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Miss Conduct

Here's a tip

Restaurant Week gratuities, plus gifts for teen moms and family fund-raising showdowns

By Robin Abrahams
March 6, 2011

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Menus are discounted during Restaurant Week, but servers’ wages are not increased to make up for the smaller checks. I know enough servers who work in Boston to realize that they hate Restaurant Week because they experience a severe decrease in tips. I believe that a tip during that time should factor in how much a meal typically costs at that restaurant. Am I the only one who feels this way? Am I just friends with too many broke servers? Am I overtipping?

G.P. / Boston

To answer your questions in order: You may be one of the few who feels this way, but you are still correct. Might doesn’t make right, and neither does majority. Second, it’s impossible to be friends with too many servers: Restaurant people are as fun as a fondue pot full of monkeys, and I wish I had more friends in the business. Third, you are not overtipping.

When you tip at a restaurant, you do so on the entire pretax bill, figuring the cost before any discounts have been applied. Also – I’m adding this because I’m often asked it – you factor the drinks into your tipping as well. As Tony Baretta would have said, if he were a fictional etiquette columnist instead of a fictional plainclothes detective, “Don’t do the sip if you can’t do the tip.”
I have a close girlfriend from college and business school. Our careers took off in our late 20s, and now we both are senior vice presidents with Fortune 500 companies in our mid-40s. Her 16-year-old daughter is having a baby. This was a shock for all, but now my friend has come to terms with it. Here’s my question: Do I send a gift or not? Help!

S.C. / Santa Barbara, California

Of course you should send a gift!

Frankly, S.C., it would be pretty easy for me to go snarky on your question. I’m not going to do that. I am, however, going to ask you to think long and hard about why on earth you – a woman with the sophistication that should come with such a high-level position – would ever think that not sending a gift would be the appropriate thing to do. Surely, you’d have immediately sent a gift if your friend’s daughter were 28, married, and taking maternity leave from a white-shoe law firm.

So what’s up? Do you find the baby a social embarrassment, like the passing of gas, that might most tactfully be ignored? I ask you to consider your feelings, because although I can get you through the baby-gift phase, sooner or later these beliefs will affect your friendship.

Your friend was probably surprised, and possibly not thrilled, about this turn of events. But it doesn’t mean she isn’t proud of her daughter. It doesn’t mean she won’t love her grandchild. If you care about your friend, you will allow her to experience, and express, her full range of emotions – from anxiety to bursting love – with your loving support.
My sister planned a family reunion, and everyone brought food or drink. Once there, she informed us that her son wanted to try to sell us an entertainment coupon book to benefit his school and that she would be very disappointed if we did not at least listen to his sales pitch. Everyone listened, and many of us bought a $30 book. Was it polite of her to do this?

P.M. / Nashua

That’s completely rude. Sales parties are one thing, but you don’t spring the gimme on someone like that. However, what have I done by validating your suspicion? Have I made your relationship with your sister better or worse? I can judge one isolated incident, but you know your sister and I don’t. Please don’t use my answer as an excuse for a needless family feud.

Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a Cambridge-based writer with a PhD in psychology.

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