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Steve Douglas

Tipping is in the culture

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I can't believe that everyone here seems to be talking in terms of percentages. I really believe that a tip is only based on service and should never be a set amount that some cruise director or boat owner tells you you are expected to pay. Next time think about the amount of service you get, think about how much work you ahd to do on your holiday, if you ahve to carry your bags and do your schlepping then the tip should not a hueg one. However if you don't really have to lift a finger and have crew there to help at all times, then to tip should be a decent one.

 

It is very apparent that people from different countries and different age groups tip totally different. Americans as a general rule are the best tippers, though for all your Americans out there, tipping is not a "must do" in the rest of the world, don't feel obliged to leave a tip of any set %, give what you feel that particular trip as worth.

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Good, I am glad this thread came back to life, it looks like it died for a few months there...

 

DRK, come on I'm only a poorly educated dive guide, please put that in terms I can understand!

 

By going through this thread it sort of sounds like 5-10% of the trip rate works out to be a a sort of rough estimate for a tip. Though once more and I strongly believe in this -- any tip should only be based on service recieved, great service = great tip, poor service = poor tip, really bad or no service = no tip, we should never feel obliged to tip!

 

And Eric - at long last - well done! What ever you have done, its great to see that Wetpixel is now working quicker for those of us with very poor connection speeds.

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Yes, you're right, of course, and I'm not trying to generalize across the entire industry. I was only trying to say that I've seen it happen, and it would all be much easier if it didn't have to be the case that tips were so important in the lives of crew...

 

Yes, i agree - as i've worked for a few liveaboard companies i can hopefully say this without dropping anyone in it, but i once posed the same question about salary vs tips to a member of staff from higher up, to be met with the reply:

 

"you make enough to get a ticket out of here, if you dont like it, leave" Which is a valid point, but is not really conducive to getting people to work for the love of it! :D

 

Diving on British run boats on the Red Sea as a guest over christmas was a different and new experience for me, they said £5 per person per day, and the expat crew didn't want a part of the tips as they didn't do anything other than dive.

 

On the liveaboard owners side, these boats are getting more and more expensive to run, and to be quite honest this is probably the only way they can save some money as some crew are willing to work in the more glamorous locations, even if if they get a smaller salary.

 

But yes, it would be a much nicer experience for everyone, workers and pleasure seekers if the staff were taken care of by the company rather than the guests.

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Graham, i think we can all agree that tipping is definitely based on performance, it should not be a mandatory part of things at all. Same in restaurants, if i get a rude/obnoxious server they are def not getting much of a tip.

 

But, you must admit you probably get asked the "how much do i tip" question thousands of times on the liveaboards, i know i did. the 5-10% is a nice place to start as quite often people really are not sure and are just looking for an idea of where to start.

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Mike, I get asked this on just about every trip. I’m actually working on a package to go in the cabins which will cover this matter.

 

I always try and make a final speech the evening before departure so I usually go this issue so everyone hears the same thing, I tell everyone what I thought of the crew, if the crew were slack I don't say much regarding them, if they worked great and the chef worked cooked up great food, I say so, plus I usually go over some other stuff in there too, is all depends on the group, every trip is different and that is what is great about diving, it is adventure, we should go out diving with an open mind and a sense of adventure. Having said all that I do usually say 10% of the set trip rate is a good tip, however it is up to them. To me no one even has to know who tips what! I don't ask for names to be put on envelopes, I don't check who tips what, if someone wants to remain anonymous with what they tip then that’s OK with me, if you want to add your name so people know who tips what -- great! I don’t judge people by what they tip, if people tip low, it’s up to them, if I know a bad tipper I’m not going to give them bad service, everyone gets the same from me whether you are Joe Bloggs first time on the boat, first time diver or David Doubilet.

