Tips For Convention Goers

(by which is meant, "Where, how and when to leave a tip when traveling to a convention.")

by Dr. Samuel Conway

America is a truly unique culture when it comes to gratuities. Nowhere else in the world has the practice of "leaving a tip" become so integral a part of both the national mindset and the national economy. It is a practice so deeply ingrained that many people working in service industries are paid salaries well below the Federal Minimum Wage, since there is an expectation that the workers will earn enough in tips to make up the difference. Oddly enough, many Americans (and one might argue "most" Americans) do not have the faintest idea of when it is expected to leave a tip, or how much to leave, or even how to deliver the gratuity. There are even variations from region to region within the United States, such that individuals visiting from afar may inadvertently cause insult to a server while believing that they are delivering a compliment.

Anthrocon attracts members from all over the country and all over the world. As a service to our guests who travel great distances to join our little gathering, I would like to present here a guideline for the appropriate inclusion of a tip for service rendered within the Philadelphia region. No doubt some folks from other lands will sniff derisively and make such statements as, "That is ridiculous! There is no reason to tip that much!" As this is America, these readers are free to do so. We in Philadelphia are likewise at liberty to spit in your food for leaving a chintzy tip.

We feel that it is essential to the image of our fandom that Anthrocon attendees learn to use the proper "tipping etiquette." When you wear an Anthrocon badge, you are automatically identifying yourself among the great fraternity of those who are Furry. Your server realizes this. To that server, you represent the entirety of Furry fandom, and as our ambassador it is incumbent upon you to leave a good impression with the server. An appropriate tip conveys the impression that "these Furries are really OK people," and leads to better service for all of our members and an overall increase in the public perception of our fandom. An inappropriate tip, conversely, conveys the impression that "Furries are a bunch of cheap bastards who are not worth my best effort," and the entirety of the Fandom suffers for your stinginess.

And if that doesn't convince you, remember that it is a small world, and there is an appreciable chance that you may have that same server again at some point in the near future. Wouldn't you rather have that server's face light up with recognition -- oh, that person was very nice to me -- instead of darkening into a frown -- there's that jerk again. I won't be doing him any favors this time.

Let us examine your journey from door to door and illustrate where a gratuity is expected. Before we begin, however, it is useful to note that the number 15 (as in 15%) will appear frequently in this dissertation. For those who are mathematically challenged, it is simpler perhaps to divide the total by 10, and then in half, and add those two values together. For example, for a $23.00 bill, divide the total by ten (that is, move the decimal point one hop to the left) which gives $2.30. Then divide that in half ($1.15, which I hope should be easy enough for the reader to derive on his own). Now add the two together: $2.30 plus $1.15 is $3.45. It is acceptable to offer exact change, but rounding the total to the next-highest quarter (or preferably the next-highest dollar) makes the traveler appear less of a cheapass; thus, you could quite properly count out $26.45, but to hand the server $27 with "keep the change" will.

THE CAB DRIVER (OR AIRPORT LIMOSINE DRIVER)

If you take a cab or other private carriage to the airport, it is appropriate to include a 15% tip based on the fare that you paid. If you do not pay a fare (such as a parking shuttle, or a hotel-operated airport shuttle), the appropriate gratuity is $1 plus $1 for each bag that the driver helps you load and/or unload (you do not need to tip for both) from the luggage compartment. In other words, if the driver of the free hotel shuttle puts two of your suitcases on the bus for you, you really should slip him $3. This is done when you collect your bags. Do not make a big production of it. Merely smile and offer the driver your tip, which you should fold up and present to the driver held between the fingertips. It is considered gauche to fan out the money and attract attention to it. Some shuttle drivers will have a little cup or tray on the dashboard, or even a cupholder with a dollar bill folded therein. It is perfectly acceptable to leave your gratuity there, but

Note: It is not considered appropriate to tip operators of public transportation services. A city bus driver or rail conductor is not usually offered a gratuity. These people are generally unionized and are paid a suitable salary. It is employees of private companies such as taxis, hotel shuttles and private livery services whose livelihoods depend on tips.

