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Tripping on Tipping

Reluctantly joining the ranks of twenty percenters

By Al Carlos Hernandez
Published on LatinoLA: July 16, 2003


Tripping on Tipping


Like many of my baby boom generation, I can never remember a time when our family went to a restaurant. My Dad?s philosophy was, if we had food at home why go anywhere else to eat, especially since most restaurants didn?t specialize in Spam and eggs.

During college, after a late night of going nuts and sharing a plate at a casual dining establishment, cash-carrying limousine liberals who we invited because we knew they wanted to hang out with Chicano radicals always dollared up to give the food server a generous tip. We always tried to lag behind after everybody left to liberate the tip in order to reinvest it into the community slush fund.

My friends and I thought it incredulous to give extra money to someone who had a job, was paid by the hour, and made more money than us.

Over the years I have come to understand that food servers have one of the toughest jobs in the world, and they endure it because they can make some good money via tips.

Food servers are very hip, industrious and occasionally and quite justifiably vindictive people and if you stiff them on a tip, the next time you come into the restaurant they can play broom hockey with your hamburger, flag football with your burrito, or mix your huevos rancheros with the dog's toothbrush.

I never appreciated the value of a cash money tip until I received one. It all happened innocently enough after I was blacklisted from Spanish radio management for being a Pocho. In my capacity as a sales manager of a motorcycle shop in Oakland, one of my duties was delivering the new bikes. Part of that process included making sure the bikes were detailed and ready to rock.

I remember literally kneeling on the ground polishing a fender of a scooter for an underage, ?pharmaceutical distributor entrepreneur.? When I was done and tossed him the keys, he flipped me a ten dollar bill. For a second I was torn. My pride didn?t want to take the money, but my terminal financial situation overroad my mass media-stained hubris. I snatched the dime note out of his hand quicker than the Kung Fu grass hopper guy grabbed the rock from the bald white eyed master.

My wife is a generous tipper and has taught me the art of tipping. It?s always best to basically double the tax and add a buck or two. She does however sometimes takes it too far by tipping the people at the Pan Dulce place, the Mexicatessen dude, and has even convinced the people at the Christian Bookstore to put up a tip jar.

The bottom line for me is that I?m cheap. I?ll park a mile away, not to give a few bucks to a valet parker, race to grab my bags and bum rush them through the airport, or even mad dog a bell man who wants to take my bag up to the room. I could be suffering from post housing projects monetary depravation syndrome.

Our family while growing up never went on vacation either.

To be fair, there once was an occasion when I over tipped, while in Mexico City on a business trip. I had a wad of pesos that felt like a half roll of toilet tissue, because I cashed out about 200 bucks, the Mexican monetary devaluation made me look like I had MC Hammer pants.

We pulled up to the Zona Rosa area and saw a little guy selling gum that look identical to my toddler son back in the states. My heart broke with pity. I peeled off a half inch of pesos for the cabbie, and gave a similar stack to the little guy, and the cabbie wanted to punch my lights out.

It?s a good thing for me I was dressed like an American gangster and knew enough Spanish to glare back at his under breath comments about my parentage. Besides, VW Beetle taxi cabs are whack, claustrophobic, and smell like feet and diesel nachos.

I have joined the ranks of the 20 per centers, and because of the almost exclusive use of bonus point credit cards, it is much easier to write a number on a receipt then to peel off a few dead presidents.

Web sites (like LatinoLA) should post a PayPal tipping URL.





About Al Carlos Hernandez:
Al Carlos is a national columnist and a screenwriter.




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