gratuity (noun) grah-'tü-ah-tE 1. something given voluntarily or beyond obligation, usually for some service.
Pavlov would be proud
Servers who kneel at the table get bigger tips, as do servers who write “Thank you” on their bills. Waitresses who draw a smiley face on their bills get bigger tips, but waiters who do the same get lower tips.
It's all semantics
Remember: Service charges are mandatory and gratuities are voluntary. Usually, voluntary gratuities can't be taxed. (Check the laws of the state where you're holding your meeting.) Service charges can be.
Work those figures into your budget
For example, banquet menu items, whether sold per-person or fractionally, are subject to applicable service charges and taxes — usually 20 percent to 30 percent of the F&B bill. Work those into your budget, or you might come up short.
Not truly American … but we do it best
Before the late 1800s, tipping in America was considered a faux pas and undemocratic. And in the early 1900s, the Anti-Tipping Society of America fought hard to have the practice abolished. Flash forward about 100 years, and Americans are among the best tippers in the world.
It has meaning
And not just as a compliment to your server. The word tip is believed to be an acronym for “to insure promptness.”
Tipping in other countries can be a challenge. If you're in a restaurant in Japan or Singapore, tipping is not expected. And in Iceland? Tipping is an insult.
More means less
Americans dining alone typically tip 20 percent. Add a friend, and the tip drops to 17 percent. If the group grows to five or more, the poor server only gets about 13 percent of the bill.
Chambermaid: $5 a night minimum
Room service waiter: 15 percent of the bill
Bellhop: $10 for bringing you to your room with luggage
Lobby attendant: nothing for opening door or calling taxi from stand; $1 or more for help with luggage or finding a taxi on the street
Restaurant server: 15 percent of bill; 20 percent for large parties and excellent service
Wine steward: 15 percent of wine bill
Taxi driver: 15 percent of fare
Skycaps: $1 or more per bag
Cruise ship cabin steward: $3 to $3.50 per day per person
Shoe shine: $2 for one pair of shoes
Sources: A Piece of My Mind, www.apomm.com/archives/apomms/tipping.htm; www.tipping.org; Kern, DeWenter, Viere, Ltd., www.kdv.com; Alliance LLC/MeetingsCoach, www.allianceellc.com; Jane Lasky, Universal Press Syndicate; www.tripsmarter.com/destin/info/tiptrivia.htm; Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration, researcher Michael Lynn; Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, www.m-w.com; MIMlist
Do you want to get the last word in? Send your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org