THE SKYCAP AT THE AIRPORT (or Redcap at the rail station)

If you have a lot of bags and you ask for the services of the airport skycap, it is appropriate to offer $1 plus $1 per bag. As previously mentioned, it is bad form to make a big production out of counting out money and handing it over with a flourish. Just quietly hand over the gratuity and -- this is the most important part -- smile and say, "thank you for your help." Sometimes those words mean just as much to these hard-working folks as the money does. But don't leave out the money on that account.

THE HOTEL BELLMAN

Now that you have arrived at Anthrocon's hotel, it is even more vital that you leave a good impression of Furries. The relationship between the hotel and the convention staff can very often depend on the most innocuous acts of kindness -- or the opposite. If a fuse blows, or a guest of honor loses her purse, or someone's room is overbooked, the reaction of the hotel staff may depend primarily on how they have been treated by the convention attendees. If the attendees have been friendly and generous, then the fuse is fixed promptly, all employees are mobilized to find the missing purse, and those rooms that are kept "for dire emergencies" suddenly become available. Conversely, if the attendees get a reputation for being tight-fisted or overly demanding, then there is little incentive to go the extra mile.

Hotel bellmen are paid very little and are given very little respect, and are often called upon to perform backbreaking chores or to shift outrageous amounts of material. They should be offered $1 plus $1 per bag. If you have any particularly heavy bags (those weighing in excess of 65 pounds (30 kg)), an extra dollar or two is appropriate. Offer the tip to him once you reach the room, and do not forget to thank him for his trouble.

Special note about luggage carts: It is a common occurrence at Furry conventions for attendees with lots of luggage to ask to "borrow" luggage carts. This may seem like a harmless request, but please remember that it is similar to asking a taxi driver if you can "borrow" his car for a trip to the store. It is actually quite rude to ask to take a luggage cart without offering a gratuity. The bellman would much rather carry your things on the cart himself, because he is hoping that he may earn enough in tips that he can pay his cable bill that month and maybe take his wife out to dinner once in a while. Besides, what is he to do if you are one of those selfish bastards who takes the luggage cart and then keeps it in his room? Hotels do not have huge fleets of luggage carts; in fact, they may only have one or two. If he doesn't get that cart back, then he is stuck carrying Mrs. Francesca's steamer trunk on his back when she arrives.

You still want a luggage cart? Either (a) let the bellman go with you, and offer him $1 plus $1 per bag placed on the luggage cart (plus more if the bag(s) are very heavy); or (b), quietly offer him $10 for the use of the cart. Sometimes a clever word or two helps to make the request less awkward. For example, you could quietly hold out a $10 bill and ask, "May I rent this cart for a little while? I promise to have her home by midnight."

THE HOTEL HOUSEKEEPER

This hardworking individual is shamefully overlooked by many Furries. Often she is an immigrant and is paid wage; she also has to deal with a lot of extremely unpleasant tasks which we shall leave to the reader's imagination. Surely for tidying your room for your every day she is due at least a little consideration.

A hotel housekeeper should be offered $1 for each day of your stay. If she has granted any special requests, or seems to be in the spirit of the convention (such as arranging stuffed animals as though they are watching TV), you should certainly add a little extra. Please do not withhold the gratuity if some trivial detail was overlooked in setting up your room. We are all human beings and we all make mistakes, especially when we are expected to clean and re-set as many as fifty rooms in only a few short hours. If you withhold a tip because you received only three sugar packets instead of four or because she forgot to replace your complimentary mouthwash, then you are an asshole and we probably don't want you at Anthrocon anyway.

There are two schools of thought on when it is appropriate to leave the tip. One theory is that a single gratuity should be left behind upon checkout, either on the nightstand or next to the telephone on the writing desk. The second theory is that $1 should be left each day. Either method works, but be advised that different housekeepers may be assigned each day; thus, a housekeeper may clean up after you for an entire week, and then take a day off and lose her whole gratuity to the next housekeeper who is on duty on the 8th day. If you wish to leave a daily tip (preferred), be certain to place it prominently on the writing desk with a note that reads, in block letters, "FOR HOUSEKEEPER." Merely leaving money behind is not sufficient, because unless it is clearly meant for her, a housekeeper will not take random money lest she be accused of stealing it. Some folks like to leave the tip in the bathroom sink. The housekeeper will surely find it there, but a note is still required.

