By Andrew Segedin / Reporter
Photo courtesy of Harper CollinsRutherford resident Steve Dublanica recently released a book on the history of tipping called “Keep the Change: A Clueless Tipper’s Quest to Become the Guru of the Gratuity.”
RUTHERFORD (Nov. 18, 2010) — Standing on line at the Starbucks inside of the Clifton Commons Barnes & Noble, author Steve Dublanica turns around and offers the evening’s first anecdote.
“Notice, no tip jar,” Dublanica says. “Do you know why there’s no tip jar? Because the people behind the counter are Barnes & Noble employees — they make what the people on the floor make, and the Barnes & Noble employees working the floor complained that why should the Starbucks workers get tips when they don’t? So they don’t.”
It doesn’t much matter, according to Dublanica. A few moments later he adds that Starbucks tip jars don’t really exist in the first place.
“You may see them. You may see receptacles with money in them and put a dollar in. But they don’t exist,” says Dublanica.
It is technically against Starbucks policy to accept tips, but the company still taxes each franchise for projected hourly tips, so the author says.
“Which is fine if you’re making $5 an hour,” he says. “But not if you’re making $1.50.”
Such is the mind of Dublanica, Rutherford resident and author of “Keep the Change: A Clueless Tipper’s Quest to Become the Guru of the Gratuity” — his second book highlighting the practice of tipping after working for nine years as a waiter himself.
Born in Clifton, Dublanica originally studied to become a priest before trying to start a career in health care — a venture that ultimately failed to pan out.
“I was 30 with no discernible skills,” recalls Dublanica who then asked his brother, a longtime restaurant worker, for a job just to make ends meet. On one of his first days on the job, Dublanica was waiting on a couple — the wife ordering a tuna steak cooked rare. When the steak came in medium rare the woman sprung into a yelling fit.
“I told her I’d take it back, but she started yelling, ‘You’ve ruined my entire weekend!’ Luckily, her husband knew she was a whack-job,” says Dublanica. “For nine years I had people pinch me, poke me, yell at me.”
During that time Dublanica subconsciously began tempering a sense of humor regarding his profession that would eventually become his blog, “Waiter Rant.” Dublanica was contacted by an agent who was impressed by the blog and so came his first book, also entitled “Waiter Rant,” which became a New York Times best-seller.
“It all just kind of happened,” he recalls. “That’s why I can’t give people advice about writing. I never thought about it. My agent contacted me. In 2006, I was waiting tables. In 2008, I was on Oprah’s couch.”
In order to follow up the success of “Waiter Rant,” Dublanica sought to study the history and practice of tipping throughout a variety of professions.
“The first book was the ‘what,’ this is the ‘why,’ ” he says. “If they are going to call me the Tipping Guru, I better earn it.”
What Dublanica found surprised him.
“People are not tipped by quality of service. A professor at Cornell did studies and found that quality of service only factors into tipping 2 percent of the time. Mostly it’s guilt, obligation to a social norm, or the need to show one’s own wealth and status,” he says. “Even if the service is bad, people will leave their 15 to 20 percent — they just don’t come back — which is how the restaurant really gets hurt.”
Additionally, Dublanica spent a lot of time with people outside his former profession.
“A lot of ignorance. That was the main complaint,” he says. “The dollar a drink at the bar is fine if the drink is a beer. But if the bartender makes you a #15 martini, why would you give him a dollar when if you ordered that drink at the table you’d give the waiter 20 percent?”
Dublanica also recommends leaving $3-$5 on your night stand every day you stay in a hotel rather than just leaving a lump sum at the end of your stay — something that irritates many hotel workers as most hotels don’t have the same employees cleaning your room each day.
“It’s a complicated practice,” he admits.
Luckily, with Dublanica out of the restaurant and touring with his book, the rest of us can at least get a few pointers.
“Keep the Change” is currently available in bookstores and at online outlets.