Thursday, July 8, 2010

Selective memory

Germany lost to Spain in the World Cup semifinals yesterday. We DVRed the game and watched it last night. It was pretty grim. Me and three Germans, and I don't think I was rooting for Germany any less than they were. So yes. Four grim, disappointed people shouting curse words at the TV before lapsing into stunned silence as we watched the end of the game play out.

Not like I've never seen my team lose before, but the World Cup sucks because it's only every four years! At least with all the other sports I like, you can soothe yourself by thinking about next year. Not so much in this case.

Unrelatedly, after the fight about the tipping, Torsten's parents said they were going to call their friends' daughter, who also moved to the US and still lives here, to find out if what we were saying was true. I wish they would, but I don't think they did. It's nice to get external confirmation, you know?

Also, the whole thing pisses me off, because they've come to the US to visit Torsten no less than four times, and every time he carefully explains that no, in American restaurants service is not included in the price of the food, and yes, you do have to tip a minimum of 15% unless the service was truly atrocious, and no, letting your water glass get half empty doesn't qualify as atrocious, and no, there are no exceptions, when you don't tip you are hurting someone else's income.

(As a side note, can I just say that I think the whole process of paying restaurant servers a ridiculously low, separate minimum wage and forcing them to depend on the whims of their clientele for their income is insane? Truly, it makes no sense. I KNOW that when Torsten's parents aren't with us, they leave MAYBE $1 as a tip no matter the price of the meal. I have seen many other random restaurant patrons do this as well. In what world does it make sense to leave a hardworking person's ability to pay their rent up to the stingy selfish mood of random patrons?)

Anyway! My original point was, Torsten tells his parents that they must tip EVERY TIME they visit. EVERY TIME. And yet, EVERY TIME, they stare at him in shocked disbelief and absolutely give the impression that they have NEVER heard of such a thing before in their lives and cannot BELIEVE something so outrageous.

And yet! When they went to Macy's on Monday? They remembered from their visit to DC two years ago that as out-of-towners, they were entitled to an 11% discount to make up for sales tax. They remembered that they had to go to the customer service counter to get it. They remembered that the customer service counters in Macy's are usually hidden at the very back of the highest floor of the shop. And they remembered what to say, despite their very limited English, to get the coupon. And despite the fact that they had to navigate all this on their own, at a different Macy's location in a different state, they got the coupon with no trouble, and they used it all day.

So it's not like they CAN'T remember things. It's that they CHOOSE NOT TO. And that is possibly the most frustrating part of all.

On the other hand, perhaps this little trick of memory will allow them to forget the misery of yesterday's World Cup game. And that would be nice for everyone.


  1. I think it's sometimes hard to train yourself to think and do differently than what you would do in your own country. Tipping in the US is a very different beast than in most other areas of the world.

    That said, why don't you come to an agreement ... you and Torsten pay tip if his parents are covering the meal ... that way, no one leaves feeling slighted.

  2. i like Nilsa's suggestion. It sounds like they have trust issues from the flight to the tipping, but maybe they just feel like they lose control of their own lives when they travel?

  3. As a part-time bartender I always get hella upset when I get bad tippers. That said, in NC we have to claim all tips and they must adjust our paychecks to meet minimum wage if we don't get there on our own with tips. So I'm still happy to get a nice size paycheck as well as tips :)

  4. I love that in Oregon restaurant workers must be paid AT LEAST minimum wage. That way, if the service is truly horrible, I don't feel badly leaving 10% (or less). I'm happy to tip more than 20% for over-the-top service, but with them making at least minimum I no longer feel obligated to tip 15%+ when they fail at every part of their job.

  5. Oh Jess. I read your in-law posts hoping against hope that THIS time they are Much Improved, but WOE! It is not to be!

    I'm not sure what I would do with people like that. These people baffle me and I can't stand feeling baffled. That said, I am remembering how Italy completely shut down during the World Cup and can only fathom some of the disappointment Torsten et. al. must be feeling. I would have to chalk up this crazy behavior to pre- and lingering World Cup anxiety and try not to think about it anymore. GAH!

  6. Now that you mention it, it is kind of strange that we have it set up that restaurant servers survive financially based on people's whims. Lots of people are unaware that servers make less than minimum wage, but as someone who once made $2.15 to waitress (lowest wage of any state I waitressed in - Connecticut in 1993), I can certainly attest to that.

  7. That's why we don't really do tipping in Australia/parts of the UK - servers and staff are paid at a decent wage, so that they don't RELY on them. I think it works better tha way; you can tip if you really DO get amazing service (not because you HAVE to) and nobody misses out on earnings due to tourists/misunderstandings.

  8. I love these posts. I also find myself insanely envious that your in-laws live out of the country and only need to be dealt with in-person on a limited basis.

  9. During my days as a server, we'd try to butter up the hostess so that she wouldn't seat Europeans in our section, precisely because they rarely tip. It was considered a punishment to have to wait on them.

    That being said, it annoyed me to no end that I was expected to tip some woman in a restroom in Cologne (yeah, yeah, yeah Koln) just for sitting there and listening to me pee, so I do understand that it's hard to adjust/accept something different.

  10. My uncle was just visiting from Germany, and when he paid the tab he had me tally the tip and total it up. His understanding is of the built-in gratuity they have in Europe, with extra given for good service. Interestingly though, this "extra" has now evolved to include any kind of service, including exterminators, carpet cleaners, anyone who comes to the house and peforms a service that we pay for!

  11. Wait! What?! We didn't have to pay sales tax when we were in WA? Is that just applicable at Macy's? for Germans?

    My biggest complaint about tipping is forcing employees to contribute all their tips to a communal tip jar. THAT is injustice...and doesn't really reward good service AT ALL.