Note: If you leave a daily tip for a housekeeper, she will be much, much more inclined to provide you with extra towels and pillows.

THE WAITRESS OR BARTENDER

This one is a classic. 15% of the bill is considered the minimum for decent service. To tip less is an affront; to fail to leave a tip at all is a grave insult akin to slapping a person in the face. Some con-goers have an unfortunate tendency to develop an imperious attitude when dining in a restaurant. They huff and sneer over cold potatoes or too much pepper in their omelet. "There goes her tip!" is often heard if a waitress forgets to bring that free refill of iced tea the next time she comes by.

Remember, being treated like a king does not make you a king. You are not the only customer being waited on. There are a thousand reasons why your food may be late. The cook may have accidentally burned your hash browns and needs to make another batch. There may be a line at the grill, which only has so much square footage upon which to cook. The waiter, being human, cannot flawlessly remember the preferences of several dozen customers throughout what might be a ten-hour day. Forgetfulness, or the stumbling of a first-day employee, does not equate to incompetence. To reduce the gratuity for this person whose salary is often $3.50 per hour (half the Federal minimum wage) is colder than the potatoes you are complaining about. A tip of less than 15% should be reserved for only the surliest or inattentive waiter. Complaints about the food should be directed to the manager. Don't punish the person who is just bringing it to you.

If the restaurant is crowded, there is a considerable amount of stress placed on the waitstaff. A tip of 20% is warranted for someone who manages to maintain a cheerful demeanor at such times.

A lot of people do not know that waitstaff are required to report tips as income on their taxes. If you write the gratuity amount on a credit card receipt, then your hard-working waiter is required to report that full amount on his taxes, since there is now a written record. It is a little kinder to pay only the total of the bill on the credit card, and then to leave the gratuity in cash. That way, if you care to leave extra, then your waiter is only required to report 15% and be taxed thereupon.

ROOM SERVICE / PIZZA DELIVERYPERSON

Same as waitress. If it is really crappy weather, consider a higher tip.

NON-MONETARY TIPS:

There are some people who are generally not offered a tip. Municipal bus drivers, hotel security or maintenance staff, and front desk personnel do not expect a gratuity. A tip is usually reserved for something that is carried for you, be it food, your bags, or your person.

That does not, however, mean that you cannot reward good service, and the best tip for these folks is a word of praise to the management. Do not underestimate the power of complimentary words! Every hotel employee wears a name tag. Glance at the name, remember it, and write a little note: "Frank on maintenance really did a fine job for me. He was up here in less than five minutes and had the problem fixed before I could blink." Those notes do not get thrown away. They are lovingly placed into Frank's personnel file, and when the time comes to give Frank a raise (or, Heaven forbid, to decide who might be laid off in difficult times), that little note may make a huge difference in Frank's life.

SUMMARY:

Generally, a tip is given for someone who is carrying something for you, such as lugging your bags, driving you somewhere or bringing you food:

  • Cabbie or limousine driver: 15% of the bill minimum.
  • Shuttle bus driver: $1 plus $1 per bag.
  • Skycap, redcap, porter or hotel bellman: $1 plus $1 per bag; $10 if you take the cart.
  • Housekeeper: $1 per day (preferably each morning, with a note "for housekeeper")
  • Restaurant waiter/waitress: 15% minimum unless it is really crappy service.
  • Pizza delivery/room service: 15% minimum.
  • Others: At minimum, a compliment whispered to the management, referencing the employee by name, or better still, a little note with a smiley on it.

One last detail: be careful with the phrase "keep the change." Don't say that without thinking of how much the change is going to be. If your bill is $23.99 and you hand over $25 with a glib "keep the change," you are leaving a $1 tip, which is less than five percent. It is easy to be led into a sense that you are a generous customer when in reality you have just stiffed your poor server, and in doing so, left a bad impression in his or her eyes toward all of the Furries who will follow you.

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