Vantage point

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sir, sir, you forgot your money!

On a mailing list I am part of, there is a debate on about things like tipping in India, being rude or inconsiderate to the "lower class" or "servant types", being rude in general, societal norms, so on and so forth. I recounted an experience from the first time I dined out during an India vacation after moving to the US. Needless to say, I had imbibed US norms on tipping. Mohit found the episode interesting and asked me to blog it, so here it is.

On my first trip to India with the wife (then girlfriend) two years ago, for our first meal outside of the house, we went to Irish Pub in Khar. They have a very good and different cocktail menu and hookah too. So we sat on the diwan outside, and had a king's meal.... a couple of innovative cocktails, 2 different hookahs, lots of snacks and food. They also kept bringing us some complimentary kababs and such. The service was really outstanding.... maybe because it was a chilly December night by Bombay standards so everyone else sat indoors, but for us, coming from the US East Coast, it was toasty weather. So all the waiters deputed to work on the outdoor tables were focused on us.

The drinks came promptly, they asked what we needed a lot, water glasses were always filled promptly, changed the charcoal in the hookah very regularly without prompting (in the US, you have to almost beg them to change it, and they take their own sweet time), brought us free stuff, and yet were not overbearing like Indian waiters tend to be. There was no attempt to serve us food on our plates, which I liked (the owner must have been a smart guy like Madhu). Wife and I were really blown away by the sort of service we got. So when the bill came and it was almost 1700 rupees, I put down 2000 rupees cash. A quick calculation told me that the change, 300-odd would be about 18-20%, which is what I leave for really good service in the US. And the service that night was way better than anything I ever got in the US.

So when they brought the change back, I left the folder untouched, and a few minutes later, we decided to leave. Two waiters run behind us, stop us at the door and one of them says "Sir, sir, you forgot your money." and I said to him, "No, that's the tip." And he looked confused. Takes the money out, shows it to me and says "No sir, this is 300 rupees." And my wife said "Yes, that's the tip". He looked shocked for a while, then broke out into a wide grin and said "Come again Sir, you will get really good service from us."

My wife later wondered how could the service get any better, unless they planned to wash my feet or something.

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