Dining » Fat Mouth

Pour It On

There are more of you cheapskates out there than we thought.

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I wasn't surprised that my column on how much to tip for a bottle of wine ("Wine Whine," December 15, 2005) led to a flurry of e-mails. These included, of course, a couple of rants from the cheapskate anti-tipping contingent, who always trot out that same tired argument, "If restaurants paid their servers a living wage, we wouldn't have to tip at all." Well, that's a very interesting theory, Ebenezer Scrooge, but guess what? They don't.

One penny pincher even called to confess that he not only deducts the price of his bottle of wine from the total amount on which he calculates his tip but also deducts the sales tax (which isn't uncommon or inappropriate for food). Then he deducts the number of "slights" he endured from his waiter or waitress. "If my water glass isn't filled in a timely manner or I have to ask for an extra fork or more butter, I deduct 2 percent," he said.

His endless nitpicking reminded me of when I was a novice waiter many years ago and a quartet of sadists were seated in my station. They put a pile of dollar bills in the middle of the table. "This is your tip," one of them announced. "And for every mistake you make, we'll take one bill off." This little game made me increasingly nervous, so of course I fumbled through the meal. By the time I served these freaks dessert, there was only a single buck on the table.

"Sorry, kid, you're only getting a dollar," said the smirking jerk after he paid the bill.

"Oh, thank you so much, sir," I said. "And for your next trick, could you please stick it up your ass?"

Amazingly, I wasn't fired; that restaurant's manager thought the tipping game was pretty sick, too.

But back to the subject of not tipping on bottled wine. Former wine steward Chris Martin was scandalized by my story of a friend's refusal to include the cost of wine in his gratuity. "I can't think of anything more déclassé," he said. "Does your friend exclude wine served by the glass when calculating a waiter's tip? If he wants to drink fine wine without tipping, let him drink it at home, preferably alone."

A local waitress named Kristin added her two cents' worth, noting that serving wine is more than just opening a bottle. After she presents the wine list, makes suggestions and describes appropriate vintages, she must "polish two, four, six or eight wine glasses, present the bottle, open it, await approval and pour for everyone at the table."

Give this little lady a big hand. And a big tip.

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