Tuesday, August 21, 2007

To Tip, Or Not To Tip, That Is The Question

When we first arrived in India we were beholden to the restaurants that delivered for our survival. At that point we continued the American practice of tipping between 15-20%. We were informed by a good friend that even 10% is considered generous. Since then Uday has come into our lives, now we order out about once a week. So, for the last 7 months when our food is delivered we have tipped 10%. Sometimes the delivery boy looks very surprised, usually they look happy, once in a while they look guilty.

A few weeks ago when our McDonalds arrived, a manager had come along for the ride. He politely explained that tipping is not encouraged. Apparently there were fights at the restaurant over who got to deliver the food every time a call came in from our address. "Please!" he said, "you must stop tipping, it is causing me many big problems." I apologised to him and to the delivery boy who would not be getting his tip and slunk back into my house. Since then I have stopped tipping the McDonald's delivery boys.

Yesterday I went to the Indian version of a supermarket. Every time I go I buy about 10 bags full of stuff. Some poor kid grabs all 10 bags and goes out into the street and finds my car. It is not an easy street to navigate because it is always packed with traffic and there are no sidewalks. I usually give this brave soul Rs. 100, or $2.50. Lately I have noticed that when my shopping cart is almost full, the grocery baggers start jockeying for position to get me into their lane. I really didn't think it was a big deal. But once again I was approached by the manager. This one was neither so nervous, nor so polite. "You must stop giving the boys money!" No explanation, just the order. Perhaps this was all his English would allow, but I doubt it. Either way, when we made it to the car I didn't tip the young man who had carried out all of the groceries.

Today, however, I am wondering if I did the right thing. It is my natural inclination to follow the rules, but if $2.50 is enough to make a measurable difference in the week of these boys, should I stop giving it to them just to avoid inconveniencing the managers? I honestly don't know. So I am asking you, what do you think?

9 comments:

Rachel said...

Of course, I don't have to deal with the irate managers so my answer is simple. I say continue. I don't know how it works in India, but in Mexico the boys that bag the groceries do not actually get paid. They are allowed to work there and they even have uniforms but they work purely for tips. They have no salary. If it is the same instance in India then I say tip the poor hardworking little guys! As I said before---I don't have to deal with the grumpy store managers. Ultimately it depends upon your own comfort level.
By the way, I'm enjoying your blog immensely.

Toni said...

I think I would consult Uday. Maybe it causes problems you don't see. But I agree that the boys are working hard (especially the grocery boys), their life is hard, and I know I would love to tip them to help make their life a little easier.

I say, definitely consult with someone in the know that you trust.

Someone Who Stopped By said...

Can I leave a comment if I don't have a google account? Why yes! I can!

Aunt Carol said...

I agree with Toni, talk to Uday. If I see a newpaper article "McDonald's delivery boys fight to feed americans". I will know you started tipping again.

We are off to Hawaii, next year maybe India. Aloha

shauna said...

My natural inclination would be to continue, but Toni might be right--it may cause unforeseen problems. It can be difficult getting used to another culture. I had the opposite problem working at the Polynesian Culture Center (PCC) in Hawaii. I would take this Japanese tourgroups that would all want to tip us at the end of the tour (sometimes $1/each). For a poor struggling college student this was a welcome gesture. However, the PCC didn't want us to accept tips. It was extremely hard to turn the tips down because it would offend the tourists who couldn't quite understand why we wouldn't take their money. (And, quite frankly, many of the tourguides couldn't quite understand either...) Good luck!

bombaygirl said...

I remember when we used to live in India (way too long ago!), we would always give a tip to anyone who helped us carry bags, luggage, etc. Even now, when I go back for a visit, I always tip. But its usuallya only about Rs.5 or Rs.10 It is just a few pennies per american stds, but it is acceptable to the guys helping us. If they want more, they will usually hem and haw, and shuffle their feet, and grimace a little, then I will give them a little more.
If I were you, I would continue tipping, just not as much as you have been!

Mrs. Smith said...

Thanks Bombaygirl! I wrote this post a while ago, but I still feel guilty whether I tip or not. BTW welcome to my blog, I think this is the first comment of yours I have seen. How long ago did you live here? Were you born here?

bombaygirl said...

I found this site a couple days ago through a link on comment on Chris's "Notes from the Trenches." I stayed and read your entire blog...it made me a little homesick. It was interesting reading an "Indian" blog from an outsider's point of view. I was born in Bombay, but my family emmigrated when I was 14. I still have relatives there so I visit every now and then.

Paul said...

Who knows, they could be using the money to smoke pot! You should have asked the manager why he told you not to tip the kids.