On such days when he was going to be working, he'd give me a $10 bill some time during the day. Later that night, I would wait until the line was good and long, and walk confidently up to the door. Upon arrival, I would hand him his $10 bill back and cruise on through, making sure the gesture was noticed by passersby.
Without fail, every time we pulled this little stunt, he would manage to make a decent haul off of people that were inspired by my brazen (though contrived) bribery. As far as I know, there was no real policy on the matter of bribing the doorman - the only real problem is having to fudge the occupancy for a few minutes - and for every incidental person over the limit, there was at least one outside smoking, so this was never a very worrisome problem.
If you ever wanted to know why corruption is so entrenched in many parts of the world, there is your answer.
Sure, in this case the bribing rule may be okay since they are all standing in line at an expensive restaurant and presumably could afford the $50 bribe. What if the rules were made public and now everyone starts to bribe the maitre d'? Imagine what that would do :)
I think the "level playing field" here is an illusion anyway. I can't afford to go to a $375/person restaurant with or without the bribe.
Although the book focuses on competitive video games it quickly establishes an important point that can be applied to nearly every situation in life: There are two types of people in a situation, "scrubs" who make up a subset of rules for the 'game' they are playing and those who understand the true extent of the rules.
One view I hold as a result of this thinking is my strong support for financial regulation. I was depressed to see so many people pointing fingers at wall street and talking about them being so immoral and corrupt. What they did was extremely damaging to society as a whole, but their motivation lies in winning their 'game' which is the money acquisition objective; and they pushed to the very border of what the rules were. Those playing the game came out very successfully; society may be crumbling around them, but they have their huge bonuses. Going angry-mob on someone for successfully achieving their objectives is just being a scrub. Most people talk about how they violated rules that don't exist: imaginary rules hiding behind noble sounding words like ethics or morality.
While the scenario can be depressing looking at it that way, it ultimately is accepting reality for what it is. This is how you can chart a path to actually deal with the issue; if you don't like the way the game is played, you have to change the rules.
But in my personal life it generally has a much more positive theme to it. I learn the rules of what is valued at my company; how much depends on social behavior and how much on productive output. I learn the rules of social interactions at parties and clubs; and adjust my behavior to maximize my gains. Even on Hacker News I learn the rules of what is acceptable as a quality comment, and what is not. I think this comment will get upvoted. It adheres to the values of adding to the discussion and providing new information... along with the always popular "personal advancment" story.
It's funny to me now seeing how many people fail at various 'games' in life simply due to not understanding the rules of the games. They fight against it, like a fish swimming upstream. If you don't even understand the rules of the game, how are you supposed to gain skill at it?
edit: Just to clarify, when I talk about the rules binding things like the financial system I do not mean the regulations alone (which may be broken through corruption as others have pointed out). Those rules are actually a subset; viewing them as absolute is scrub-talk. I am talking about the REAL rules of the game which includes 'shady' things like bribery.
No. In your framework, at least, this tactic is a move well within the "true extent of the rules".
Go to the bar early. Talk to the bartender, take $20 out of your pocket and tell him/her/them:
"Hey, this is for you. I don't have change and I want to tip, and I have no idea how much I'll actually drink... Thanks!"
I started doing this because I used to bartend and a lot of people skimp on tips at events or just don't have change at a cash-bar (who has a stack of $1 bills on-hand?). Its extra effective if there is a no-tipping policy.
The result: You'll always get a drink ahead of everyone else, especially when it gets a little crazy. They usually start pouring what you last ordered when they see you approaching.
Also, if there are more than one person it helps to have the conversation within ear-shot of any other bartenders. Feel free to introduce yourself too and give your name. Most 'drinkers' are meatheads so you stand out further.
However, if you're sitting there awhile at the bar with the same bartender and running a tab, it is acceptable to tip less when you settle up.
Example: If I had 6 drinks at $5 a pint, thats $30. For that I would give a $5 instead of a $6.
Since the amount in question is so minor, its better to stick with $1 a drink. Easier.
However, I would point out that if you get a buy-back then you should tip more. A basic guide is if the bartender 'buys' you a $5 drink then you should be giving $2 towards the final tip.
Thats just a simple guide for a simple use-case. Use your discretions. I don't tip if the bartender is rude or gives me a sloppily poured drink (I say that as a former bartender/bar-back/bar-manager).
Since then, it's been even more crazy. I was just trying to be gracious - I wasn't trying to bribe for favors like the author of the gourmet.com piece. Just either before or after I get service, tipping more. Result is staggering to me - people start working for you. I wasn't asking anything in return, but I'm now getting informed on all sorts of little details, recommendations, little extra services here and there. In the changing room of the place I go to get a massage, the guy there is like my intelligence agent now. As I was getting changed back into street clothes after getting a massage, he says, "Psst - hey, next time... go with locker #1." He taps the locker. He explains, "Very pretty, young girl. Best girl here." Apparently the experience is streamlined by number the whole way through - locker number, who you are massage therapist is, and billing for tips/coffee/extra food or drink you order is all tied together. He also shined my boots and he's super friendly helping me put a robe.
