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Pocketful of dough
October 10, 2008 6:05 AM   Subscribe

Pocketful of dough - an article on where the art of, er, tipping up front can get you. Originally printed in a year 2000 edition of Gourmet. Via Juicy Tidbits.
posted by nthdegx (59 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ah, the year 2000...back when people actually *had* pocketfuls of dough to spend on things like bribing maître d's.

I remember it well...
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:29 AM on October 10, 2008


Granted, Minneapolis is not New York, but I actually did this myself and breezed into a chic steakhouse. On Valentine's Day. With NO reservation. Only took a pair of palmed twenties.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 6:31 AM on October 10, 2008


You only have a table underneath the giant pointing sign that says "UGLY PERSON?"

Well, perhaps this RON PAUL LIBERTY DOLLAR might speed things up?
posted by Damn That Television at 6:31 AM on October 10, 2008 [10 favorites]


I would not patronize an establishment that only let me in with a bribe.
posted by DU at 6:36 AM on October 10, 2008


This was interesting. Like the author I always vaguely assumed this took place somewhere, done by someone, but I'd never myself dreamed of doing it.
It also shows how, when first the transaction becomes an ingrained process, it is very easy to do, and I'd assume very difficult to willingly forgo.
The trouble with bribes is it shortcircuits the process of transaction of services and makes a process opaque when it is in the public's interest to keep it transparent.
posted by Catfry at 6:38 AM on October 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


I would not patronize an establishment that only let me in with a bribe.

Well make reservations in advance, then.
posted by inigo2 at 6:46 AM on October 10, 2008


That was interesting, but at the same time it imparted exactly no information other than, yeah, it works.
posted by Bookhouse at 6:46 AM on October 10, 2008


I prefer to think of it as pre-tipping rather than bribery.

See also Going on on midweek nights and tipping heavily, use of the phrase "I'd be most grateful if..." when you hand over the first note, and remembering names.

Pre-tipping: Accepted at millions of places worldwide. Not just restaurants.
posted by mandal at 6:47 AM on October 10, 2008


Well, then there's this.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:49 AM on October 10, 2008


Well, I'm against tipping too....
posted by DU at 6:51 AM on October 10, 2008


Thank goodness for Mickey D's
posted by notreally at 6:58 AM on October 10, 2008


DU: I would not patronize an establishment that only let me in with a bribe.

inigo2: Well make reservations in advance, then.

Quod erat demonstrandum.
posted by Smart Dalek at 7:03 AM on October 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


But just as your grandfather taught you, it's still a good idea to slip the pastrami guy a dollar at Katz's Deli.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:35 AM on October 10, 2008


huh. people like money? go figger.
posted by sexyrobot at 7:38 AM on October 10, 2008


Hey, you like money!? I like money too. We should hang out.
posted by rusty at 7:57 AM on October 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


The deed had been done with such effortlessness, such quotidian blaséness, that my friend was nonplussed.“It feels so normal,” she said.

on·plussed [ nòn plúst ] 1. confused: surprised, confused, and uncertain what to do or say

It really begs the question whether or not that writer has a dictionary.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:58 AM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Given the size of the crowd and the length of the wait, I decided to reach for my right pocket. I waited until the man behind the podium was alone (Rule No. 6) and rested my left hand lightly on his back. Suddenly, I was Fred Astaire and he was Ginger Rogers. He knew exactly what to do.

This seems a little creepy. I'm not sure how exactly that would work.
posted by smackfu at 7:58 AM on October 10, 2008


It'll be good try whenever I do have a twenty to spare... much less being able to eat out at a fancy place.
posted by blahblah at 8:04 AM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have always had more success at this sort of petit bribery in NYC than I have in other places (in the US, anyway). It may just be that places in New York have much higher volumes of people, and thus they're occasioned to "pre tipping" more often and don't look askance at it, or perhaps it's some subtle cultural thing.

