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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Benefits of Tipping

A few weeks ago I tried to explain to somebody why I prefer to pay a tip in a restaurant because it leads to better service.
The server wants as big a tip as possible so will often go out of his/her way to give good service.
They responded of course that the system in Italy of paying all the waiters and waitresses more so the clients do not have to leave a tip is better.
Since in all restaurants you have to pay a cover charge (usually 1 to 2 Euros) and a 10 percent service charge it amounts to paying the same money for eating a meal at a restaurant anyway, I didn't argue wholeheartedly. Maybe I should have.

Yesterday Buzzurro and I went to a restaurant/pizzeria. I should have known something was wrong, by the lack of other customers in this restaurant, but, well, we eat dinner early in Italy (7:45pm) so it's not uncommon to find only 1 or 2 other patrons in restaurants.
We went to a large restaurant with beautiful artwork on the walls and 2 floors. 3 waitresses were gossiping amongst themselves in the corner on the first floor..
" The customers will surely come later." I thought to myself.
The waitress sat us at a table on the second floor. Then she went back to talk to her friends.
We decided what we wanted to eat right away, and signalled that we wanted to order. All to no avail. Nobody came up to take our order, so Buzzurro went down the stairs to where the waitress were all congregating and talking to each other and said:
"We are ready to order now."
Our waitress gave him a dirty look as if to say "Don't interupt my conversation !" But went to our table anyway and took our order.
10 minutes later she brought us our food. She slammed it on the table and stormed away.

Excuse me for ruining your day, lady, by making you work, but YOU are getting paid and WE are paying.

When we were done with our meal the same thing happened to us. Nobody was in sight and we wanted our bill so we could pay and leave.
Finally Buzzurro went down the stairs and saw our waitress talking to the other waitresses, who hadn't moved from the spot either. He asked for our bill.
Our waitress replied without interest "Yeah, OK" But 15 minutes later when she still didn't arrive at our table we just got up and went to the cash register, where there was somebody.
We repeated our order. Paid. And Left. The whole time of course our waitress was still in the corner with the others talking.
Now I understand why there were hardly any customers in the restaurant. The food was OK, but the service stinks. Who wants to pay for that ?
Under a tipping system our waitress would have received a very small tip, and she would have wisened up fast and changed her behavior if only to get bigger tips.
Under the non-tipping system that they have here she was paid the same whether she was nice or not.
There was no incentive to be nice or friendly at all and as you know from reading the many posts on this blog, being nice and friendly is not a natural trait of North/Central Italy.