It's strange, I came from pretty humble origins so this is all very new for me. I just thought I should start being good to people and taking care of people, and I'm kind of taken aback by how gracious people are. It's still against my nature to over-tip, I came up pretty frugal and had literally no money for large portions of my life, but I'm starting to see the value of really taking care of people. There's a security guard near where I live who I'm friendly with, I'm going to go buy him a tuna sandwich next time I'm buying stuff at the bakery. I think, just like that, I'll go from having a friendly acquaintance to having a guide and intelligence agent.
That's not even why I do it. I thought - give back, spread money around a little bit, take care of people. But people seem to really want to take care of you when you do. It's like you're signalling that you're a person who takes good care of people or some such. I don't know, still very new to me. It's interesting though.
i have a dog and i live with 8 other people, so i have a bit of data on 8 different dog-human relationships. it boils dog to the dog treating everyone differently depending on who gives him food. P always give dog his sandwich crusts without asking anything in return, so when P walks in the door with a subway, dog goes grazy. in fact, P started giving more when dog wimpered, so for a little while dog whimpered until i made P not be such a sucker. A always lets dog lick his plates, so dog gets excited when A finishes eating. L requires dog to lie down in a neighboring room, so dog beg's from neighboring room when L eats. it's not love or care, it's simple causation and reward. dog constantly tries different tactics on those people who give him food. often, the amount of food escalates.
btw, dog goes crazy when the (human) dinner bell is rung.
edit: also, in restaurants, bribing before is a bit like tipping afterwards. the wait staff is constantly evaluating how much effort to expand on incoming parties (among other things) in order to maximize tips. in light of that, treatin an apparently wealthy couple well in hopes of a good tip isn't unreasonable. as for accepting bribes...depending on the place it's not that different from a tip except that it comes before not after the service (some places split tips with the whole staff, including say back waiters, etc, so then it might be immoral if the people keep the bribe for themselves. as for the immorallity of "jumping" the queue--for all i know, the wait staff does that anyway when they evaluate how much people can tip....)
most service industry people can't outright reject customers without a really good reason, so if you can make someone's day easier, they'll typically reciprocate it.
That is not the best way to go about things.
I have also seen the best service going to those who make the most amount of noise, who shout the loudest, and cause the most amount of trouble, since no one wants to upset that person. And I have seen model customers ignored over this person, since they will not complain.
It is not as simple and gracious a system as you suggest.
hardly. but a model customer probably isn't an ass about complaining, either. i've complained about tons of shit, and they are much more receptive and responsive when they know its someone who is usually nice.
> It is not as simple and gracious a system as you suggest.
never said it was. i don't disagree with what you're saying, and it comes down to the fact that the person taking your order is going to get fired if they tell you to leave because you're a bad customer (in most places). so they generally have to sit there and take it, for the most part. which is why a good customer is usually treated like gold.
Granted it is probably good for you psychologically to form these relationships of mutual kindness, and to see yourself putting a smile on someones face on a daily basis. But in terms of "Giving back" and "spreading the money around", keeping your money in the bank is probably a better move.
Again this is based on my limited understanding of the financial system in western countries and of economies. It is very likely that my understanding of economics is flawed and/or my comparison of Vietnam to the US is a bad comparison. If so, ignore everything I said.
I think this depends on your definition of "goes further"
While credit creation may create more value (measured in dollars) than tipping/gifts/charity, the opposite may be true if you measure in terms of numbers of people helped. Many people who are helped by tipping are service workers who don't have easy access to credit.
One day the barista recognized me and said, "this coffee's on the house." I was stunned--stuff like that usually doesn't happen to me because I'm usually fairly quiet when it comes to interacting with service people. Grateful, I put the money I would have spent on the coffee into the tip jar instead.
Over the course of the next month the barista would occasionally offer free coffee again. The cup of coffee costs them cents, but it brightened my day so much that I actually started tipping (for the first time at a coffee shop, ever) regularly.
So in effect, for the cost of a "bribe" (a few cups of coffee to me), the barista had established a relationship that made me feel like reciprocating with cash.
My friend runs a bar and this is a huge problem for him that he calls a "bribe back". The only solution he found is hiring good people, as monitoring the bartenders makes him look like he doesn't trust or respect them.
In any case, these college kids were sitting at the bar next to me, and we started talking. They seemed to be friends with the bartender and one of the told me "give the bartender a $20 and you'll drink all night for free." This was a Friday and I was stuck in VA for the weekend, with my hotel across the street so I was like, OK. Anyway, I slipped the bartender a $20, and he proceeded to make all kinds of drinks for us. He was using the top shelf liquor, not the well drink stuff, and he was making all kinds of custom martinis, shots, etc. We literally finished well over $200 worth of drinks in the space of a few hours. When the check arrived, it only had my meal on there, and all the drinks were missing.
