Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Tipping Point

1. Oy. Aie. Just when I think French-American fraternité seems to be getting back on an even keel, I stumble across this tidbit in the Love/Hate section of this week's Charleston City Paper. (The link is here.)

Poor waitperson. S/he deserves not only a hefty tip, but also a consoling pat on the back. We can only hope that the French tourists in question were freshly arrived on our shores, where (ahem) tipping in restaurants is de rigueur. Especially when the waitperson has been so helpful. We hope that someone will advise them that in the US, le service n’est pas compris, before they create a mini-international diplomatic rift.

Oh, the tipping conundrum! In France it’s never required, of course, since it’s included in the TVA/service compris. It is hard to shake the mindset sometimes, especially when you’ve just arrived on one side or the other of the Atlantic.

So, for what it's worth, here’s a brief guide to tipping in France.

I wonder if the French guys just couldn’t believe that American restaurants don’t use those handheld credit card machines.

2. Random observation having nothing to do with pourboires.

I love the fact that a “French tip” manicure didn’t really originate in France, so if you want that white-nailtip look from a nail salon in France you have to request “une French.”

14 comments:

cathy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cathy said...

tipping... always so stressful! i like it better when it's included. just pay them what they are worth, and everybody is happy!

reminds me of this postsecret card: http://6.media.tumblr.com/EKqy4WfGpm0rxrhix3jPCEcjo1_500.jpg

and it transcends everywhere... so many people, regardless of race or where they are from, don't tip properly in america. but then a lot of people do. ahh, life!

ps, thanks for the tip on the manicure!

Parisienne Mais Presque said...

What annoys me is that in some big American cities (or in New York City, at least) many restaurants automatically add in a 15-20% tip on your bill if you happen to be eating with someone with a French accent. Or, heaven forbid, speaking French at the table.

It seems that words has gotten out that some French tourists don't get the whole concept of tipping, which is fair enough. But the benefit of the doubt would be appreciated.

parlez-vous-kiwi said...

I admit, I never know exactly how much to tip (I was not brought up in a culture that tip) but I will be in America in a week and a half so I better get used to it ;)

Harriet said...

Do you think European tourists visiting the US
do as much trip "prep" as we do for a visit to one of their countries?

People who live in countries where tips are not expected at restaurants, probably can't believe that in the US we tip between 18 - 20% or even more at times.

Alison said...

Re what Harriet said about people who live in countries where tips are not expected: I bet people in those countries don't know that servers in the US earn $2.13 an hour and depend on tips to make a living!

Isabelle said...

This sounds like a phoney story to me...

First I have doubts that she would know the word "moules" only after 2 semesters of learning French. She can't even spell "Je parle" correctly, and she knows the translation for "moules". I don't buy that...

Second she writes "your English wasn't so bad but you couldn't read the menu", I don't find this very logical either.

And since Americans are usually quite straightforward, why didn't she, very nicely of course, tell them that tips were not included in the bill?
Why does she take for granted that everybody should know that tipping is required in the US? And thus making the French look like the bad guys in the story!!!

Isabelle said...

I just read the article again, and just understood that she did receive a tip, but what she complains about is that she got only one dollar instead of the 3 dollars she was expecting...
So my guess is that the French guys gave the same tip that they would have given in France.

StyleSpy said...

Those tipping tips (!!) are great, but I would eat my own head before I'd address a French waiter as "Garçon." "Monsieur" does quite nicely.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

I love everyone's input. Thanks.

Isabelle, I reread the "rant" too, and now I can't figure out whether it was just one measly dollar or not even one measly dollar.

It's hard to be straightforward about a tip, since it isn't offically required. And often the server doesn't know until after the party has left the table. Back when I was in college waitressing at an old inn, some WASP-y summer people left me a tip of one nickel, when they moved into the dining room (I had served them chardonnay and G&Ts on the porch). ONE NICKEL! I ran after them and said, "Here's your nickel. You clearly need it more than I do." I was P.O.ed!!

Anyway, I agree that it would be helpful for foreigners to know the tipping protocol for each other's countries. Maybe little footnotes at the bottom of menus in various languages?

Starman said...

The French are infamously poor tippers.

Isabelle said...

@Starman: you seem to be holding a terrible grudge against the French. I see you commenting on a lot of blogs, and you always manage to write a critic on the French. Are you aware of that? And please, tell us what we've done to you to deserve such a harsh treatment...

As for the French who are according to you "infamously poor tippers", how are we supposed to know about this tipping "rule" since, like Polly wrote, it's not even officialy required, and that some Americans don't even follow this "rule" themselves?

For your information, my father in law who happens to be American, only tips when he is happy with the service he has received...

Polly-Vous Francais said...

My thought (and the reason I mentioned the credit-card machines in the post) was that when in France one is so accustomed to simply signing off on the precise amount of the meal. I have had to catch myself from doing that here in the US(and I was only in France for 3 years!) It's a reflex.

And fwiw, here's an article on tipping in the US.
http://money.cnn.com/2003/05/15/commentary/everyday/sahadi/index.htm

ParisBreakfasts said...

My Fr friend Anne swears the French do not leave tips yet I have seen the opposite all the time in Paris just as the link suggests- a few coins etc.
The US tipping system?
It's apples and oranges IMO.

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