Monday, June 09, 2008

A Matter of Tips and Trivialities

In many professions in america, especially of waiters, taxi-drivers or porters, the tip forms a major share of their income. Usually it's more than half of what they received as income. Normally 10 - 15% of the bill is often paid as tip, service is never included in the final bill. The experience that we had at an Indian restaurant in america is indeed remarkable one and quite a shameful incident.

It's our customary practice to enter Mcallen (a border city) through the Mexico-america frontier, for most of the electronic and Indian grocery shopping. And it spans the whole day with different needs of different people to be catered at different malls. Obviously, we Indians in Mexico will be dying to eat something "Indian" and unfortunately the only option we're left with is Taste of India. We had a finger-licking dinner of lamb curry with roti and chicken biriyani accompanied by the divine ambrosia, Kingfisher beer. Then comes the bill.

The bill contained contained the price of food, drink, tax and the least expected, a flat 15% tip. I'm not a frequenter of Indian restaurants in america, but I'm not sure if this is the case in all such restaurants. The bill came out to be 100.64 or something.

First of all, pardon my ignorance about american coins. I'm ignorant for many reasons...I don't live in america, I'm not planning to live in america, I often use my debit card more than cash and finally I'm not interested in knowing about all those pennies, cents, nickels, dimes, quarters, half dollars and what not. So I pulled out a $100 bill (thankfully I know atleast the bills), and shoved my hand in my left pocket and got out a semi-fistful of coins, which had got accumulated since morning. Though I was not sure as death and tax that it would be precisely $0.64, but guessed that it must be around that and since the bill anyway contained 15% tip, I thought it should be fine.

The aged Punjabi aunty thanked us with a wry smile, collected the leather flap and left. We bid the cashier, who has a normally scornful at his customers, goodbye and left. Lokesh came in the end with saunf (mouth freshner) in his hand and I borrowed all of it, since I had drank beer and driving was my responsibility. Lokesh entered the restaurant again to get more saunf, he came back and asked me, "Didn't you the right amount for them?" I told him that I had paid them right, "It was $100.64, not sure about the exact change I kept, but it should atleast have 50 cents which should be good enough."

Lokesh described me what had happened inside for which I'm still confused if it was such an egregious mistake of mine or was the old lady in the restaurant was a cheapskate. He told that the old lady asked him why had we paid less. Then the cashier, it seems, intervened, counted and told him that it was OK. But Lokesh, not wanting to carry her curses, paid more coins to her and walked out.

Darn! People ask for money which we're not obligated to pay (though we always pay up) and crib for a shortage of a nickel or a dime.
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