Being Modern: Tipping

it is an ancient practice thought to date back to the Romans, but the act of tipping keeps finding new ways to create testing modern moments.

The dreaded silver dish in which your change from a bottle of beer appears. That telling pause on the doorstep after your pizza has been handed over. The fluorescent pen that highlights the words "SERVICE NOT INCLUDED" at the bottom of your bill.

Awkward.

An anachronistic throwback to the days of masters and servants? Possibly. An aberration in a free-market economy? You might have a point. Yet another grey area for the good folk of HMRC? Without a doubt. But beyond all that, you try to calculate 12.5 per cent of £77.85 after two bottles of house red.

Tipping, then. A modern minefield. And nowhere is this felt more keenly than when we are taken out of our comfort zone. And at no time are we taken further out of our comfort zone than when we are travelling – or, as we used to call it, going on holiday.

It starts before we've actually gone anywhere, with the act of changing money. Bureaux de change do not deal in small denominations. So we arrive at the other end with nothing appropriate to give that sweet old fella desperately trying to put our luggage on the trolley.

The taxi driver may fare better. If they're lucky and the price is right, there might just be a small gratuity available to spare upon arrival at the hotel. Which means, again, nothing for the doorman (a knowing "I'll see you later, [read name badge]" can work here) – and certainly nothing for the person who brings your bags to the room and then points to the bathroom while sharing such essential information as, "This is the bathroom."

Some people perfect the art of gracefully shaking hands while discreetly passing notes. They are all drug dealers or gangsters. For everyone else, here's a proper tip: buy old Turkish lira on eBay and hand one-million-lira notes to everyone. They're worth nothing, but by the time they find that out, you'll be gone.

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