Tips, backsheesh

If you are in a hurry, and want to discover what prompted this post, then I suggest you cut to the final paragraph. I have always had a dislike of tipping. I first came across it in the 30s, when I discover that the father of a friend of mine was a floor manager in the Ritz hotel in London, and that the staff under him did not receive a wage, but indeed gave a percentage of their tips that they received to him. I also discovered around that time that the managers and owners of restaurants considered that the tips the waiters and waitresses received were part of their wages, and it was up to them to give the service to get the heavier tips. Recently I have seen relatively modern American films where anyone opening a door, closing it, or providing a simple service, stands about and waits to be tipped as a right. The logic of this is so amazingly stupid. If people are demanding the level of service that an upmarket hotel has to offer, and they wish to dress in their night attire and have a late supper in their suite or room, instead of having to dress up to go to the restaurant, the price for the meal and presumably the service, will be on their bill, so why should the waiter stand about for a tip for just bringing up a prepared meal in the lift? What is he paid for? Or like in the old days, has he to live on his tips?

When I worked as an engineer supervising the laying of miles of steel and concrete pipes, I often would be dressed in a highly expensive, beautifully cut sweater, which my then son-in-law, an extremely successful professional golfer, had kindly given me from his vast store of freebies. It used to give me cynical amusement to realise that at the end of a day, when we, the combined force, consisting of the workmen, the Foreman and me, had achieved a laudable increase in productivity, that none of us received any recognition in any form, let alone goodies; while my son-in-law was eligible for freebies in a number of categories, because he was both successful and permanently on show. Nobody ever asked me how the job was going, but they were quick to ask me how my son-in-law was doing in the current tournament. It is no wonder that politics has slid quietly into sport.

These thoughts all started because I was discovering that banks, of which some are partially now government-owned, in many cases are being bolstered by money from the Middle East. It seems only yesterday that there was the most frightful row because a plane manufacturer had, through traditional necessity, provided some of the Arab officials with what can only be termed baksheesh. As long ago as I remember, this was a recognized conduct in more than just the Middle East, but particularly there. I once had to turn away bottles of whisky and turkeys on Christmas Eve, delivered by a contractor, because we on the job were civil servants. I just wonder if these associations are going to create similar, national differences, in the approach to the conduct of business, and how the provision of oil will marry with these arrangements.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *