BACK, BEEN AWAY. Been to Italy. I went strictly for the fun of it, but when I got there I ran into other American journalists and they were all working - reporting on things like the rise of communism, the fall of the lira and the general malaise apparent from the better hotels and four-star restaurants. I thougt, therefore, that I, too, would devote at least one column to the state of Europe, particularly as it most affects Americans. I'm talking about tipping.
I did my reporting. I went to restaurants forcing myself to eat native dishes like pasta. I hung around hotels and cafes, toured the ruins solely so I could interview tour guides and even had dinner with highe American officials who considered the subject of tipping so sensitive they would not allow their names to be used. Here is my report:
Observers in Italy say you should tip everyone you make eye contact with, everyone in uniform who passes your table in restaurants, anyone in your hotel who is not a guest and anyone who can make you feel guilty. As one observer put it, "If it moves, tip it." These are general guidelines.
In hotels, anyone who enters your room without knocking gets a tip. If they say, "scuse" they get a bigger tip. All hotel workers who wear stripped aprons get 6 per cent of your daily room bill. Men wearing white get 7 per cent and anyone with epaulettes get 15 per cent. At the theater, he person who shows you to your seat gets 22 per cent of the cost of the ticket, except in France where he gets to insult you and use your car during the performance of the show. This is a local custom.
In restaurants, the captain is tipped, the headwaiter is tipped, the busboy is tipped and the man who comes to your table to take your picture is waved away, but tipped. It is considered polite but not necessary to go into the kitchen and tip the salad man and the head chef. In the restroom, you tip the person who sits by the sink doing nothing. As a general rule, you give these people the same tip you gave the person who appeared from nowhere wearing part of a military uniform and who cleaned your car window in the rain. You give this person 10 per cent of the model number of your Fiat.
All waiters are tipped. You give the waiter 10 per cent of the check unless, of course, he tells you in perfect English that service is included in the bill. In that case, local custom demands that he get a 15 per cent tip. Waiters who are efficient, friendly and who speak some English should receive modest tips. Waiters who are inefficient and belligerent should be tipped excessively, lest they become anti-American and vote "communista" in the next election.
Cab drivers are always tipped. All cabs drivers with living relatives in Pennsylvania get 10 per cent of what's on the meter. If they don't use the meter and make no mention of Pennsylvania or any other state, they get 6 per cent of the mileage on the odometer. Tips are not given to cab drivers who sing Volare, who knowingly take you to a museum that is closed for the fest of the Miraculous Butterfly (rough translation) or who insist on taking you by Gina Lollobrigida's house. Cab drivers who make menacing sounds and leave you off far from your destination in an area of hopelessly twisting streets that lead nowhere are to be tipped well - and thanked.
On checking out of your hotel, you give 2 per cent of your bill to anyone you have not seen before but who can provide documentation that he works for the hotel. You give 4 per cent to the person who up to now you thought was a guest hanging out in the lobby and you give a small something to anyone who smiles at you. Failure to do so will result in a delayed departure for your plane or a general strike, depending on factors too complicated to go into here. On the way to the airport stop at the electric company to tip the nice people there (they, too, have provided a service) and if there are any men repairing the roads, you should tip them as they drive by. Observers say 50 lira is enough.
As a general rule, tip double the amount you would in America the first week of your trip and then half that amount in your second week when you realize that you are running out of money. Always increase the tip when someone looks dissatisfied and triple it if it looks like you're going to get into an argument. Always ask hotel employees about their days off so you will be sure you don't miss them when you check out. If need be, put a small ad in the local paper informing everyone of your next stop so that you can be contacted by persons you might have missed.Failure to do so will again result in these people voting "communista", thus threatening NATO and the American Way of Life.