It all started about sixteen years ago – the first time I went into a fancy haircutting salon on my own. Till then the most of the hair cuts had been restricted to well-meaning ‘artistically’ inclined aunts who hacked (trimmed they called it) my hair. The fanciest cut was at the small neighbourhood salon where my mother took me every time she thought my tresses had been traumatized enough.
This was the first foray into a SALON. Those posh places where people discussed cuts and styles and face shapes and other grown up stuff.
So there I was, all set, hair neatly cut, quietly standing at the payment counter, content about navigating this passage into adulthood without any major faux pas when one overwhelmingly horrifying realization dawned on me. All the ladies in the queue in front of me, after settling their reckoning, were going back inside to TIP the stylists!
And there I was a gawky preteen, was facing for the first of many times, one of life’s enduring questions – the GREAT INDIAN TIPPING DILEMMA.
To this day – thousands of stylists, waiters, valets and bellboys later – I still struggle with the all important question. HOW MUCH TO TIP.
Wise people have muttered about the 5% rule. But that doesn’t work in my mind.
What if the service is terrible in a completely fancy restaurant – why would you want to pay 5% of the bill (a few hundred rupees say) to a snooty, condescending waiter who has completely ruined the meal for you?
God knows, I don’t want to under tip either – some work terribly hard to earn this money -which is why I invariably end up over-tipping – anything to avoid the reproachful, or in some cases my-god-she-is-so-cheap look.
So what IS the right balance? The standardized 5% rule does not work.
I think there are some learnings which can be borrowed from tax calculations.
The Total Tipping Liability ( the amount you need to shell out depending on Tippees effectiveness, venue ambiance, number of people the service is provided to, difficulty of providing service and so on)
And the Tipping Rebate (where you get a concession on your liability depending on factors such as Tippees bad attitude, wrong haircut, body odour and other experience-spoilers)
This will give you the NET TIPPING TAX – the amount you actually end up paying as a tip.
You might crib about it and talk about people who evade tipping and swear at the cost of tipping rates – but at least it will spare you the effort of standing there with the bill doing mental callisthenics to figure out how much is the money you shell out and sheepishly-defiantly trying to skulk away when you realize the Tippee was expecting much more.
You could even have Tip-o-meters where you feed in the variables and viola – out comes the tip amount all nicely calculated with no scope for dispute or guilt.
Now if only someone would design this. Hmmm.