There?s a great scene in the movie My Cousin Vinny when Brooklyn born and bred Vinny (played by Joe Pesci) visits his nephew in a southern prison. As the jailer opens the cell door, Vinny takes out a wad of bills, pries a few loose, and tips him. The jailer looks puzzled as Vinny struts into the cell. If you are Brooklyn Italian (as I partially am), that scene brings it home: the big shots of the neighborhood were always tipping.
As a kid I packaged groceries in a store and also delivered medicines for the druggist. I loved it when I packaged for a Vinny type or delivered medicine to a Vinny house: the tips were enormous. Tipping was a sign of manhood in my Brooklyn world. The bigger a man tipped, the bigger...well, you get the picture. In fact, my upbringing gave me the credo: "When in doubt, tip!"
Now, some people are cheap, they don?t tip anyone or they chisel on the tips. They are the unVinnys of the world. I know one guy who eats a special in Las Vegas every day that costs a mere 77 cents. He leaves a buck and says: "I just gave you a 30 percent tip, honey! Keep the change!" None of the waitresses find that the least funny but he roars with laughter when he says it. Having worked as a waiter in my youth, I know the labor that goes into feeding the multitudes and the sinking feeling that if they don?t tip, you don?t make a living.
Some jobs are structured in such a way that the tips are the main economic incentive for doing them. Waiters and waitresses rarely make minimum wage -- you don?t tip them, they don?t eat. Casino-hotel workers rely on tips to make a living. The blackjack dealer you hear talking about her husband, her family and her house makes minimum wage or, in some of the high-end places, slightly better than minimum wage. If she isn?t tipped, she?ll have to split and find other employment. The fact of the matter is -- service industry workers need tips to live. In a very real way, they are working for you and you pay their wages.
Needless to say I am not one of those gaming writers who says never tip anyone in a casino-hotel because the casinos have the edge so why give them more money. You?re not tipping the casino. You?re tipping a person who is doing a service for you. I realize that some advantage-players don?t tip for fear that tips take away from their advantage. Too bad. If you aren?t a good enough player to figure in a few bucks for the dealer in your advantage calculations, then maybe you should consider getting a job that tips you! Don?t be cheap. Don?t be an unVinny. If the individual is giving good, professional service -- from barber to bellhop, dealer to doorman -- then tip. That tip tells them what a good job they are doing. Don?t be Scrooge. That tip might be for Tiny Tim?s operation!
Of course, if the worker has the personality of Attila the Hun; if he or she is mean, nasty, disdainful or smelly, then by all means stiff 'em. That stiff will tell them what an awful job they?re doing in the service industry and that maybe they should get a different kind of job, such as composing symphonies or discovering cures for illnesses.
My personal experience in casino-hotels has been almost universally good so I don?t think you?ll find many stiff hands among the non-dealing personnel. And only on rare occasions will you find a dealer who should be dealt with harshly.
So what should you tip the various people whose hands will be extended in friendship? Here?s the King Scobe formula:
*Valet parkers should get $2 to $3 when they retrieve your car.
*Bellhops should get $1 to $2 per piece of luggage lugged to room or car.
*Waiters and waitresses should get 20 percent of the pre-tax check if they are friendly and professional. If they are cold and professional, give them 15 percent. If they are disdainful give them 10 percent.
*Maitre-d?s in swanky restaurants who bring you to your table and place the napkin on your lap and give you the wine list. I?ll leave this up to you.
*Dealers should be tipped by putting up a bet for them. There is no law that says what a dealer?s tip should be; there?s no rule of thumb, either, as there is with waiters and waitresses. A few bucks by a red chip player, a few reds by a green chip player, a few more reds, maybe even a green, for a black and purple chip player, every 20 minutes to 40 minutes would be generous.
*When you win an epic jackpot, a tip is generally expected by the person who pays it to you (I don?t quite know why), usually the change person. Follow your instincts here. Luckily I?ve never had to worry about this because I?ve never won an epic jackpot -- I?ve never won a non-epic jackpot, either. Lucky, aren?t I?
*If you work out in the spa, it is customary to leave a tip if the attendants have been attending to you. Did they bring you water? Did they see to your towel? Fifteen to 20 percent of the spa fee is a generous tip. By the way, for masseuses and trainers different clubs have different rules. Don?t be afraid to ask: ?Is it customary to tip the masseuse?? when you make your reservation.
*Maids should be tipped generously. To me, they have the roughest job in the hotel (my god, they clean strangers? bathrooms!) and yet folks tend to give them $1 a day. The problem for the poor maids is the fact that you tip them at the end of your stay in a casino-hotel, after you?ve (probably) lost all your money and when you?re suddenly trying to economize. So to avoid that, and to assure really, really prompt service, I tip the maid immediately upon my arrival. I find out who my maid will be, I introduce myself to her, tell her I?m staying in such and such a room, and that this (the money) is for her. I also make it known that I will tip at the end of the trip as well. An important caveat here. Sometimes the maid who slaved in your room is off on the day you leave to go home. You leave a tip and her substitute gets it. Make a point of finding out who your maid is and leave the tip with her directly or with her supervisor. And remember, she cleans your toilet!
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