Essentially, the bartenders gave us about $200 worth of drinks and we only paid for our meals, plus $20 each in tips (there were 4 of us).
If I owned that TGIFridays somewhere in VA, I'd be seriously worried about how much money my bartenders were stealing from me. It is literally stealing when a bartender can make an extra $100-200 a night just by slipping free drinks to his friends. I guess the markup is so much on alcohol that most people wouldn't notice.
The company is Bevinco (www.bevinco.com), and I'm sure there are others.
Found another example of companies using some audits to keep track of liquor usage. [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m3190/is_43_40/ai_n267...]
Back in my bar-hopping days I learned about buy-backs. I was surprised the first time it happened, but it was explained that this was common thing (at least if you drink enough).
Given that it was apparently common knowledge in the bar culture, I'd have to believe that anyone running a bar knows this is happening and either makes some educated guesses on the amount, or simply has the bartenders do some tracking. It seems like just part of doing business and sales, nothing underhanded.
Broadly speaking, it seems a businesses will have trouble keeping customers if the owner or manage does not give the line people authority (within some bounds) to give stuff away. I've mainly seen this in the hotel business. You can keep a customer, and make them want to come back, by smoothing over a complaint with a comp'ed night or free meal, and the win to the hotel is terrific (it's expensive to get new customers vs. keeping them). But if the restaurant manager or front desk staff has to first get the OK from the head of F&B or the Front Office manager it tends to just not happen because people are afraid they'll get in trouble for doing what is arguably right and in the long-term interest of the business.
It reminds me of the Apple store - 9 times out of 10, if you go in there with something broken that's out of warranty, you have to pay the full price to repair it. However, Apple geniuses are given a little bit of leeway, and often offer "unnecessary" free out-of-warrany replacements that, while costly to Apple in the short-term, generally pay handsome returns in the long run by encouraging loyalty.
Wow, I just looked and this exact example is actually featured on the Wikipedia page for Principle-agent problem. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principal-agent_problem#Employm...
There is a bar in Phoenix that I used to go to all the time (when the weather calms down, I'll start going again [because I bike there]). One of the major reasons that I went back so often, is because I felt like a regular there. It was a very common occurrence for the bartenders to offer me a free drink. A lot of these free drinks were beer that had been poured wrong, or stuff that they would have had to pour down the drain, but not all of them.
This is something I think a lot of people don't understand (not saying your friend, just in general); when you own a business, you're not selling widgets, you're selling customer service. I wasn't going to the bar to buy beer, I was going because one of the bartenders looked at me one night (I was feeling down about something) and said "Dude, what's wrong?" and tried to cheer me up...or another night when another bartender didn't charge me the $10 that they usually charge for growlers (a glass chug that holds 1 gallon of beer and is for transporting it home [common at breweries that don't bottle their beer])...
All in all, that place has probably given me 10 beers for free; at most $20 worth of product. But that $20 has probably come back to them 10-100 fold in the last couple of years. I'd say about half of my family's birthdays now take place at that bar, (I've taken my sisters and my mom there, they all love it, it really really is truly unlike any other restaurant I've been to in Phoenix), as well as most of my friends. I've recommended it to literally hundreds of people.
Contrast this with a bar in Tempe where I took a visiting friend for drinks: the bartender didn't want to talk to us and, when we asked him why he was using a jigger to measure the mixed drink that my friend ordered (it was taking a long time and we said something to the effect of "We really don't care about the measurements being that exact") he explained how close of an eye the managers keep on the alcohol shrinkage.
Another story for me is dell: when I call dell, I talk to Lisa, who remembers my name, remembers where I live (Phoenix) and remembers the time that her and her husband came here to visit...and how nice the weather was. "Is that place on scottsdale road that sells the ice cream still there?"
Artificial as I'm sure all of this is (Lisa probably has a computer that remembers this stuff for her), I like it. I like going into a coffee shop and feeling like the owner of the shop is a friend of mine and I'm just coming over to his house to hang out (there was a coffee shop in Des Moines, IA; 3 years after I moved away, I came back to have to have the owner greet me with "RYAN!?! Where the hell have you been!? Has the band been on tour or something? [the first time I went into his shop I had a DW drums tshirt on. The joke from then on was that I was a famous drummer]).
I think it's important for business owners to remember this type of thing: you're absolutely not selling coffee, or beer, or dell computers, you're selling me a little temporary friend that makes me feel like they really and truly care about whatever problem I am coming to them to solve.