 

Interesting one for ya – I worked at one place where one of the owners would constantly go on about this person joining who is staying at this high end resort, paying X amount of bucks or this person is a very influential person. I’d be told the same thing “you really have to look after these as they are balh blah balh or what everâ€! Me, I gave the same answer always, “everyone gets the same service with meâ€, why should someone with more cash get a better service than some guy who may have worked much harder, saved up all his pennies to go on this very special and often very expensive dive trip? I kind of treat everyone the same, if Samuel Jackson comes over here to dive with me he gets treated the same, I am what I am and you are what you, we should all be there to have a good time!

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you betcha Graham, and that is key.

 

Everyone gets treated with the same level of top service no matter who they are. (and of course my unique brand of sarcasm...)

 

We even sent Wyland out into Papeete one night at 1130pm to look for beer as we were out.. hahahah

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Well done Graham..good words.

 

I was met with a 'sarcastic tip' when I finished a job a few years a go from an ex sergeant major..

 

He looked at me while signing the check and grinned.."Don't eat yellow snow, my boy"..

 

Advice better than any other cash bonus :D

 

I will tip if I think the jobs done right.. Or if exceptionally well, a large tip

 

Dive safe

 

DeanB

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I thought a "tip" was "something extra" and not a way to compensate for the avarice of dive center managers and liveaboard operators who are too lousy to pay their staff a decent salary.

 

I tip as a sign of appreciation because someone did something out of the ordinary, something extra without me specifically having asked for it. Example:

-I remember "Jinky" (she was a diveguide at Sipadan in Febr 2004) putting my name and those of a couple on the whiteboard for a dusk dive. We hadn't asked for it, but she wanted to show us something extra.

-Dhon (diveguide at Kapalai in Febr 2004) took me and that same couple apart to go watch the mating Mandarinfish.

 

On the other hand I don't think one should pay extra for the "standard" service offered (after all isn't that what you're paying for?). It's true that standard service differs from place to place: I remember that in the Seychelles I had to set up my gear, carry all of my gear to and back from the boat, ...I never complained. On the other hand at Lembeh Resort or Froggies Divers, everything is being done for you, I never complained either. It wasn't my decision to determine what the "standard service" was going to be like. That's the manager's job and I'm sure he/she'll will put a price on the level of service delivered. And if the manager doesn't want to share his profits/earnings in a fair way, then I wonder who has to solve it....? Some of us divers aren't loaded with money and have to work hard too to earn their little euros/dollars.

 

From my side I also put something in: respect for and interest in the local staff. Have a talk with them, joke with them. Sofar I've always been responded to with a smile and then tipping comes natural.

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I thought a "tip" was "something extra" and not a way to compensate for the avarice of dive center managers and liveaboard operators who are too lousy to pay their staff a decent salary.

 

Sorry there - I have to disagree with this comment... I see tipping as a way of showing your appreciation for the service given. It's just a sad fact that employee's in Asia will not give a worthy salary to locals. The worst part is that will give a westerner a big salary, though not locals, some of whom do a much better job. There are actually set salaries for locals, westerners and locals trained abroad. I have always believed that people should be rewarded according to the performance or service she/he does and not based on standard practices, this drives me nuts, hence I started to struggle working for others and now I could no longer work for someone else with this attitude towards salaries.

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I thought a "tip" was "something extra" and not a way to compensate for the avarice of dive center managers and liveaboard operators who are too lousy to pay their staff a decent salary.

 

Sorry there - I have to disagree with this comment... I see tipping as a way of showing your appreciation for the service given. It's just a sad fact that employee's in Asia will not give a worthy salary to locals. The worst part is that will give a westerner a big salary, though not locals, some of whom do a much better job. There are actually set salaries for locals, westerners and locals trained abroad. I have always believed that people should be rewarded according to the performance or service she/he does and not based on standard practices, this drives me nuts, hence I started to struggle working for others and now I could no longer work for someone else with this attitude towards salaries.

 

Hi Graham,

 

I'm sorry but I think you have to read my comment again because I think what I'm saying doesn't differ much from your opinion:

 

-you don't agree with the fact that locals don't get a worthy salary....that's exactly what I meant with "avarice of dive center managers and liveaboard operators who are too lousy to pay their staff a decent salary"

 

 

When I used "standard service" I meant something else than your "standard practice" that sets out the local salaries for a particular job in a certain area.

