Donald MacInnes: Here's a tip – when in the US be generous with your gratuities

In The Red

Having been visiting my sister in a shimmering suburb of Miami this week, my perspective on this final approach to Christmas has been skewed somewhat. It's been 79 degrees every day since I landed with squadrons of mosquitoes desiccating me with glee.

It's getting so that every time I hear Perry Como urging Mother Nature repeatedly to "Let it Snow", I have to fight the desire to rip every speaker from every wall of every store I enter.

Even in The Gap. No, especially in The Gap. Back home, you may be sick of Slade, Cliff and Shakin' Stevens, but trust me – it's even harder to be festive in flip-flops.

On the other hand, while it may land me in jail, at least the removal of those Gap speakers would allow my traumatised debit card some respite from the relentless pummelling it has been forced to endure.

Mind you, I lay the blame for its suffering not at the feet of the well-heeled American shopping mall, but at the madness that is tipping.

My girlfriend tells a story of how she and her friends were once chased down the street in New York by a waitress who was less than enamoured with her tip. She then frog-marched one of the group to an ATM and stood at his shoulder (slapping a rolling pin against one hand, I should imagine), while a more acceptable gratuity was handed over.

Extreme, yes... but it's worth remembering that this unseemly event took place back in the financially far more pleasant mid-90s, when "economic downturn" simply described the action of rolling a 2p piece into one of those coin waterfall machines at the seaside amusements.

I shudder to think what the waitress' reaction would be today.

My girlfriend related this terrifying tale to an American friend of ours at lunch last week.

He was aghast. Not because her friends had been the subject of some gratuitous violence, but that they had tipped only 8 per cent in the first place.

"Do you realise that these people make, like, a third of the minimum wage?" he spluttered, as he handed me the leatherette bill holder.

"A THIRD?" I spluttered, passing the bill on to my girlfriend.

In spite of this shocking remuneration, nowhere on earth will you find people who do their job with more bounciness and genuine skill.

Yes, their perma-grins frequently bring out the cynic in we world-weary Europeans, but goodness me, if someone is willing to bring you a triple Humpty Burger with everything (and do so while listening to Perry Como all day), you have to hand it to them – 20 per cent, that is.

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