This is only true in non-commodity markets. Yeah, the coffee shop is selling you the 'coffee experience' - the service, more than they are selling you the coffee. But if you follow that chain backwards, you can bet that someone along the line is selling actual coffee.
to take the example I actually know something about, yeah, dell wants to be my buddy. But micron? micron wants to sell me some fucking ram. Because cheap reliable servers are central to my business, I find my friends elsewhere, and I bypass dell and go to suppliers that don't want to be my friend, and I pocket the difference.
On the other hand, when I buy things like accounting services or coffee, I expect something that is more 'full service' - I know jack about accounting, so you've gotta put me at ease, and be willing to pretty much just handle it for me. If I didn't know what I know about hardware, and if my servers needed to be reliable but cheap wasn't as big of a deal, I'd think about buying my servers from dell, too, with the silly expensive support plans. (dell, on the minimum support plan, in my experience is worse than building yourself. On the other hand, the gold plated support, I hear, is damn good.)
So, uh, yeah. Sometimes you are selling your product, and sometimes you are selling "the experience" of the product. Most of the time, you are selling a little bit of both.
But, you are right that it's very important to remember what you are selling... If you try to sell me 'the experience' when I try to get ram, I'm probably going to walk. and if dell tried to just sell the servers when they went to sell to $BIGCORP, without the, uh, "tips" and gladhanding, they'd loose out just as badly.
Do you? My relationship with dell isn't just about getting warm fuzzy feelings when I call our rep to order stuff, it's about knowing that, if I do have a problem, it's going to get resolved immediately when I call her.
There is another company that I work with, which is small, and specific to my industry, and I have a very good relationship with one of the sales people there (they're in Canada).
Well, one day, something went wrong with their product so, instead of calling and asking to talk to a CSR, I called and asked to talk to Al. Al apologized up and down because, unfortunately, the FedEx guy had already come and there weren't any more pickups for the day.
So do you know what he did? Got in his car and drove the part that I needed down to the fedex office at the airport. I had the part in my hands a little over 12 hours later.
Another one: Our office buys all of our toner from cartridge world. The guy that we talk to down there, his name is Kent, is really nice. One day, I called Kent and told him that I needed a toner cartridge for one of our printers, but I needed MICR toner (for checks). Unfortunately, he told me, they didn't have any that I could get that day, but they could ship me one in a week. But in the meantime, he would bring me a printer of theirs as well as a cartridge for it, and he wouldn't charge me for it, just thanks for always doing business with him.
This type of thing is absolutely invaluable to my business.
We'll be a Cartridge World customer for life because of this. We're not buying toner from them, we're buying the ability to print documents. I suspect that you're not buying RAM, you're buying servers that work. Do you think anybody from micron is going to jump in their car and bring you something when you need it? Or care that something got messed up and fix it for you immediately?
right. you need to pay a /whole lot/ to get that relationship; the cheap level support contract, in my experience, is usually worse than just fixing it myself.
the thing of it is, at least on the more affordable support plans, Dell expects a corporate environment where unexplained reboots, so long as the server comes back up in a reasonable period of time, are acceptable. In my business I say a reboot costs me... so I've got to figure out if it was hardware or software, and then trace it down from there. Dell and RHEL seem to say "Well, it came up clean, what do you want?" Dell and rhel are both awesome when a box is down and it stays down, but those problems are trivially easy for me to solve myself, so I don't really see the point of buying support for that.
>Do you think anybody from micron is going to jump in their car and bring you something when you need it? Or care that something got messed up and fix it for you immediately?
Absolutely not. and yeah, if it was something I couldn't fix myself, this would be a big concern. like I said, I go 'full service' in areas where I'm helpless, like accounting. But the thing is, when my ram goes bad, I don't /need/ micron to drive down and fix it for me. I have spares of everything, and I am better at diagnostics than any dell tech I've met.
Also, if you buy the cheap support plan from dell, well, you are waiting until Monday for your part anyhow.
Now, yeah, maintaining that skillset is pretty expensive. if it wasn't central to my business, if hardware wasn't where the majority of our money went, you would be right, it wouldn't make any sense. But hardware is where the majority of my money goes, and I am able to provide a level of service that exceeds what I have seen from dell, so it does make sense.
When I was shopping for a new motorcycle, I bought one from the dealership that's 45 minutes away instead of the one that's 5 minutes away because of the reputation the close one has of ripping people off. The bike I was looking at was actually available cheaper at the closer one, but I'd rather give my money to a dealer that's not going to try to scam me later on, even if it's less convenient or more expensive.
I truly appreciate good service, and I'll happily pay more for it. I'm surprised more businesses don't care about excellent customer service, or is it that a lot of people truly don't care about service?
When I go to a coffee shop, a lot of times I'll sit there with some of my friends and work on a project at their tables, or I'll use their internet, or read a book, or whatever. The $2.5, or $4 or whatever that I'm paying for a cup of water run through ground up beans is mostly paying the for a barrista to ask me how my day is going so far, and for the table. It's like a day-hotel; the table is my room, the person at the counter is the front-counter clerk, and the $4 is my room fee.