 

With "standard service" I mean is what the dive center manager or liveaboard operator decided to offer you in return of your money. As I mentioned, this differs from country to country, operator to operator. Let's say one dive costs 50 $. In one place this means you get a diveguide, a tank, weightbelt and boat ride, whereas in other places you also get people setting up your gear, carrying it to and back from the boat. But again it's the manager or operator or whoever employes the staff who sets out their job description of what they should do or not do for their salary.

From that point of view I don't get it that one should tip extra for the "standard service" that you've already paid for when you booked your trip. I will and I do tip when someone does something out of the "standard service". (see examples in my previous post)

When local staff gets paid peanuts, then where lies the problem?...If I'm not mistaken, it lies with the big (and/or smaller) bosses within the (diving) industry. The question arises then who should solve that problem? To my opinion it's the employer's duty to change the system and the burden should not be pushed onto the tourists to compensate for the low salary the employer is paying the staff.

Otherwise, how do we know when we book a trip what's included in the price: accommodation? diving? staff's salaries?.....

 

There are actually set salaries for locals, westerners and locals trained abroad. I have always believed that people should be rewarded according to the performance or service she/he does and not based on standard practices, this drives me nuts, hence I started to struggle working for others and now I could no longer work for someone else with this attitude towards salaries.

 

Again...the problem you are addressing here is something from within the diving industry. Who's to solve it: is it the greedy operators who need a change of mentality(who on the one hand charge "Western" prices to their customers and on the other hand only pay the local staff local salaries) OR are the tourists to pay for that issue.

I can tell you that not everywhere in the world that distinction between salaries for locals and westerners is made. I once had a job offer to work as a doctor in the Maldives and I would have got 1000$/month, which is the local pay for a hospital doc in the Maldives. On the other hand, that very luxurious resort was charging their guest "Western" rates...

 

As for a "tip": in dutch it's called "drinkgeld" (money that will buy you a drink)......if a "tip" means making sure local staff get a proper salary after all, then we'd probably need to start using another word and probably the diversity of opinions on how much one should tip would be less great.

 

For what it's worth anyway...

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Bartus,

As hard as it may be for you to accept, right or wrong (I happen to think it's OK), most people are driven by money, simply because they can then generally do more with their lives, and not just go and buy another drink. I happen to think it's quite condesciending to think that your literal translation of the word tip is actually what most people do with their tips.

I happen to be a physician too, and even in my office, there has been a sea change in efficiency and attitude since I introduced a bonus program a few years ago.

If dive operators increased salaries accross the board, there would not be one iota of improvement in service, in fact if salaries were increased, and tips were stopped, you could guarantee that service would actually deteriorate, as the crew would have no incentive to do any more than absolutely neccessary.

Furthermore if dive operators increased salaries, it would simply be passed on to you, the customer.

Think of it another way, your quoted price for the trip is simply the rock bottom price for the trip, and any tips, be they 5%,10%, or whatever, are simply the you, the customer's, way of honestly assessing the value of any services recieved above and beyond what is fair. Getting value for any product or service in life costs money as determined by the local market, getting more, costs more - a fact of life.

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Bartus,

As hard as it may be for you to accept, right or wrong (I happen to think it's OK), most people are driven by money, simply because they can then generally do more with their lives, and not just go and buy another drink. I happen to think it's quite condesciending to think that your literal translation of the word tip is actually what most people do with their tips.

 

 

Hi Loftus,

 

I have no problem with people being driven by money whatsoever...if I were in the business I'd probably try to earn as much as possible too.

 

I didn't mean to sound condescending with my translation of the word tip...I don't care what people do with the tips they received...with that translation I wanted to focus on the amount of money rather than the purpose it's spent on (it allows you to buy something in the magnitude of a drink, and not let's say a car..to put it in extremes). Before anyone starts shooting again lol...that literal translation dates back many decades ago...so you shouldn't take a "drink" (or it's equivalent in money) too literally, nowadays it would be a multiple of that original "drink"....

