London - To tip or not to tip? Quentin Letts tries to negotiate the minefield of tipping.
You have just arrived at your foreign hotel. Your wallet is full of nothing smaller than the 20 euro notes you got from the foreign exchange counter.
The porter who has lugged your family’s bags up to the room in 30-degree heat is hanging around, all spaniel saucer eyes. Most wives will tell you this is a job for the chaps — and British men don’t generally cope well with tipping abroad.
Either we’re too embarrassed to offer cash at all and will burn with silent shame as the man shuffles out, or we feel we should make some magnanimous gesture that suggests we’re actually as rich as Philip Green.
The sensible thing is to break a note at the airport so you can hand him five euros. Or tell him firmly that you’ll see him later when you have change. Simple!
After another journey being subjected to the political views of shouty cabbies — seldom the most liberal of fellows — the moment for paying arrives.
The meter says £14.80. Do you say “call it fifteen, chum”? A 20p tip would be so mean as to be insulting. But if you push that up to £16, you have to start scrabbling around for change.
Generally I’d say rounding it up is okay, but feel free not to tip if you think the bloke has taken you all round the houses. An MP acquaintance always over-tips cabbies in case they badmouth him to all their passengers. A cab driver say rude things about politicians? Never!
Eek, the social discomfort. In this post-Downton Abbey age we are, naturally, on first-name terms with our domestic help. They are our friends, after all, aren’t they?
But can you tip a friend? A murmured “have a drink on me” could can sound awfully patronising.
One way around this acute middle-class embarrassment is to call the tip a “bonus” and give them an extra week’s wages at Christmas, along with a big hug.
Hairdressers are cheaper than shrinks — and they even do your hair at the same time. Of course they deserve a tip, and most women would say 10 percent is about right.
Men’s barbers are usually less talkative but we still tend to pay them slightly over the odds — perhaps a quid “for the beer fund”. Perhaps it is a throwback to cut-throat razor days when a man would be grateful Sweeney Todd hadn’t slit his gullet.
When we used babysitters, I always let my wife pay the girl and she would round up the amount to the nearest fiver.
Ouch. We were pretty skint in those days and I would make acid little wisecracks about how the babysitter was earning more than me.
Friends say they sometimes arrive home late and squiffy and, consumed with shame, both shower the babysitter with notes to try to quell her silent disdain.
The large margarita is wafting delicious smells. You are ravenous. In that moment of delight, who is to say you will not throw caution to the cheese-scented winds and say ‘keep the change!’. It might mean you get your pizza quicker next time, after all.