Alan Wright - The tipping point

AUGUST is often known as the “silly season” in media circles as news is sometimes thin on the ground with much of the world off on holiday.

You would have thought that this summer would have been a bit different with plenty of big stories around at home and abroad, but the tradition clearly lives on.

Much of the first half of last week saw acres of print on the fact that our Prime Minister did not give a tip to a waitress at a café during his holiday in Italy.

The debate seemed to split into two camps; those who thought that David Cameron was dead right as the waitress told him to carry his own coffees – and those who thought a tip should be automatic even if there is a total lack of service.

The Hartlepool situation, like most of Britain, is as clear as mud when it comes to tips.

It’s funny how we do give that bit extra to some people – like taxi drivers, hairdressers, and restaurant staff.

Some workers, though, have come to accept that they are just not on the tipping radar.

I learned a few lessons in this department when I was working as a bar waiter at the old Butlin’s in Filey, as a student summer holiday job.

I soon discovered that the pretty female waitresses did well on tips, while us chaps got very little despite what we thought were our winning ways and silky charm!

Happily, an old hand soon put me right with some clever little ruses.

The best one I learned involved the sticky qualities of lager, which made super glue look pretty average when it was smeared on your tin serving tray.

It worked like this.

Quite often, you would be serving a couple where the chap wanted to look like James Bond in front of his female partner.

The waiter would deliver his drinks and spread the change so that the coins were flat on the tacky lager coated tray.

I don’t know why, but lager seemed to work better than any other drink, which was why you’d keep a glass just behind the bar to top up your tray’s surface even if the customers were getting gin and tonic or whatever.

You would put the drinks onto the customers’ table and then hold the sticky tray towards the chap for him to pick up his change.

It wasn’t easy getting your fingers between the flat coins and the lager trap and so, after a few tries, the wannabee Mr Bond would say “Oh, you keep the change.”

A surprised smile and a few words of thanks and he felt like Mr Big – and, over the night, I’d be a bit better off.

If we as a country are going to follow American fashions again, be prepared for a big rise in the tipping culture.

I was once literally chased out of a diner in the States by a guy complaining that I’d left no tip, even though it was self-service.

Perhaps the last word should go to comedy genius Tommy Cooper.

As he left a function, he would often give the waiter a big smile, tuck something into his top pocket and say “get yourself a drink.”

After Mr Cooper had left, the waiter would check his pocket to see if it was a tenner – or even a twenty.

It was always a tea bag.