This is fine, I'm more than willing to pay $4 for a coffee when I'm going to be sitting there for 5 hours working (in fact, if I'm staying this long, I'll usually buy more than one cup of coffee even though I don't need it.). The $4 is insane for a cup of coffee, but I'm buying more than just coffee.
Starbucks is the same thing, but a bit more interesting (I think). When people go into starbucks, they're paying $4 because they want to feel like members of the cool kids club. The coffee has names that you have to be a member of the little club to understand, the interior is very starbucksy, there is obscure "art" on the walls, etc.
This makes sense. Yeah, you could go to the gas station across the street and get something that tastes about the same, but then you wouldn't have access to the cool kids club. The $3 difference between a gas station cappuccino and a Starbucks "coffee flavored milkshake for adults" is the membership fee.
The trick here is that Starbucks (as well as their competitors) now also runs coffee shops where you can't even go inside. You can't stay there, there is no obscure art, no atmosphere, no nothing. You drive up, get your coffee, and leave. You probably even finish your coffee in the car before anybody has chance to see the familiar logo that means "cool kid".
So why do people still go there and pay the $3 membership fee to a club that doesn't exist?
Because they've been tricked into thinking that they're buying coffee.
out of the places I go to eat or get coffee, a few are small independent businesses owned by locals. At the ones where I was getting consistently good service, I started tipping 20%+. Within a few weeks of this, I was surprised to notice that they began discounting my food and drinks without mentioning it, and they were more likely to remember my name and what I usually order. The result is that other than the money I spent tipping more initially, this improved service doesn't cost me anything.
This of course may be unethical for the employee, depending on store policy. My best friend falls for it every time, tipping back up to "full" price. I see it as a type of scam against the employer, though.
That's definitely sometimes true. But it depends - when I was in college I used to go to a bar (Redbones in Somerville, MA) where the owner had a policy of letting the bartenders offer a certain number of free drinks and appetizers to favored customers at their discretion. He did this because he said it meant more loyal customers, which helped both him and his employees. I definitely spent a lot of money in that bar and always tipped heavily because of the great service. Despite all the freebies I got, I'm sure they turned a well-deserved profit off my business.
The owners a couple years ago put a lock down on all the free coffee going out of the place but encouraged the employees to give discounts to their friends.
It actually works out quite well, as the place can't afford to really pay any type of decent wage. The owners recognized that many people (myself included) would simply stop going to said shop everyday if coffee went from free to 1.65 or 1 to 1.65. I would still go sometimes, but it's not like they are going to see an immediate 65% increase on that revenue if people stop giving away the coffee.
At the same time, it allows the workers to get a couple extra bucks an hour and allows them to retain a number of really good employees while paying a wage <$10 an hour.
Most profit comes from simple items: drinks, salads, the most basic pasta dishes, coffee. It's all stuff where the ingredients cost next to nothing and the prep time is negligible. They don't cost much either, but have huge margins.
The waiter's incentive is not to push you to get the $9.95 ziti marinara, but to get the $22 lobster-filled ravioli, or the $25 jumbo shrimp dish, or the $27 steak—the most expensive dishes on the menu. But the lobster or the shrimp or the steak often have the slimmest margins of anything on the menu. Oftentimes something like lobster will serve as a loss-leader to get people into the restaurant.
As a waiter, you're constantly pushed to sell appetizers, salads, drinks, coffee and ice cream. All the stuff that's not just an entree. That's where the margins are, despite not costing very much and not leading to an inflated bill like a steak and bottle of wine would.
So not only is the waiter stealing the profit from the sodas they give you for free, they stand a chance of making the restaurant take a loss on your meal if you order a slim-margin item as an entree and don't order anything else.
But this is a problem you'll never really fix. Waiters are sharecroppers and their incentives will always be (in part) opposed to what's best for the restaurant.
Actually it's a fairly easy fix. Pay waiters a decent wage (so they aren't reliant on tips to pay the rent), plus an annual bonus for everybody who's worked the entire year (so they have an incentive to do their job right and not get fired), and combine this with actively discouraging/forbidding accepting tips and you're basically there. That's how most industries work.
He enjoys tipping. He says that back home, because the Dutch don't have a custom of tipping waiters, the service suffers. There is no incentive for them to provide more service than the minimum required to not get a complaint... Which is quite low when expectations are already low across the board.
Especially if that "discount" is appearing on the bill.
Partners in crime is the concept, though, I think. In this a very trivial "crime".
Socially, if there is a line to get into a place or to receive something and you skip ahead of a hundred other people, then you're a jerk. Another point I can see is if by this article being published, more people start trying to bribe their way into restaurants, the people that already try to follow the standard rules get pushed further back in line. Bribing your way into some place shouldn't be the protocol for getting a seat. Only when "This is a really important night for me" is true should it be used. And if it successful, tip on the way out if the service was great. If you start acting like an ass, you're going to ruin it for the rest of us.
