Jewish World Review Sept. 17, 2003 / 20 Elul, 5763

Burt Prelutsky

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Consumer Reports

Tips on tips | "Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists Criminals & Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores". As you may have noticed, there are many things I simply don't understand. As a result, while I reside in the state of California, I exist in a state of constant befuddlement.

In baseball, for example, I can't fathom why a fly ball out doesn't count as an official at-bat if there's a runner on third and he scores on the play. After all, a ground ball out that scores the same runner does count as an at-bat. In each case, the batter gets credit for an rbi, but, in the latter case, the out lowers his batting average. Where's the logic?

Or take Jim Carrey. Please, as Henny Youngman, used to say. His fans insist he's great because he has a rubber face that he can contort in a thousand ways. So, how is it, with all those faces at his command, his only expression is smug?

Then there's the practice of tipping. It's no secret who came up with this goofy notion; it was obviously some tightwad who owned a restaurant and didn't want to pay his workers a living wage. What I'd like to know is how it was that this strange practice caught on in such a big way. And who was the mastermind who compiled the rule book?

For instance, who came up with the magic figure of fifteen percent? Most of you, I happen to know, are not very good with numbers, and I have seen otherwise brilliant people fall into a funk trying to determine if 15% of $28.40 is $1.72, $4.26 or $13.87.

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Then there are those folks who will come to blows over whether the sales tax should be factored into the total bill. But there are bigger mysteries involved in this somewhat occult practice. For instance, I, myself, have never understood why a waiter in an expensive joint should make ten times what a waiter in a coffee shop makes for doing the same job. Neither have I a clue as to why waitresses at sea level get tips, but waitresses at 30,000 feet don't.

Explain, if you can, why people who work in barber shops and beauty salons expect tips, but those who work just as hard in department stores and movie theaters don't.

Why do taxi drivers get tips, but bus drivers never do?

Why do the guys who park our cars get gratuities, but the fellows who tow them and repair them don't?

In case you haven't guessed, I don't like tipping. If I had my way, bosses would simply raise their prices and pay their employees decent salaries.

As far as I'm concerned, it's the right and decent thing to do. To me, there's something patronizing about the whole idea.

On top of which, life is simply too short to spend time figuring out whether $50 is too little or too much to leave on a bill of $43.27.

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JWR contributor Burt Prelutsky is a veteran TV writer whose credits include, among others, M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, The Bob Newhart Show and Diagnosis Murder. Comment by clicking here. Visit his website by clicking here.

09/08/03: We humans are funny
08/07/03: A few words about fame
07/24/03: Confessions of a couch potato
06/13/03: The flag and I
03/31/03: On Cesar Chavez Day, people should celebrate --- by going to work!
03/17/03: Harry S. Bush
03/06/03: Diversity, schmiversity
02/07/03: Mea culpa, Phil Spector
01/16/03: Chopin doesn't a hero make
01/06/03: As others see us
12/24/02: Saddam's fifth column
12/18/02: Tonight: TV's worst interviewer ... tick, tick, tick
11/25/02: Andrew Carnegie Day
11/21/02: A welcome guest

© 2003, Burt Prelutsky