Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Tipping Tip

So this one is a quick tip and a social service message for all my friends in India (and in other countries where the labour laws are not that strongly implemented in the unorganized private services sector).

I belong to a generation of restaurant goers who use credit cards to pay bills when they cross a certain mental threshold of the bill. And then we generously tip the servers/waiters for the service that they provide (irrespective of whether it was good or bad). Such tips are typically paid by rounding of the amount on the bill.

The Tip Paid on a Credit Card

The message of this blog post is – it is bad to tip the waiter through your credit card. You should ideally just pay cash. Here is why -

Time value of money – Cash in hand for the waiter is better than cash written in the tip amount of your credit card payment. Not only is it a big administrative hassle for the waiter to track and get it back from the restaurant owner, but also the value of the money goes down as the waiter receives it only at the end of the month or quarter or when the owner things she should give it to the waiters.

Unfair distribution – Depending on what rule the restaurant has – the tip amount might equally get distributed across all waiters (or split based on seniority, number of hours worked etc.). But when I tip, I tip for the service that was provided by my server, not by the servers at other tables! Besides, if the restaurant has a policy of quarterly distribution of tips, and your waiter leaves the restaurant midway, she might not even get the tip that you gave her!

Credit Card Transaction Fees – Every credit card gateway charges a transaction fee. This fee is typically in the range of 1.5% to 2.5% of your total amount. So if you tipped the waiter 100 rupees, the poor person will only receive – 97.5 to 98.5 rupees. The rest of your tip goes to Visa, MasterCard or Amex.

Owners might get creative – I know of owners who charge administrative fees on tips, or just outright pocket the tip amount without giving it to the waiters. In poorly regulated labour markets (like in India) there are no strong labour laws for waiters.

So next time when you are tempted to round off your credit card bill and pay the waiter a tip, just put a “0.00” there. Then reach for your wallet and keep a few notes for the waiter to get instant gratification and continue to provide service with a smile and satisfaction!

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Omniscient Bai

There is a phenomenon called “Bai” (or Kaamwali bai to be precise) in India. Technically she is just a maid. But calling her a maid is like calling a Ferrari a transportation vehicle. Every Indian household has one. And she is the one person that the entire household is dependent upon.

The bai that comes to our place is no different. She has been around since the time before I was born. She has her own set of client houses that she visits everyday.

Now, not only does she take care of the cleaning stuff, but also she is a free advisor, consultant, fortune teller and a gossipmonger amongst all the homes that she visits. She is the one person that has answers for everything under the sun (and beyond). So be it politics, inflation, health problems, property problems or just a bad hair day – she will necessarily have a remedy to fix everything (Mind you – it doesn’t necessarily work, but she would get offended if you argue or not listen to her). Kinda like the garbage-man from Dilbert.


Besides, she will make sure that she gossips about every other home that she visits. I practically know the nuances of each of her clients. Someone’s kids are dirty, some are lazy, while others are plain rude. Of course she takes care that she would never praise anyone. So everyone is bad, evil, ugly or dirty. Also she goes to great extend to graphically describe the bad physical attributes of everyone she knows.

I sometimes wonder what she must be saying about me to her other clients. My profile would probably something like – he is lazy (cause she always notices me sitting in front of the computer), healthy (Healthy is an Indian euphemism for – fat), dirty (yeah my room is not amongst the best places to visit in our house) etc.

And since she visits everyday, she practically knows what goes on in the house. Who comes, who goes, what gets bought and what gets disposed off. Sometimes I feel like she is a part of a government agency with the sole purpose of keeping a watchful eye on all citizens!