Sunday, January 4, 2009

What's your tipping policy?

I'm a very inconsistent tipper. Now more than ever, I'm trying to restrict what I spend, so I think about it frequently. To make it more confusing, I must not know all the rules. I've had the conversation with people over the years, and everyone has different ideas of what's an appropriate tip for a given situation. Here are the categories in which my confusion lies:

  1. Take-out Food
    This is what got me started thinking about it again today. With our first attempt at Taco Soup brewing for dinner (and more than a few lunches) JC and I caved and enjoyed Lenny's for lunch. I thought I'd pocket the delivery tip and go pick it up myself. Online, I was confronted with a tip box at the end. Huh? Why else would I pick it up? Call me crazy, but the main reason I'm picking it up is to save a couple of dollars on delivery. I left it blank, but surely felt some guilt about it. Paying by credit card makes it worse, since that tip line shows up, looking all blank and lonely. Sorry, tip line, but you're sleeping alone tonight. Am I the only one who leaves the tip line blank for take-out??

  2. Delivered Food
    JC and I have disagreements over this. I used to tip 15%, as that's what I thought tip practically translated to (I believe it's Finnish in origin....) Anyway, we ordered with a few friends one night and I figured the tip was about $20 for bringing food from 5 blocks away. After a few awkward glances around the table, we figured tipping for delivery is more of a set-price thing, loosely based on (distance) x (the number of bags delivered) / (the temperature) + (Preciptation) / (Mode of Transportation)... and somehow pie gets figured in there (the dessert, not the mathematical constant, which would be too easy).... Now it's "ahhhh, give him $3". I'd like to see that tip calculator.

  3. Sit-down Food
    My general feel here is 15-20%. It's rare that the tip is ever dependent on quality of service, though if someone goes above and beyond, we try to be generous. Lousy service still gets at least 15%, but as they say, "you can't put a price on talking smack behind someones back." - author unknown

  4. Service for something included (ie. leaks repaired by the landlord)
    This might make a difference in the type of apartment you live in. If you're in a full-service doorman type building, it might be expected that you tip anyone who comes into your apartment to do work. Of course, if you got it like that, props to you -- it might be in your nature to tip anyway, and this point is moot. In the past month we've had no water for a 36-hour span, and no heat for the same amount of time three days later. You can rightly assume that we're not living with the Jeffersons. We generally don't tip for landlord service, but we'll offer coffee/coke/water, etc.

  5. Service such as furniture delivery, man with a van, etc.
    Another confusing one, as you've generally paid a shipping cost for your item, possibly a large amount. So how much more do you tip for a service you already paid extra for? I figure you can probably size up number of people * bulk of delivery * time spent in your home... In my experience, this usually comes out to between $5 and $15 per person.

  6. Taxis
    A co-worker from around 2000 had some formula in his head which was something like "I round up until it hits $10, then I round up and add a dollar". I thought this was pretty measly (consider a trip that totaled $9.70), but with small totals and cabbies that don't really deal with change, this is usually my least consistent place to tip. Granted, my taxi days are few and far between now, but occasionally it happens. My preferred method in the past year has been to use a credit card, and just tip a dollar or two on a short ride. No change, no fuss, and no ATM charges...
Do these "rules" sound way off? Are there exceptions to the rules that I'm missing? I'd love to hear your thoughts (, unless you're the cashier at Lenny's. :)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Out with the old... tree, that is

It's that time of year again. Time to reclaim your living room and throw out that holiday tree. You won't miss it too much. After all, you'll be finding it's needles until next Christmas. Here's the news release from New York's Strongest:

Sanitation Begins Christmas Tree Recycling on January 5th
Sanitation Commissioner John J. Doherty announced today that the Department will begin its annual Christmas tree curbside collection and recycling program on Monday, January 5, 2009. The program will run through Friday, January 16th.

Residents should remove all tree stands, tinsel, lights, and ornaments from holiday trees before they are put out at curbside for removal. Trees must not be placed into plastic bags. Clean, non-bagged Christmas trees that are left at the curb between Monday, January 5th and Friday, January 16th will be collected, chipped, and made into compost. The compost will be processed and subsequently spread upon parks, ball fields, and community gardens throughout the city.

In January 2008, the Department collected over 160,000 discarded Christmas trees.

"The Department is very pleased to offer this special recycling service. Providing collection and recycling options for residents is environmentally valuable and benefits our neighborhoods. Working in conjunction with the City's Parks & Recreation Department allows residents to take part in the recycling process and permits them to even reuse their composted Christmas trees to fertilize for the spring. Compost is a natural fertilizer and is an excellent soil enrichment that promotes the healthy growth of plants and grass," said Commissioner Doherty.

The Parks & Recreation Department will be hosting Mulchfest 2009 on Saturday, January 10th and Sunday, January 11th from 10 A.M. to 2 P.M. at more than 80 sites throughout the city. To find citywide locations, visit the Parks & Recreation website at The citywide service allows New Yorkers to drop off their holiday trees at designated parks for mulching and event attendees can pick up free mulch. All lights, ornaments, and decorations must be removed from the trees prior to drop-off.

For more information on Christmas tree collection and recycling and/or Mulchfest 2009, visit or or call 3-1-1

We'll be getting ours out to the curb this Sunday. Not to beat the rush, or to be the cool ones who do it first, but to end the constant struggle between Pumpkin's natural curiosity about an indoor pine tree and the dubious structural integrity of a $4.95 tree stand. At this point, the stand has become less a water dish for the tree, and more a water dish for the cats. Disposing of the tree will be our first act of simplifying in 2009... until the end of the year when we do it all over again.