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eyes on the U.S.

A Chinese Take On The American Way Of Tipping

$8.90 ... so far ...
$8.90 ... so far ...
Liu Tong

NEW YORK — Because of several successive business trips plus my holiday in the United States, I have been living from one hotel to another for more than two weeks. Obviously I’m also obliged to dine out. What this means in terms of personal finances is that even before paying the hotel or restaurant bills, I must face a continued lineup of people expecting tips: waiters, room service, doormen — not to forget taxi drivers unless you like to haul your heavy luggage out of the trunk yourself.

I have a colleague from Hong Kong, a place where tipping is also a custom, though not as far-reaching or high percentages as in the United States. She, nonetheless, tried to pretend that she didn't know how things work in the United States. The result: dirty towels left unchanged.

A friend who happens to be looking for a flat tried hard to avoid renting anywhere with a concierge, because “If I carry something whenever I get home, the concierge will always come and open the door and expect to be tipped. But when do I come home without a bag or something in my hand?! Imagine how much extra cost that is every month?”

Chinese people always talk about how expensive it is to live in America. And while I have studies all kinds of figures of fixed expenses of American households, none of them takes tipping into account!

[rebelmouse-image 27087690 alt="""" original_size="640x480" expand=1]

Tipping point? — Photo: Scott Sanchez

Indeed, bills in America often give people the wrong impression that it’s cheap, simply because the tax and the tips are rarely included. Sales tax rates can vary widely between different states, by as much as 10%. When I tried to pay a 10% tip on top of my bill in a Washington D.C. restaurant, I was immediately warned to add 15-20% by my friend “unless you want them to chase after you to recover it!”

I suppose I will learn how to live with all this tipping if I stay in the United States long enough. Still, on an economic level, I am convinced that the system is part of what makes hiring workers so costly. Though it is a bit of a luxury to go and dine in a restaurant or take a taxi in America, the restaurateur or the cab company doesn’t seem to earn that much money. I once interviewed a high executive of a famous hotel chain who told me that he started off his career as a doorman, and that it was still some of the best money he'd ever earned.

The tipping custom exposes a particular feature: If one expects to get a better tip, one has to offer a better sales proposition. This includes the appearance and the figure, smartness or likability of the attendant — in other words it means individual employees making themselves marketable.

When I went to cover the Miami International Art Fair, on the way to the venue I had a taxi driver who spoke only Spanish, and made no effort to use even a single word of English with me. On the way back to the airport, instead, the cabbie was eager to tell me all the artists he likes and complimented me on how Asian women look younger than their age. Though I was obliged to tip them both, guess who I tipped more heartily?

Recently, more and more Americans have called for the end of the tipping system, saying waiters enjoy high wages and lower taxes — not to mention making customers feel obliged to pay additional rates for their meals. I am not optimistic. All I can hope for is the person serving me next time is smart and pleasant and can't guess my age.

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eyes on the U.S.

Murdoch Resignation Adds To Biden's Good Luck With The Media — A Repeat Of FDR?

Robert Murdoch's resignation from Fox News Corp. so soon before the next U.S. presidential elections begs the question of how directly media coverage has impacted Joe Biden as a figure, and what this new shift in power will mean for the current President.

Close up photograph of a opy of The Independent features Rupert Murdoch striking a pensive countenance as his 'News of the World' tabloid newspaper announced its last edition will run

July 7, 2011 - London, England: A copy of The Independent features Rupert Murdoch striking a pensive countenance as his 'News of the World' tabloid newspaper announced its last edition will run July 11, 2011 amid a torrid scandal involving phone hacking.

Mark Makela/ZUMA
Michael J. Socolow

Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States of America on Jan. 20, 2021.

Imagine if someone could go back in time and inform him and his communications team that a few pivotal changes in the media would occur during his first three years in office.

There’s the latest news that Rubert Murdoch, 92, stepped down as the chairperson of Fox Corp. and News Corp. on Sept. 21, 2023. Since the 1980s, Murdoch, who will be replaced by his son Lachlan, has been the most powerful right-wing media executivein the U.S.

While it’s not clear whether Fox will be any tamer under Lachlan, Murdoch’s departure is likely good news for Biden, who reportedly despises the media baron.

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