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Today's chat

Posted by Robin Abrahams  March 19, 2008 01:24 PM

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Is online here. Excerpt:

Didjit: I've heard the "official" restaurant tipping rule is 15-20% of the food total -- not including bar or tax. Generally, I'll just go from the total bill because most people seem to expect that. However, when splurging, the tax and especially the bar can be very large, and the tip alone becomes what you might normally spend for a dinner out. What's your take on this pre-tax pre-bar "rule"?

Robin_Abrahams: It's a way to be a cheapskate. If you're going to splurge, you don't then not splurge on the one thing that benefits someone other than *you*. Tip after tax, after bar bill, and at LEAST 15% if the service was adequate. As Barretta might have said in that 70's cop show, "If you can't do the tip, don't do the sip."

There was a lot of chat about shoe-removal, and some about clotheslines, on today's chat, so I'm going to open this post for comments if anyone wants to keep the party going.

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6 comments so far...
  1. Re: tipping - this topic gets tons of heated threads on the Chowhound boards (and I'm sure on all of the other dining-related boards out there.) Even though I've worked as a waitress, I'm a strict before-tax calculator - except that I'm not a very strict calculator, really. But before bar is definitely unacceptable.

    BTW, on an entirely unrelated topic, I'm nearly finished reading Alison Lurie's THE LANGUAGE OF CLOTHES, based on your reference to it here as "brilliant." I'm afraid I have to disagree - there's parts of a great book there, but it's painfully dated, occasionally self-contradictory, and she makes some utterly specious pronouncements about the psychology of certain forms of dress. It doesn't help that there are some glaring errors in illustration captions, including a Chinese robe being called a kimono - I find it hard to credit a discussion of language by someone who misuses vocabulary! In any case, it's definitely an interesting read, and I thank you for bringing it to my attention.

    Robin says: Interesting thoughts on the Lurie book! Of course it's dated in the details, but I still think her idea of considering fabric, color, cultural referents, and where on the body an item is located as the "grammar" of clothes is terrific. Can you give me an example of an "specious pronouncements about the psychology of certain forms of dress"? I don't necessarily disbelieve you, but I'd be interested to know what kind of thing you're talking about.

    Posted by allstonian March 19, 08 02:02 PM
  1. The problem of being asked when you will be engaged happens to me all the time as well!

    My boyfriend and I have been dating for 3 years and are moving in together when our lease is up in September. Even co-workers ask me when he's going to propose (well meaning of course, but it gets awkward to answer).

    We do intend to get married, but we'd like to wait until we have more money to contribute to a wedding. The pressure from friends and family is RIDICULOUS!

    Posted by Danielle D. March 19, 08 02:37 PM
  1. I am also a former waitress and I calculate the tip pre tax, but do include bar because well they still have to bring the drinks to me be it a diet coke or a martini. I am also a tough tipper because I know what the job is like I have done it and quite frankly you have to live up to the standards I held myself to when I was in that position. You take all things into consideration when tipping, their attitude and promptness of arriving at your table, how busy the place is, and if they check back, and do they take the universal hints of empty glass on the edge of the table as a hint to ask if you want a refill, empty plates do they check back for dessert or bill. And if you get the bill and put the cc out visible do they just walk by 10 times before taking it.

    Robin says: Interesting! I assumed former waitstaff would be the most generous tippers. I can see your perspective, though. You should be a trainer! You'd be like the scary drill sergeant whipping raw recruits into shape.

    Posted by Sally March 19, 08 02:54 PM
  1. Hmm...examples of "specious pronouncements." I was deeply bothered by her psychological theory of taste in colors, and her comments on color in underwear - specifically bras - are just plain weird. I would have to sit down and carefully go through the book to find more detailed examples.

    By the way, I'm with Sally - my own waitressing experience made me a more generous tipper for good service, but also a more critical consumer of that service. For instance, there's a big difference between service that is slow becuse the place is packed and the staff are hopping, and service that is slow because things are quiet and the staff are all hanging out at the service area chit-chatting together.

    Robin says: She rather assumes--Lurie, not Sally--that buying bras is easy, and that whatever you wear reflects your personal taste, and not what's available and affordable!

    Posted by allstonian March 19, 08 03:44 PM
  1. "that buying bras is easy"

    Buying them *is* easy. Buying them without breaking the bank is not. :) Also buying bras when you are "generously proportioned" is a lot harder than you would think it is. Especially if you want something other than a white "matron" bra. *sigh*

    Robin says: Hey, this thread was supposed to be about SHOES. Who hijacked it to bras?! Anyway, Kate Harding at Shapely Prose has a good thread about bras for the better-endowed ladies out there, with a a lot of helpful comments from readers:

    Even if you're perfectly, statistically average, it's still a huge nuisance. Bras and jeans are the two things I HATE to shop for ... but you can't exactly go without them!

    Posted by Eeeeka March 20, 08 08:04 AM
  1. I would like to respond to the question about guests addressing their own thank you note envelopes at a shower.
    I agree this is tacky and shouldn't be done. As an alternative, what one of my bridesmaids did for me that was incredibly helpful is that she bought the notecards and addressed them to all the guests and gave them to me as a gift at the shower. I thought that was an excellent gift; it didn't impose on the guests to address their own envelopes and it allowed me to get my thank you notes written and out the door with a week of the shower. It made the task so much simpler to complete and the whole process went so much more quickly.
    Any thoughts on this approach from an etiquette standpoint?

    Robin says: Yes, I like it! In fact, may I use it as a "My Word"? Just comment back with your name and whether or not you'd like to be named in the MW or anonymous. (I won't publish that comment.) Thanks!

    Posted by Abby March 20, 08 10:16 AM
About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at

Who is Miss Conduct?

Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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