 

Again, I have nothing against tipping, far from, but my comments come as a reaction to what I've been reading in this thread and which almost make it the "norm" that you tip 10-15% and if you don't you'll be marked as cheap (as someone else mentioned)...and I certainly didn't mean that one should stop tipping at all.

Last time I asked a resort manager how much was reasonable to tip he said:"If you give too little it's an insult, but if you give too much they'll start thinking that that's the norm"...

 

Getting value for any product or service in life costs money as determined by the local market, getting more, costs more - a fact of life.

 

So, does that mean next time a patient comes into your doctor's practice, he'll have to tip (pay you extra) to get excellent (not just good) care. Do you have to tip your secretary each time you want to have a letter typed urgently? Do you pay your plumber extra for doing his job perfectly?

That almost creates the mentality:"Well, I can do the job just OK for 100$, but if you want to have it done perfectly you'll have to cough up 250$" :D

 

Why would you be opposed to local staff getting a proper salary from their employer? I honestly don't think that for the majority of people a raise in salary would mean a deterioration in the level of service they provide.

 

=========

 

 

Anyhow, having read this whole thread from in the beginning...the world comes with many different cultures and hence different views upon issues like tipping....but me paying a 10-15% tip, no way, Jose lol :D

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Why would you be opposed to local staff getting a proper salary from their employer?
A higher salary will not remove the expectation of tipping as the "norm" nor will it keep the service level high if tips are reduced or eliminated. It will only increase the divers costs. I am all for higher wages for those being treated unfairly, but not because I think it will eliminate tipping as the "norm" as you seem to be suggesting. Higher salaries will simply increase divers costs and many of us (the same ones who carry the tipping burden today) will still tip to ensure the service level stays high.

 

We are as much slaves to the culture of tipping as are the workers.

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I am all for higher wages for those being treated unfairly, but not because I think it will eliminate tipping as the "norm" as you seem to be suggesting.

Sorry, but in each of my comments I made it clear I have NOTHING against tipping (I even tip myself)...what I do have a problem with is that 10-15% would become the norm simply because that's the way it goes in the US. So, in my previous comment the stress was on the "percentage", not on tipping as common practice.

 

Higher salaries will simply increase divers costs...

maybe, probably...

But I'd rather have all the costs included initially when I book my trip, than arriving on location and being faced with an additional cost. Then diving agencies or liveaboard operators should simple state on their website "rates are for accommodation and diving only, service not included". It's just plain greediness from those on top in the tourist industry in general wanting to make the biggest profits by keeping all costs as low as possible e.g. by giving their employees an unworthy salary. Should I, or rather my tips, be the solution to a problem (boss vs employee, profits vs fair salary) that is in essence not even mine???? Would you be paying the car mechanic extra because you know his boss isn't paying him a proper salary, but yet you want to make sure your car is serviced properly?

 

To make the comparison to other fields of industry: Oxfam is trying to bring awareness about fair trade, trying to convince people to buy coffee that has been grown by farmers who get a fair price for their product rather than buying coffee from a big compay who pay the local farmers peanuts. Ok, this "fair" coffee is a more expensive.

So if other industries can re-distribute profits, why not the dive industry...? Yeah sure, it'll be a tough,

time-consuming process....

 

....and many of us (the same ones who carry the tipping burden today) will still tip to ensure the service level stays high.

I think it's a scary evolution if tipping is to ensure that service levels stay high. Being European I'd go for a proper salary to keep the standard high, and then a tip becomes "an extra" when you do something "extra".

 

We are as much slaves to the culture of tipping as are the workers.

Eventually the slaves broke free as well.....it's never too late to try and make a change...

Edited by bartusderidder

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Sorry, but in each of my comments I made it clear I have NOTHING against tipping (I even tip myself)
Then your comment "But I'd rather have all the costs included initially when I book my trip, than arriving on location and being faced with an additional cost" confuses me. Because today tips or gratuities are not mandatory, and if you'd prefer not to have additional cost after reaching your destination I don't know what you could be speaking about....other than tips.

 

To make the comparison to other fields of industry: Oxfam is trying to bring awareness about fair trade, trying to convince people to buy coffee that has been grown by farmers who get a fair price for their product rather than buying coffee from a big compay who pay the local farmers peanuts. Ok, this "fair" coffee is a more expensive.

So if other industries can re-distribute profits, why not the dive industry...?

I think this is an invalid comparison, if for no other reason than we can tip the dive guide but we cannot tip the farmer. But to take it at face value: the profits haven't been redistributed, you have only paid more money for your coffee so the farmer could receive a better price for his crop. The company or buyer is certainly reaping the same profit or more (probably more because it is inconcievable to me that all the extra money would go thru thier hands and onward to the farmer). In both this case and the case of tipping, nothing fundamental about the relationship between consumer and worker has changed. For the worker to receive better pay the consumer is paying more money. It is no different than a tip being paid to a dive guide in order for him to receive more money.

 

I think it's a scary evolution if tipping is to ensure that service levels stay high. Being European I'd go for a proper salary to keep the standard high,
For me, being a capitalist, I'd go for the best worker, the hardest worker, the most accomodating worker, having the opportunity to be remunerated according to his/her level of service. Forgive me...but I don't quite agree with unions or social-style economics ;) I realize that this **eat what you kill** philosophy isn't preferable to the European sensibility, but it does generate an incredibly malleable workforce (of course at the cost of a classed society).

 

And while I certainly wouldn't argue with your personal preference, my experience is that service in Europe, or better said certain parts of Europe, is not high. That's not a criticism but rather an example where the extra cost is not returned in service. In other words I think it is very important how the money is translated to the worker where the service or hospitality industry is concerned. We are going to pay the higher cost one way or the other, so my preference is to have some control over how and when it is applied.

 

Eventually the slaves broke free as well.....it's never too late to try and make a change...
Well, there is "free" and then there is "free", but that's a discussion for another time. In the end I don't disgaree with your sense of generosity but rather I disagree with what you believe will be the resulting level of service if regular tips are eliminated and instead only applied in special or "extra" circumstances.

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A higher salary will not remove the expectation of tipping as the "norm" nor will it keep the service level high if tips are reduced or eliminated. It will only increase the divers costs. I am all for higher wages for those being treated unfairly, but not because I think it will eliminate tipping as the "norm" as you seem to be suggesting. Higher salaries will simply increase divers costs and many of us (the same ones who carry the tipping burden today) will still tip to ensure the service level stays high.

 

We are as much slaves to the culture of tipping as are the workers.

 

DRK, you are assuming that the local culture is about tipping. Many countries don't have tipping in their local culture, yet service is good. The most cordial and pleasant service can be found in many parts of asia (thailand, philippines, australia) yet it is not a 10% minimum area. Been on any boats on the outer GBR in Australia? Top notch professional boats which appreciate tips (and now expect it from US customers) but provide professional service because they are well trained and also compensated for their expertise by their employers. Been to a 5 star hotel in Singapore, Malaysia or Thailand? Same service with a smile and well trained but again, no need to tip for excellent service, and they don't wait at the door or clear their throat for the tip. Sure in some restaurants, they include a service charge of 5-10% but that really goes to the restaurant (ever try saying the service was so bad I don't want to pay?) and not the staff.

We in the US are slaves to the tipping culture, no doubt. However there are cultures which are still '"free" from it, and as a visitor to a foreign culture, respect is for me an essential part of the experience.

 

Graham

You didn't like the wages the ol' Swiss bag was paying you? :) How shocking!

 

To be fair, foreign investment is about exploitation of the cheap labor/resources found in the host country. Dive companies are no exceptions to that rule. They know they got you since they are in a prime area and you need them. Capitalism is about maximizing profit, and that includes minimizing wages. What many of these countries need is a union for the staff for better wages. Now that would be fun to see.