Ethically, its fairly weak. There might be rules and a code of conduct that the wait staff need to adhere to, and when offered cash to break them it may get them in trouble. Though, that is their problem for accepting it, but you should also respect those rules and not try to break them either.
Why not? Doesn't microeconomics 101 say "if you have more demand than supply, your prices are too low"? Clarendon Ballroom fills to capacity every weekend, so I have to pay a $5 cover if I go this Saturday (and even at that price, they still have a line at 11pm, which is why I'll get there early). When I drive out to see friends tonight, I'll pay $5 to drive on the Dulles Toll Road rather than sit in more traffic on Route 7 during rush hour. I mean, ideally the system should be formalized so that it's not off-the-books, but I don't see what's socially wrong with for-pay seating at exclusive restaurants.
And when he DID get service, he did it openly & brazenly without the required discretion. Publicly announcing in a first class airplane section that he wanted to trade seats?! Tacky. Cutting the line at a cab stand, only to end up having to pay not only the front customer, but also the 2 cab stand guys? Buddy, that just cost you sixty bucks and a half cup of coffee thrown at your cab.
The demeanor and style in which you execute the handoff matters just as much, if not more than the actual note you've got in your hand.
Obviously it works in top-class London restaurants. Anywhere else it tends to vary, I've tried it once in a semi-nice place in Leeds and got an icy stare and an extra wait :) but then it worked great in a grill house when I was in a rush with friends.
By the way; this is fun to do if you are with a group of friends who have never done it before. Once we were trying to eat in one of the London hotels (it was the nearest place and pay day :)) and obviously got rebuffed. It's really shallow but saying "hold on, wait here" and 30s later gesturing them over is worth the looks on your friends faces :)
The best place this has worked for me is a restaurant in a nearby town - not top class but always full. A few £20 "tips" now gets use pretty instant service - because they know we will tip decently afterwards.
Is it immoral etc? I've always thought not, it's just that I value getting a table X much and, most of the time, X is a steal price :)
In college I lived across the street from a art house movie theater. I was invited to the Thursday night after party by a guy who worked at the theater and another local establishment I frequented. Instead of money, I brought a giant bottle of liquor. Because that theater had a "friends get in free" policy and because I was now well known as the "guy who brought the liquor to the party" I was everyone's friend. I would bring 2-3 people with me to the theater, we'd all get in, and we'd all get employee servings of popcorn and soda. Best $20 I ever spent.
note: Most casinos you would be tipping the 'floor' not the runners, but in this particular one the chip runners were doing the seating.
A lot of time and money goes into creating content. This is clearly a well written and interesting article since it's on top of hacker news right now. Why screw the website out of the extra traffic to it's other pages and possible ad revenue by linking to the printable version?
I can understand not liking ads but this site isn't a content farm with tons of ads. There is only a tiny, handful of ads on the right with plenty of room for the content.
Sure, people on hacker news know enough to change the url if they want to explore the rest of the site but articles that become popular here also get picked up by other services with less savvy users.
Someone creates good content and we're almost punishing them for it. Yes, paging is annoying but is it such an offense that we remove the ability for the site owner to monetize the content?
If a mechanism existed to part with those 20 cents without a bigger pain than that of a click.
We certainly don't call it a bribe when a webservice charges more for faster responses to support requests or access to a dedicated rep. We don't call it a bribe when an airline charges more for more leg room. Why should we call it a bribe when the restaurant's maitre d' charges more for priority access to tables?
Definition of BRIBE
1: money or favor given or promised in order to influence the judgment or conduct of a person in a position of trust
2: something that serves to induce or influence
I think it's important to distinguish between uses 1 and 2. You're describing, and I've defended, use 2. As far as I'm concerned, use 2 is indistinguishable from paying more for something better. I still consider use 1 unethical, assuming that the person in a position of trust is supposed to treat everyone equally with no favoritism of any kind. I don't consider a maitre d' at a restaurant to be in such a position of trust.
I suspect any bad feelings around tipping the maitre d' for a table come from lack of knowledge of the custom - someone who doesn't go to good restaurants regularly or is from another country where customs are different.
You do this in Mexico to get out of traffic stops. Is it a cultural custom designed to get preferential treatment? Yes. But it's also called bribery.
There's a reason why your check comes in a little folder that can discreetly hold cash. It's the same reason why you don't hand the money to the server directly and why you show some tact when approaching the maitre d', and it's got nothing to do with 'bribery'. Splashing around money indiscreetly has always been gauche.
Look at it this way - the owner has X tables and Y seatings per evening. Let's say P is the number of people who want tables, R is people with reservations, and S is the number of people who show up looking for a spare table. So long as S > XY-R (which implies P > XY), the manner in which customers are selected from S doesn't really matter that much.