But it's always amazed me how different the experience of, say, checking into a hotel and having your luggage put into storage can be if you take the straight-and-narrow path (involving a lot of standing around in line and waiting for the staff to have nothing better to do than deal with you) versus finding someone and tipping them heavily, effectively hiring them to get it done for you.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:08 AM on October 10, 2008


I always vaguely assumed this took place somewhere, done by someone, but I'd never myself dreamed of doing it.

That's how I felt when I watched someone "tip" Brooklyn police officers into not breaking up a huge loft party where there was an unlicensed cash bar. (I didn't see the cash change hands, they stepped into a closed room with the owner, then left abruptly. "What do you think just happened," he said.)
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:09 AM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


The deed had been done with such effortlessness, such quotidian blaséness, that my friend was nonplussed. “It feels so normal,” she said.

non·plussed [ nòn plúst ] 1. confused: surprised, confused, and uncertain what to do or say

It really begs the question whether or not that writer has a dictionary.


I'm not sure I understand your comment. The writer used used nonplussed correctly: his friend was surprised and confused about the normality of bribing. Are you just making a joke about people using the phrase "begs the question" incorrectly?
posted by demiurge at 8:33 AM on October 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


As someone who's worked in Manhattan bar where it's next to impossible to get a table weekend nights, pre-tipping, if that's what you want to call it, is ridiculously common. However, and maybe it's just the nature of the place I worked, there's something about pre-tipping that's always turned me off. If you can make eye-contact with the person and see that they're going to take care of you... That's enough. If that same someone slips you twenty up front, all the better. But some guy making a big deal out of it, some guy who who you don't trust beyond the money, that's a good way to get screwed. The guy slips you a twenty up front and then doesn't take care of you later, and, well kid, it's your own goddamn fault for being greedy. I've routinely handed grease-money back or, if that proves to be impossible, pocketed it and let the guy hang. Hands down the best way to get a table, at least with me, was to appear like a decent human being who had a few bucks to burn. However, we didn't have hosts and hostesses and such, so I suppose that's a completely different ball game, as they're probably not pooling tips with the actual wait-staff.
posted by Football Bat at 8:45 AM on October 10, 2008


I remember reading this before, but it was good to see it again. Proper "pre-tipping", as he describes, seems to be a lost art.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 8:46 AM on October 10, 2008


In Budapest, I read an English language business newspaper that claimed, semi-jokingly, that the problem with all the young people and new businesses is that they have no idea how to properly bribe anyone.
posted by The Whelk at 9:21 AM on October 10, 2008


demiurge: with the original meaning of nonplussed, the person would have been speechless, and therefore unable to reply with “It feels so normal.” The supposed meaning, of unruffled, is gaining traction with the non-prescriptivists.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:56 AM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


with the original meaning of nonplussed, the person would have been speechless, and therefore unable to reply with “It feels so normal.” The supposed meaning, of unruffled, is gaining traction with the non-prescriptivists.

You're just wrong here. It may be true that some people are misusing the word to mean "unruffled." This isn't an example of that misuse at all. The friend is indeed surpised/confused/uncertain what to say. He's saying "wow; it feels so normal; I had no idea it would; how strange."
posted by Perplexity at 10:14 AM on October 10, 2008


nonplussed |nänˈpləst| (also nonplused)
adjective
1 (of a person) surprised and confused so much that they are unsure how to react : he would be completely nonplussed and embarrassed at the idea.
2 informal (of a person) not disconcerted; unperturbed.


Whichever reaction you attribute to his friend, the authour used it correctly. Stupid Janus words.
posted by Lemurrhea at 10:32 AM on October 10, 2008


informal = not "correct," similar to how "begs the question" has comet o be used.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:46 AM on October 10, 2008


Nonplussed about nonplussed.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:50 AM on October 10, 2008


I can't believe you like money too! We should hang out.
posted by Clave at 11:13 AM on October 10, 2008


Perplexity: ...uncertain what to say. He's saying...

eponysterical.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:14 AM on October 10, 2008


I have never heard nonplussed misused that way in Britain. We misuse plenty of words, but I've never come across that one.
posted by nthdegx at 11:21 AM on October 10, 2008


Well, I'm against tipping too....

