Tipping In The Recession, Service Professionals Speak Out

The industries hit hardest by the recession are well known. They're usually involved in building things Americans can no longer afford (construction workers, carmakers, architects). Less talked about is the suffering of the tipping industries, the professions that rely on tips to survive.

The relationship between tipping and the economy has never been empirically researched, according to Dr. Michael Lynn, a nationally recognized tipping expert. But we do know that people with lower incomes tip less, people who are more price sensitive tip less, and people who perceive less value in a service tip less. And during hard times, there are lots more of all those people. In the words of Bernard Montpeirous, the head doorman at The Roosevelt Hotel: "Tips are an economic indicator. When people are making money, they're generous."

Tipping has become so bad in parts, that some service professionals have struck back. One Memphis waitress, tired of getting checks back with a big nothing on the dotted line, started photographing them and posting them to Facebook. A Brooklyn delivery man uses a similar tactic, uploading crappy tips to his blog 15 Percent. "This is for all the people who have been handed $80 on a $78 order and told 'keep the change,'" he writes. "Thanks ass-hole."

Other tip-receivers who feel slighted can vent their rage on Lousy Tippers or, if they're a food server, Stained Apron, where celebrities with loose purse strings get honored (e.g. Bill Clinton, Robin Williams, and the Village People) and the frugal ones get shamed (e.g. Whitney Houston, Al Gore, and The Rock).

AOL Jobs spoke to a cross section of the tipping industry to hear their tipping tales, and remind the world how much these individuals expect in gratuity. It may be hard to be generous in difficult times, but it's even harder to be the one relying on that generosity.

Bernard Montpeirous, head doorman at The Roosevelt Hotel

AOL: How much should you tip a doorman?

BM: $1 a bag. But I'll take anything these days. I'll take change.

AOL: How has tipping been in the last few months?

BM: Lately it's been like a roller coaster. But we [New York doormen] have had two hits. First there was 9/11. There was just no tourism after that. I claimed bankruptcy... you can quote me on that. And then there was the economic crash. I actually wrote a book on it, The Revolving Door. It's coming out next year.

AOL: Is it getting better?

BM: Now the business traveler is coming back, which means companies are paying their people to travel. But the whole tipping industry is still struggling.

AOL: What's the biggest tip you've ever received?

BM: $100.

AOL: How'd you get such a big tip?

BM: Smiling, getting him some recommendations. And he was a celebrity.

Simon Peach, bartender at Angelo and Maxie's Steakhouse

AOL: How much should you tip a bartender?

SP: A buck or two bucks. Whatever's appropriate.

AOL: How much do you tip bartenders?

SP: I don't go to bars.

AOL: What's the biggest tip you've ever received?

SP: $100. It was a couple who came in and ordered two drinks in the afternoon.

AOL: What's the most generous time for tipping?

SP: Late fall, when it's getting towards the holidays.

AOL: Have you ever sought revenge on a bad tipper?

SP: No. That always comes back to bite you in the ass.

Alex Dorville, waiter at Barbounia

AOL: What should you tip a waiter?

AD: 20% if it's good service.

AOL: What's the best tip you've ever received?

AD: One party of about 15 people had $200 dollars gratuity included in the bill. The guy tipped another $400 on top. But that happens once in a blue moon.

AOL: Who are the worst tippers?

AD: Tourists. They don't know [how much they should tip] or they're faking they don't know. And tipping isn't a part of European culture. There you may give a dollar or two to be nice, but you don't pay for your service.

AOL: Who are the best tippers?

AD: The people with the black AmEx cards aren't necessarily the best tippers. The best tippers are the ones who come to New York for the weekend from New Jersey or Connecticut. And at dinner people tip more, systematically.

AOL: Have you ever sought revenge on a bad tipper?

AD: No. But if the tip's not appropriate, I'll approach them. They'll usually apologize, and say they didn't calculate it right.

Jane Choi, manicurist at Imperi Nails Spa

AOL: What should you tip a manicurist?

JC: 20-30%

AOL: What's the biggest tip you've ever received?

JC: $190. Their service cost $300. It was a big job - manicure, pedicure, waxing all over.

AOL: What's the most generous time for tipping?

JC: During the day, when there aren't many people around.

Kevin Tucker aka "Street," shoe shiner at Grand Central Terminal

AOL: What should you tip a shoeshiner?

KT: $2 to $5.

AOL: What does a shoeshiner deserve to be tipped?

KT: A lot more. I'm the best whoever did it and got away with it. My motto is "let me put a glow on your toe before you go." I tell jokes the whole time, so they almost don't want to leave. And the ladies walk by... a guy wants to stay up here and keep watching.

AOL: What's the best tip you ever received?

KT: $100 bill. I didn't know who he was at the time, it was seven at night, and dark. He had cream-colored shoes and had spilled coffee on them. I found out two days later that he was the chief of surgery at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. He was a professional recognizing another professional.

AOL: What's the most generous time for tipping?

KT: Around the holidays. All my regular customers who come all year round get their Christmas bonuses. And they see me still out here, in the heat, in the cold, in the snow.

Next:The Secret To Creating New High-Paying Jobs In America

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