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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Should you Give Tip at a Restaurant?

A few years back in a restaurant in Crete, Greece, I saw a board: " Please don't give tips to our waiters. They're not beggars." Intrigued, I had a hearty meal served by a very refined and helpful waiter and didn't leave a tip while leaving the restaurant. The very custom of giving tips to a waiter is somewhat patronising (from a customer's perspective), if not outright begging on the part of the receiver. Why should a waiter be given tips for his services for which he's being paid by the hotel or a restaurant? And why do we still cling to 'a royal gesture' started by the erstwhile royals who believed in ostentation and displayed their money power to their female friends? Woody Allen once wrote very succinctly, " When you're alone or old, you generally don't give tips. You give tips when there's 'a pretty little thing' or 'a gorgeous one' with you."

Men generally shell out, often unwillingly, a considerable amount as tips when they're with their lady friends, lest women should think that their men are stingy. Frankly speaking, many people don't like to give tips to the waiters. Not that they're tight-fisted or 'makhhichoos ', they don't like this practice. I belong to that category. Waiters are paid to serve you. They shouldn't even expect to get tips from satisfied customers. I've seen on trains that cleaners and caterers for AC coaches, shamelessly ask for tips.

And passengers give them money without asking that it's their duty to serve. Railways does nothing to stop these people who degrade themselves to the level of beggars. Even if you give them, you give with bitterness. I once saw a board in a restaurant in Chaklala, Pakistan: Dein toh dil se dein, varna na dein (If you want to give tips, give gladly or else please don't give). The medieval coffee houses in Cairo, London and Milan started this trend of giving tips. Those coffee houses were never closed and there were poor, young boys serving as waiters at night shifts. Regular waiters used to sleep.

The wealthy patrons of those coffee houses used to take pity on those poor orphans who served at night. They (customers) would give them extra money for their services, thus began this trend. One can still see young boys, but not that needy any more, working at night shifts in the coffee houses of Egypt, Libiya and Lebanon. Interestingly, in the 17-18th century Europe, women of easy morals used to serve as waitresses during day-time.

The customers were aware of their night-time dubious activities. These women used to get tips as baits from lecherous male customers. We're all blind trend-followers. We never question the validity and utility of a practice. Just because giving tips is a social, nay societal, gesture, we all give tips. This practice must never be encouraged as somewhere it makes the serving guys lowly in self-esteem, if they've any.   

                                                        -----Sumit Paul


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