You don't believe in tipping? You know what these chicks make? They make shit.
posted by rokusan at 11:55 AM on October 10, 2008


You don't believe in tipping? You know what these chicks make? They make shit.

That's why I used to hit on them. An invitation to spend an evening with me exploring carnal delights was as close as I could come to giving them a winning lottery ticket.

Not many hostesses/waittresses play the lottery, as it turned out.
posted by maxwelton at 12:29 PM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Anybody know the Esquire or GQ (so confusable!) article from a few years back about the power of a 20? It can get you a hotel bathtub perfectly filled with ice in Vegas, etc. etc.
posted by knile at 12:33 PM on October 10, 2008


One time, at the Olive Garden, someone slipped me a five so that he could be seated faster. I didn't really know what to do with that. I didn't want to seat him any faster than anyone who'd come in earlier, 'cause that seemed unfair, but once a dude has stealthily slipped money into your hand, it's kinda hard to give it back to him without it being sort of embarrassing for everyone in the vicinity. ("Does that host think he's too good to be bribed at the Olive Garden?" "Does that guy think five dollars is something to jump for?" "When the hell is our table gonna be ready?")

So I left the fiver in the drawer of the host's podium, and seated the guy at the same time I would've if he hadn't tried to bribe me. I figured that if the guy came back later, enraged that his bribe had been ineffectual, I could always give it back to him. By the end of the night, I hadn't seen him again, so I used the five to buy a nickel-bag off one of the waiters.

And that's my shocking story of high-class rule-breaking in the wild world of chain-restaurants.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:35 PM on October 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


People I pre-tip on a regular basis:

Maitre d's (but only at a couple restaurants, I haven't been in the city much)
The cable guy
Our super
The cabbie taking my friend with too much luggage to the airport
Numerous airline check-in agents (this is a lot more delicate than in restaurants)
The kids working the gate at the go-kart place near my brother's place
The kid working the batting cages in queens
Hotel desk clerks
Bartenders (pay cash and give an extra-large tip on the first round of drinks - every time)

And that's just off the top of my head. In most cases its not bribery so much as showing that you're willing to pay more than the average joe customer in hopes of (read: not in exchange for) better customer service. I don't ask if I can get a business class seat, I just ask if they have any availability and hand them the money at the same time. If they don't, no biggie, thanks for checking, and hope I get the same girl next Thursday afternoon.

More often than not, though, you get taken care of when you take care of others first.
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:02 PM on October 10, 2008


Hey, you like money!? I like money too. We should hang out.

I don't know, I talk like a fag and my shit's retarded.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:05 PM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


The cable guy

Curious -- how much do you tip him? What sort of benefits does that get you? Quicker service? Extra channels?
posted by inigo2 at 1:14 PM on October 10, 2008


In most cases its not bribery so much as showing that you're willing to pay more than the average joe customer in hopes of (read: not in exchange for) better customer service.

I don't think this really is different from bribing. There is nothing that really guarantees that a bribe achieves the desired goal either, except for whatever social expectation there exists that the informal contract will be honoured.
A bribe is simply an amount of money being paid informally in addition to whatever offical procedure or payment is in place.

It occurs to me though that this interpretation of what a bribe is could be different in the USA? After all your system of tipping seems very much to be a socially enforced system of payment without any sort of lasting account of the transaction, and as such could fall under my definition of bribery which wouldn't really be true.

I guess this is heading in the direction of a discussion of definitions which is always boring..
posted by Catfry at 1:44 PM on October 10, 2008


Hands down the best way to get a table, at least with me, was to appear like a decent human being who had a few bucks to burn.