In fact, "willing and able to tip hostess" is not a bad customer differentiator - the subset of customers who are willing to pay for a seat are more likely to be willing to spend big bucks on the meal and are more likely to be in a hurry (possibly letting you turn that table an extra time if you're lucky). It's only really a problem for the owner if the hostess is ignoring more clear signals that the guy's a big spender.
 - Since Most Valuable Customers likely have reservations or would get preferential treatment without tipping the hostess.
"Here's my ID" I said, and showed a tip of the note under the card.
"Show me," said the security guard and casually took both the card and the money from my hand. After pretending to check the birthday details for 10 seconds he returned the card (but not the money) to me and said "have a good night!"
Also, would service providers prefer a person who tips modestly (but consistently) over someone who tips generously once?
Sebastian's comment above mentions an experience in Vietnam. From what I have seen, in certain establishments/places in regions where stronger currencies (e.g. $/£) trump the local currencies (e.g. INR), it is not uncommon to find the local populace being treated with mild neglect in spite of them being(equally if not more) friendly and respectful; while a great deal of preference would be given to those who stand out in the crowd and can afford to tip more. (I know; many can sense a hint of racism being dragged in. But as unfortunately sad it is, it indeed happens at times. I hope visits to Mysore/Goa/Hampi can relate to this)
And about dressing, it reminded me of http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/hodja.html#eatcoat
tl:dr; Money speaks; nay, screams. We just have to get over this fact.
When there's a limited supply of anything, naturally the price will rise. In every other market, there is no benefit to being "first in line" for the product - the price is the price.
Why not have an auction system for getting tables? Whenever a table becomes free, the maitre d' asks everyone to bid on the table. If no-one bids, then whoever is first in line gets it. That seems like the fairest system - no-one can game the system by bribing because it's all completely open and honest.
Why don't any restaurants do this? As a bonus side effect, you'd probably attract the people with more money to spend, as they figure they can guarantee themselves a quick table. Also, this allows the people that really want to go to a restaurant to splurge on getting the first available table, while someone who doesn't really care might leave and go somewhere else.
Basic market forces causing the most optimal distribution of a limited resource.
Ayjay on Fedang
And it hadn’t cost me a dime, merely the willingness to indicate that I
would tip for service.
I guess the answer is that we should consider a stark difference between bribing someone for 'services' that aren't at his discretion to provide, such as a police officer dropping a bill or a government employee granting a permit, versus bribing someone for services that really are at the discretion of the person being bribed. The rules for being seated at these restaurants are informal rules and no laws are broken in bending them a bit.
As a result of this article, I feel much less unfavorably about 'bribing' random personnel of companies. I wonder how long that will last.
Not that I've had the nerve to try it.
They're not at all - they vary pretty much the same way airline tickets do. Hotels are a bit less obvious about it because the often have display rates.
(Varying rates is especially common in places like Vegas where there is usually a huge oversupply of rooms, but hotels make money from other things, ie, gambling)
About 40 minutes in, Pinker talks about the psychology, linguistics, and game theory of bribery and talks for a few minutes about the article.
Sure, everyone's doing it. Doesn't mean cheating someone else out of their fair share is right, though.
I'm not sure if the restaurant business is the same, but I can imagine that the owners anticipate this sort of thing, and maybe even encourage it, since it means their employees get more money and might be happier as a result.
But yeah, it doesn't seem particularly fair, at least the way I was raised to think of it.
What you described is the original "rewards program."
Everyone does deserve to be served. Why? Is it because it's an immutable ethical truth? No. It's because that's our culture. The US is a pretty egalitarian society. It isn't perfect but it's still in our cultural DNA.
A lot of the objection is the issue of slipping the seater a $100. If it was an open auction at the door and everybody had to bid for seats, that would just be the way it is, but in America the act of slipping someone $100 to be seated is basically sneaking out of the egalitarian society into a society of privilege, and the egalitarian among us find that offensive. If you want to buy privilege, which is a perfectly valid thing to do, buy it on the open market, not with bribery.
If everybody engages in bribery, and everybody knows it, the sneaky cheating aspect goes away, though I tend to agree with other posters that this creates a moral hazard. Not being a cultural relativist, I am free to say I believe the egalitarian culture here produces superior results to a culture that accepts bribery routinely. It really does lead fairly directly to things like paying off inspectors to not do the inspections, in a non-trivial percentage of the population.
For instance, maybe the taboo isn't against bribery per se, but against conspicuous displays of wealth--"flashing your cash". For instance, it's taboo to openly discuss one's salary or other financial details. You might think conspicuous consumption is a counterexample, but really it works for this point too--since there's no surefire markers of social class and it's taboo to just go around saying "ha ha, I earn 100 times more money than you", people who want to brag about how rich they are buy really expensive things and make sure everyone notices them. (Similarly, since there's a taboo about exposing certain parts of your body, women who want to brag about how fantastic certain parts of their body are wear tight clothing and cleavagey tops.)