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This is like the Mac vs PC argument. :)

Everyone should do whatever they feel comfortable with. I personally enjoy tipping, it's my way of saying thank you or screw you, depending on the service received. Just because some cultures provide great service without expecting a tip, does not mean I should not tip them in my opinion. In fact they are probably more deserving of a tip, because good service is not contingent on getting one.

And capitalism is also about 'what the market will bear'. Prices too high, people won't buy, whether the system is socialist or capitalist.

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Loftus

It's not an argument but a discussion on people's views on gratuities and how it affects various local cultures. In discussing it, hopefully it'll bring a new understanding of various cultures.

I do however find fault with your view regarding the "screw you" aspect. :) If the culture doesn't generally expect tips, then there is no 'screw you' effect that you would get in, for example, in the US. So instead of the tip, it's the complain to the manager system that works better.

The gratuity system is less effective in many cultures and often creates imbalances as I've mentioned in my previous posts. And the most important aspect is culture, in my opinion. Some cultures are just more courteous than others and it shows in the service. They may not be as polished and trained but a genuine demeanor is part of the individual and culture. And I hope something tipping will not change that.

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Drew,

Having travelled a fair amount; I have yet to travel anywhere where a tip was not happily received. Granted, I will tip in general in a manner that is proportional to the cost of living in the area I am travelling, but I think it is rather condescending to the individual to think that they will not appreciate a little extra cash that they can use for themselves and their families. I just like to say thank you; with a handshake, and a tip. Others may not.

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Drew,

Having travelled a fair amount; I have yet to travel anywhere where a tip was not happily received. Granted, I will tip in general in a manner that is proportional to the cost of living in the area I am travelling, but I think it is rather condescending to the individual to think that they will not appreciate a little extra cash that they can use for themselves and their families. I just like to say thank you; with a handshake, and a tip. Others may not.

 

Loftus, again I'm not saying you are doing anything wrong in tipping if that's what you want to do. All I'm saying is consider certain cultures are not into tipping and sometimes even forbid staff to accept a direct tip (I've seen this in quite a few places). So besides the consideration for locals who don't tip as a culture (thus possibly adversely affecting the service for the locals), such a "generous" gesture could get a person in trouble. Awareness of the local customs is obviously what this discussion is really about.

In my own travels, I've tried tipping people only to have them refuse it because they were just doing their jobs. Respect, cordiality and showing interest in the local culture often make the locals happy too, sometimes more so than money. Too many people use gratuities to offset manners and respect.

Obviously there is no absolute way of tipping. Being aware of the local customs and not applying our own cultural biases is a wise way to avoid insult and offense.

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Point taken; which countries and / or areas would it be considered offensive to offer a tip?

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Off the top of my head, several places stand out. Singapore frowns on tipping. It is a well known policy. A few private clubs forbid tipping of staff, instructing staff to refuse or get in trouble, same at Changi Airport for porters and ground staff. Hotels discourage it except for maybe bellhops delivering bags.

Northern Vietnam really stood out as a few hotel staff in Hanoi and Haiphong plan refused my tip whereas in Ho Chi Minh, it was acceptable to tip. Dive staff in Haiphong and Hongai(sp?) were great but didn't expect a tip, but the foreigner dive manager did (in his dreams!).

There's also the false modesty vs real refusal to consider.Then also consider the methodology in tipping. The Japanese prefer the envelope with a minimal gratuity for "beyond the call of duty" service instead of the "crude" handoff. Diving in Poor Knights, the dive guides accepted a small tip while the dive guide on the liveaboard looked at my friend with disdain, when offered a tip. Maybe it wasn't enough or maybe too much, or just maybe it is not in the culture. :)

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David... tipping cows just isn't Baksheesh (esp in India). :)

But no insult was meant with that statement, just how I read your post about slaves to tipping culture, which is quite widespread although not entirely standardized. Baksheesh isn't just a simple number but a heavily nuanced burden.

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Here in the States, we cannot tip the folks at the Publix grocery store who wheel the grocery bags to the car! :)

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