King's Evangelical Divinity School

5 March 2010

Blog From America 13 (learning the hard way)

Staying at this plush downtown business hotel where the conference is being held. It's really nice: marble-floored lobby and walls, rich carpeting elsewhere, large plantpots with cactus and palms, and a lobby which rises literally 15 or so storeys high (the lobby is the core of the building, with the seventeen storeys built around it. Expensively-dressed business people everywhere. And of course this is America, where everyone expects to get tipped. By the way, I'm sure some Brits get a bad name over here  because they're unaware of how tipping works at restaurants. In the UK it's usually 10%, but sometimes it's added to the bill anyway so you don't bother. In some types of UK restaurants/cafes you don't even tip, or simply leave a token amount. But here in the US tipping is how waiters/waitresses make their income. Eating out is cheap here, but tipping 15-20% is pretty standard and generally expected. Yet a lot of Brits don't know this when they come here for the first time.

Anyway, in my hotel I was working away on my computer (brought lots of work with me) and didn't have time to go out, so I ordered a rather expensive hamburger and chips at $12.50. When it came, however, the bill was considerably inflated, with a $3 delivery charge, several dollars of tax and also a service charge tax of 15%, then the room service attendant expected a 20% tip (I suspect she was rather disappointed to get something somewhat more modest). So this hamburger came to a whopping $22-23. So I learned the hard way not to order room service here (I mean, I could have gone out and had a nice steak for that). But I'll tell you what, it was a pretty good hamburger. Still, at that price it ought to be.

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