If this trick works universally among high-class restaurants in a certain culture (be it the US, New York City, or whatever), it's indeed a cultural norm to do it--even if the norm requires surreptitiousness.
"I work hard but was laid off from my job. America is all about rewarding people for working hard so I got screwed. Therefore it's OK for me to rob a bank in order to compensate myself for my monetary losses which society owes me."
But I'd like to try to reframe this, to focus on what is lost, and who pays the price.
I value transparency and predictability in (most) transactions; I want shopping to be easy, and so I'd rather pay a non-negotiable $100 for something, versus see a pricetag of $200 that I know is negotiable in the range of 30%-70%. (Admittedly, if we're talking about $100,000, I start being interested in the $200,000 plus haggling).
As such, if I learn that a certain business has a non-transparent cost structure, including this tipping-oriented one, I'm disinclined to shop there. So if I witness you bribing the staff, the business owner loses some of my goodwill (even more if you bribe the staff to cut ahead of me in line), which is a Real Loss for them. I'll acknowledge that perhaps the business owner would rather have the business of the bribing type, for whatever reason (perhaps they're bigger spenders).
I guess my conclusion here is that it is unethical for an employee to accept bribes, if and only if they have been given (explicit or implicit) work direction to not do so.
I don't have much to say about whether it's ethical to bribe them, except of course bribing them for unethical gain (e.g. bypassing safety inspections) would be unethical, and maybe it's unethical to incent someone to behave unethically?
For instance, large retailers have strict gift rules in place so that suppliers cannot "bribe" the retail buyers to get their stuff on shelves.
The situation you described is very opaque, compared to the television market. How well is "well," and how much better might the service be? The answers vary wildly depending on your manner and the establishment in question, and you're almost never going to know them before you pay.
He may very well have the discretion to bend the rules a bit for the right kind of people to keep the place popular - wealthy people who like to buy their way to the front of the line are also people who are likely to spend more extravagantly on the wine.
It's paying for service, it just goes through unofficial channels. I live in a small college town. I eat at the same vegetarian restaurant for lunch almost every single weekday. I sit at the counter with a book, and make small talk with the cooks and servers as appropriate. I unquestionably receive preferential treatment from them. The cooks sometimes slide me extra food if it's not enough to sell as a full meal, or if someone sends back food that's fine to eat. The servers take my order almost the moment I take a seat at the counter and it's usually served the moment it's ready.
I don't tip extravagantly ($2 for an $8 meal), but I'm friendly, easy to serve and they know they'll see me every day. I get preferential treatment, but I'm also giving them preferential treatment by coming in every day.
You have a right to be treated the same as everyone else by the government. You have no such right at a service establishment - yes, they cannot refuse service for the all of the standard prejudices. But they most certainly can offer a higher level of service to people who pay more.
What's the difference between this and say slipping the building inspector a hundred dollars to "not have any problems"?
What's the difference between this and paying Southwest $10 to get early boarding?
For that matter, what's the difference between this and patronizing a top-notch doctor whose high prices result in a short surgery waitlist in order getting some surgery done more quickly?
We can bandy around analogies all day long, but when it comes down to it, the actions of private individuals prioritizing private resources for a fee is a fundamentally different thing than the actions of public workers prioritizing public resources for a fee. In the private sector, it's price discrimination. In the public sector, it's bribery. The difference is in who owns the resources that are being prioritized.
A mitigating factor is that restaurant owners/managers will only tolerate this behavior from their employees when customer demand exceeds seating supply. If a hostess has an empty table and refuses to seat a party until they bribe her, she will be fired.
>"What's the difference between this and say slipping the building inspector a hundred dollars to "not have any problems"?"
The hostess's job depends on allocating scarce tables to customers with no good indicators of customer quality. The inspector's job is to only certify safe buildings, and he has loads of indicators to make that determination, and the certificates are not scarce.
That said, I don't see what's wrong with a system where you can pay to short-circuit some slowdowns. It would be worth $20 to me to go from a half-day's wait at the DMV to a 30-minute wait, and I'm sure there are parties willing to pay tens of thousands to put their building plans at the top of the pile (without circumventing any inspections or anything, just getting the next available inspection). The downside to this is that, while it raises revenue, it detracts from government's duty to serve all citizens equally.
(I'm making the possibly flawed assumption that the DMV cares about customers)
That should have been fun.
As Gabriele D'Annunzio used to say: "I own what I've given away."
I am traveling to Chicago and NY on Jetblue's all you can fly. Alinea had a few openings that I was able to squeeze in over the phone. I was changing Daniel and Jean Georges's appointments many times with no problem.
I see. If people go along with what you suggest, you don't have to feel ashamed about it. So this guy has no interest in right or wrong at all; he just doesn't want to feel embarrassed. I'm sure this guy will enjoy a lot of loyalty and support when the chips are down.