Tipping in the Borderland

Monsieur, I must beg your pardon , but I'm afraid this is our menu, not yours. We don't make substitutions. D'accord?
Monsieur, I must beg your pardon , but I’m afraid this is our menu, not yours. We don’t make substitutions. D’accord?

The food industry in El Paso has significantly increased in the last years. Many of the people who emigrated from Mexico, specifically from Juarez and Chihuahua, brought their investments and economy to this city. Thanks to this phenomenon, many jobs have been created and a lot of people have taken advantage of it. However, as much Mexican El Paso could be, and as much similar “The Sun City” can be to Mexican lifestyle, it is not; and adapting to the culture in this area is sometimes harder than what we expect.

Nevertheless, I do not attempt to talk about an adoption or a conversion to another culture. I only intend to discuss about a custom that is in many servers’ minds nowadays: Tips. Indeed, tips. Inclusively, as I mention it, a very popular statement comes into my head: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” As Mexicans, we should face it. We love to feel greatly spoiled and we love to be very demanding in Restaurants, and perhaps in other type of services, but at the moment of compensating a good service (if it is actually a good service) we hesitate on giving a good tip to servers. Several servers complain about it, and some people have the idea that it comes from a different custom or lifestyle in Mexico. Moreover, it is understandable that acting as we usually act at our home country is a natural way of conducting ourselves.

For example, in Brazil and North Korea people do not tip, in France and Italy people tip no more than 10%, in Mexico the rate is from 10% to 15% (usually closer to 10%), and in Egypt the rate is from 5% to 10%. Actually, Mexico is closer to U.S. and Canada where tips hove between 15% and 20%. The differences between these percentages vary because in some countries servers have better salaries than in others. To this extent, let’s be honest. Wherever we emigrate, we have to adapt ourselves and submerge into a new culture, and giving good tips is part of the transformation of this lifestyle.

A server’s salary in El Paso is $2.35 per hour, which is a lot less than the minimum wage. Many servers are always looking to sell more and give a better service so they can be remunerated, but many times they are surprised with a 10% tip which makes them feel that their effort has not been appreciated at all. On the other hand, a good tip should always be rewarded followed by an excellent service, and nothing less. Smile, knowledge, education, polite vocabulary, and positive attitude are always keys to convey a great service. Plus, depending on the type of restaurant, the direction of how to deal with customers might be different but the attitude should be always the same.

The American writer, lecturer, and developer of many courses in self-improvement, salesmanship, corporate training, public speaking, and interpersonal skills, Dale Carnegie, believed that it is possible to change other people’s behavior by changing one’s reaction to them. This theory was the nucleus of all his work. Basically, this idea is very well connected with the service context. If one goes to a restaurant demonstrating a negative attitude but expecting a positive service, he or she will be most likely to end up with a deficient service.

Servers do not forget faces, especially when their tips are low or when customers are rude or impolite. It does not mean that they will spit or do weird things with the food, but is there anything better than having an excellent service with a great amount of honesty and transparency? Personally, I love to feel taken care with a smile and compensating the server with a good tip at the end of my meal. Likewise, I do not like to leave the place late because I find it disrespectful with the employees. There is no excuse to stay more time after the business closes because if they have already stopped selling their food or their beverages, there is no reason to spend more time at the restaurants. As I said before, servers do not forget faces.

Lastly, I truly believe we should always demand a good service, but if this inquiry is not conferred to us, sometimes a bad tip can become a good tip if the server is smart enough to take it as a lesson. The world keeps spinning without stopping and we never know how or when, one day our roles will be alternated. At the end, you only get what you give. Enjoy!

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