November 29, 2005

Bizzy’s AM Coffee Biz-Econ Links (112905)

Here’s a Tip for Celebrities: Tip

If you don’t tip, you’ll get ripped (requires registration) at

Waiter-stiffing skinflints across New York are getting payback for all their measly 10 percent — or less — tips, thanks to a Web site that lets members of the restaurant industry name names and out bad tippers. has thousands of entries listing the identities of the gratuitous gratuity avoiders, including scores from New York City.
The so-called S- – - -y Tipper Database has famous names and regular Joes all outed side by side for turning cheap when the check came.
“What a bitch!” declared one entry that claimed Jennifer Lopez’s tipping habits were less generous than her derriere, after she allegedly left only $1.27 as a tip on $350 bill at an unnamed Manhattan eatery.
….. Another entry claimed that fellow diva Barbra Streisand was equally parsimonious in her tipping habits — allegedly giving only $10, or roughly 2 percent, for a $457 bill.
“She demanded the best table, acting rude to everyone, and then barely tipped,” the entry said.
….. Reps for the stars listed on the site could not be reached yesterday, and anyone can apparently post on the Web site — so there is no way to tell if the j’accuse allegations are true or not.
….. Not all people named on the list were given a smackdown. A few got lauded for their tipping.
Howard Stern was hailed as a modern-day Frank Sinatra, who was legendary for handing out $100 bills like they were business cards.
Natalie Portman also got a positive review, after allegedly giving a $45 tip for a $150 bill. She signed autographs, too.

Totally predictable: A message at the Bitter Waitress site–“Because we’re so popular, we’re getting slammed with traffic! So… If you enjoyed your visit to, please TIP YOUR SERVER!” Sorry, folks, the site design is tacky, the color scheme is awful, I don’t appreciate the obscene gesture, blah-blah….. Write me up if you must; just don’t forget to link.

Varifrank’s Quick and Dirty Evaluation of Amtrak

Succinct: “We took Amtrak into the city and found it to be everything a subsidized 19th century technology should be, inadequate, expensive, slow and late.”

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  1. Aren’t these celebrities the usual suspects when it comes to tipping? Did it ever occur to these waitresses that no one is required to leave a tip, if one is unsatisfied with the service? These waitresses, whoever they are, seem to think that because a celebrity chalks up a considerable bill, the tip should be based on that. Not so. The tip is given according to the service. So if it was not up to par, the celebrity had every right to refrain from being generous. Besides, the site really sounds suspicious to me because, most of the service in the better restaurants, at least in New York, is conducted by waiters, under the watchful eye of the captain or the maitre’d. These waitresses sound as if they work in dives.


    Nina Gut

    Comment by Nina Gut — November 29, 2005 @ 11:05 am

  2. #1, I think you make some good points, Nina.

    FWIW, I went to this page after your comment to read up on tipping:

    It lists the “standards” for tips, and I don’t see a “large amount” exception. Not that is God, but I’ve never heard of a “large amount” exception to the 15%-20% standards either.

    I think the site is suspicious because there’s nothing stopping anyone from just making stuff up.

    You may be right about waiters and maitre’d's, but some of the amounts cited in the original article are (hopefully!!) a lot more than you would spend at dives, even in NYC.

    Comment by TBlumer — November 29, 2005 @ 11:30 am

  3. It’s hard to know what to make of the quotation from about Amtrak ( The quotation refers to an alleged trip by the author and his family into San Francisco on Friday, November 25, 2005. But they couldn’t have taken Amtrak into the city in the sense of taking a train all the way there, because Amtrak doesn’t run trains into the city. The only intercity trains running into San Francisco are the Caltrain commuter trains (run by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board), which go from San Jose to downtown San Francisco (with numerous brief intermediate stops). Amtrak passengers can go by train to Emeryville and then transfer to one of Amtrak’s “Thruway” buses, which make stops at several points in San Francisco; or they can take Amtrak to Richmond and transfer to a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train; or they can take Amtrak to San Jose and transfer to Caltrain. Which of these did the author and his family do? We also don’t know where their trip began, so it’s impossible to tell what sort of trip they made, on what sort of train.

    The complaints that the train they took was expensive and late are clear-cut ones that are presumably justified; it’s not justifiable, however, to then leap to the conclusion that Amtrak as a whole, and beyond that the technology that it’s based on, are somehow expensive and late as a general matter. As for the complaint that the train in question, and therefore Amtrak, and therefore the technology, are “inadequate”, what are we to make of that? Since the author doesn’t tell us specifically what kind of inadequacy he’s talking about, we have to regard that complaint as meaningless. Regarding the train being slow, maybe it was and maybe it wasn’t: we can’t evaluate that without knowing what trip the author and his family made and how long it took. I would point out that inexperienced rail travelers often underestimate the speed of their train because they’re used to the sensation of speed you get in a car, and being higher off the ground lessens that sensation: if, for example, the train is traveling at 79 miles per hour (a common top speed for Amtrak routes), the sensation of speed superficially resembles that which you get traveling at 45 or 50 in a car. As for Amtrak and its technology being slow as a general matter, I’d point out that Amtrak’s diesel-electric locomotives can go over 100 (some as high as 110), and its electric-powered trains on the Northeast Corridor can go even faster than that, in some cases going as high as 150 in normal service. The average speed of the entire Amtrak system is, by world standards, neither slow nor fast but moderate.

    Finally, referring to Amtrak as a “subsidized 19th[-]century technology” is just a meaningless cheap shot. First of all, all major forms of transportation in the United States are heavily subsidized, if we count the real subsidies (which include many items not usually included in subsidy calculations, such as the exemption from property tax of highway and airport land), net of user fees. The only thing unusual about Amtrak’s subsidies is that they’re more visible than most. Second, while it’s true that railroad technology in its basic current form dates to the nineteenth century (just as automotive technology does), American intercity passenger trains, like automobiles, have been modernized in almost all respects since the nineteenth century. To take just a few examples, they use diesel-electric or electric locomotives rather than steam; they run on continuous welded rail almost everywhere rather than jointed rail; they are guided by signaling and switching that are automated to a degree unknown in the nineteenth century; their cars are heated and lit by locomotive-generated electricity rather than by burned fuels or wheel-generated electricity; the cars are joined by vestibules universally; and the trains are equipped with numerous comforts and amenities that were unknown or nearly so to nineteenth-century travelers. In sum, while saying that Amtrak has “nineteenth-century technology” is a standard insult routinely delivered by the uninformed, I would defy the author to defend it logically.

    Comment by M. Paul Shore — April 3, 2006 @ 5:47 am

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