keep down the incoming wave.
The English started this abominable custom on the Continent on the same lines as they had run things in their own country, but the American came after and noisily, recklessly and lavishly cast them into the shade.
Anglo-Saxons tip, it must be confessed, to show the foreigner they at least think that they are of a superior race. This is how it looks to the Continental European, though more often it is really because they are on a holiday jaunt and, like all holiday-makers who are fully in the spirit of the thing, they want everybody around them to participate in their good humour, so it is they scatter a golden shower, unmindful that they are sowing a crop of dragon's teeth which will ultimately spring up an armed force to demand by right what was originally given by favour.