Yes, yeah and yup. Tipping (or 'pre-tipping') isn't always enough. You have to manage to not creep the host out as well. This means, generally, not being a creep. Your mileage may vary, but you will get mileage.
posted by elwoodwiles at 2:11 PM on October 10, 2008


Regarding uncleozzy's link, yeah, the dining culture in NY is very different from that in SF. It would never occur to me to tip here in SF, but seems really natural in NY. So maybe this isn't so much about dining out as it is about dining out in NY (and maybe LA, Vegas...)?
posted by danny the boy at 2:18 PM on October 10, 2008


The cable guy...
Curious -- how much do you tip him? What sort of benefits does that get you?

He fixes the cable?
posted by rokusan at 2:33 PM on October 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Tipping up front, eh?

There’s another name for that kind of thing. I believe it’s ‘tipping up front’ or something.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:33 PM on October 10, 2008


Well, I'm against tipping too....

You must be all for ingesting other people's phlegm, then.
posted by cmoj at 2:43 PM on October 10, 2008


Anybody know the Esquire or GQ (so confusable!) article from a few years back about the power of a 20? It can get you a hotel bathtub perfectly filled with ice in Vegas, etc. etc.
posted by knile

Was that the twenty dollar millionare ?
posted by HappyHippo at 2:57 PM on October 10, 2008


He fixes the cable?

But...that's his job? And (correct me if I'm wrong, please) unlike a waiter/waitress/etc., he's paid at least a living wage to do so?
posted by inigo2 at 3:59 PM on October 10, 2008


I don't think this really is different from bribing.

I don't think most people have any problem with bribing. It just doesn't work very well in the US for the classical things, like speeding tickets. Although you can usually pay your way out of that anyways, so I'm not sure it's practically different.
posted by smackfu at 4:17 PM on October 10, 2008


Another (PDF) article on being a $20 millionaire. This one you can read for free.
posted by smackfu at 4:28 PM on October 10, 2008


Here you go, from Esquire:
The $20 Theory of the Universe
The 20-Dollar Millionaire Hits The Road
posted by exhilaration at 4:43 PM on October 10, 2008


Oh god, I just read the full article (free here) of the $20 millionaire, and fuck that guy sounds like a douchebag. The second article is more of the same. Basically this guy asks for things from people in exchange for $20, that they most likely would've given a non-creep for free. Actually, they treated him like an asshole, but I guess that's what he was going for?
posted by danny the boy at 4:43 PM on October 10, 2008


yes, douchebag sounds about right.
posted by exhilaration at 4:54 PM on October 10, 2008


I thought it was interesting that it's easier to bribe normal people than it is to bribe the workers.
posted by smackfu at 5:10 PM on October 10, 2008


(OK, he's definitely a douche in the 2nd article.)
posted by smackfu at 5:13 PM on October 10, 2008


I always assumed this was commonplace--I was taught this skill when I was seven, and I frequently "pre-tipped" my little-league umpires. I had a .970 on-base percentage in 1983.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:32 PM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


It occurs to me though that this interpretation of what a bribe is could be different in the USA? After all your system of tipping seems very much to be a socially enforced system of payment without any sort of lasting account of the transaction, and as such could fall under my definition of bribery which wouldn't really be true.

If, returning to a restaurant within the same 10 days, or so, after leaving a good tip, one would realistically expect the same server (should one happen to encounter the same server) to give preferential treatment. The longer the elapsed time, the less likely the wait-person is to reasonably recognize you.

Same thing with a particularly bad tip, except that takes longer to be forgotten.
posted by paisley henosis at 10:14 PM on October 10, 2008


Nice work, article-finders!
posted by knile at 6:41 AM on October 12, 2008


What kind of asshole do you have to be to give somebody fifty bucks just to get a table?
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:26 PM on October 12, 2008


DU: "I would not patronize an establishment that only let me in with a bribe."

Metafilter: Only let in with a bribe.
posted by jckll at 1:13 PM on October 13, 2008


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