Tip earners: Customers leaving less
June 6, 2007
Horizon Casino valet Kevin Bauer said 95 percent of his salary over the last two years has come from tips, but that source of income has dwindled because of customers tightening their belts in a tough economic climate.
So much so, he’s leaving his position to sell time shares.
“It’s a huge drop from a few years ago,” he said, calculating he gets a buck for services that used to bring in $3.
Bauer’s not alone. As he received $1 from an Ojai family on Wednesday afternoon, Bauer recalled one bellman taking up 10 bags for $1.
“The record is 27 bags for 50 cents,” he said.
From waitresses and hair stylists to dealers and concierge workers, people in Lake Tahoe service occupations across the board have experienced fewer and lighter tips. Many attribute the trend to higher expenses such as fuel, utilities and housing, while others pointed to stingy tourists expecting a rolled-out red carpet.
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Some believe when the local workers have a less-than-busy season as Tahoe did last winter, they don’t have much money to spend on services themselves. Then, there’s the question of what’s an acceptable tip.
Most agreed the situation may need correcting, considering 85 percent of the economy is driven by tourism. Some estimate that over half the employees making a living on the South Shore work in a service industry. And, seasonal jobs have sprouted all over town as tourist-dependent businesses gear up for summer, Tahoe’s busiest time of year.
Maggie Waddle, a training advisor at Job One – The One Stop Employment Resource Center, said all her posted positions fall in the service categories.
“There’s an outspoken standard of 15 percent. If (the workers) are expecting more, then they might be set up for failure,” she said.
But longtime resident Sandy Pape still relies on the income to make ends meet. Running a beauty salon called The Shoppe where pedicures and manicures are performed and dealing part-time at Bill’s Casino has given her two shades of tipping life.
“People used to give $35 for a fill, now we get $30. There’s a definite cutback of 30 to 40 percent,” she said. Eighty percent of her income comes from tips.
“We used to think $120 was a bad night. Now, it’s a good night,” she said.
When she was a dealer 15 years ago, she’d make $40 an hour. Now it’s more like $17.
“Tipping is definitely down,” Pape said. She lamented over one player winning $1,800 at another table and leaving $50 for the dealer.
Even after eight years working for a breakfast joint with an excellent reputation, Red Hut employee Jenny Logie has witnessed a decrease in tips – calculating a third less than in previous years.
“People will rave about the food, everything is great, and leave $1,” she said.
But there are exceptions – including the regular who showed up a few days before Christmas with a $100 tip for the five workers on hand.
Still, she never assumes what people will give. At the cash register, 18-year hostess Cheryl Horner asks if the customer needs change and whether they want $1 bills. The workers who don’t may find they stiff themselves if they return change with a big bill and one smaller one.
Michael Fennel offered his version of smaller tips.
“The locals aren’t making the money like they used to,” he said, while sitting up at the Red Hut counter eating the dish known as “the usual.” He’s also discovered tourists appear to be cheaper than locals.
“A lot tourists feel they don’t have to tip,” Fennel said. “But I overtip. I’ve heard people say: ‘I don’t live here. I don’t need to.'”
Fennel is a restaurant manager who knows the ropes.
Owen Grace and Max Beauchemin blew that theory. The two San Francisco men, computer workers, laid down a hefty tip on their meals.
So does Jacob Garcia, an Embassy Suites concierge who once worked as a pizza delivery worker. He found the poor tipped more than the wealthy.
He said those receiving the service may assume too much. For example, people with complimentary rooms and other benefits occasionally stay over with the attitude that other services “should be free.” The mentality has been mentioned when celebrities roll into town for the American Championship golf tournament.
If not free, there’s also a mistaken notion that tips should be based on the discounted value, not the full worth.
And even with low-priced services, hair stylist Maggie Walker has seen a drop in gratuities. In the beauty world, the standard tip is 15 to 20 percent but “a lot of people don’t understand that,” she said. “We’re seeing a slump.”
What’s a tip?
A tip is a payment to certain service sector workers beyond the advertised price. The amount of a tip is typically computed as a percent of the transaction minus taxes.
— Airport porter or skycap – $2 per bag ore more if bags are heavy.
— Concierge – $5-$10 for help with hard-to-get dinner reservations.
— Room service – 15-20 percent to the total charge of the bill.
— Tour guides – 10-15 percent of tour price.
— Restaurant server – 15-20 percent.
— Cocktail server – 15-20 percent.
— Bartender – 15-20 percent or $1 per drink.
— Wine steward – 10 percent of wine bill.
— Coat check – $1.
— Musician in lounge – $1-$5.
— Musician that visits table – $2-$3.
— Barber – $2-$3
— Manicure or facial – 15 percent.
— Massage therapist – no tip in doctor’s office. Otherwise, 15 percent.
— Country club bag carrier – $1-$2 per bag.
— Golf caddies – $15-$25 above any fee.
— Wedding minister, priest, rabbi – minimum of $100.
— Limousine driver – 15 percent of total fare.
— Florists, bakers, disc jockeys and photographers – only when service is beyond expectations, up to 15 percent.
— Car detailer – 15 percent.
— Clown at children’s party – $15-$25 depending on the quality of the performance.
— Tattoo or piercing artist – 10-20 percent.
— Pizza delivery worker – 15 percent.
— Craps, poker, roulette and blackjack dealer – $5 plus chip per session.
— Drinks waiter – $1 plus chip per drink.