DEAR MISS MANNERS: My friend, who is from Norway, where they don't tip, had his hair cut. He offered his credit card to pay for it, and the haircutter pointed to the tip part and said he was suppose to fill that out. I said he could put a "0" in or not go back to this hair establishment.
Do you have any advice for him? He has lived in this country 25 years, but he goes back to Norway every year, and he doesn't believe in tipping.
GENTLE READER: Tell your friend that he doesn't have to believe in tipping. All he has to do is to tip.
Miss Manners abhors the tipping system. But she tips without fail. If the service is bad, her redress is not to cut the tip but to complain to management.
This is because she knows - as your friend should have discovered after 25 years in this country -- that in certain job situations, expected tips are calculated into the otherwise low wages.
It is her strong feeling that to build the service cost into wages and pricing would benefit everyone. Nice people are often in a state of anxiety about how much to tip, and not-nice ones often shirk their responsibility. Not-nice service people may use embarrassment to provoke greater tips, and nice ones are financially penalized.
If your friend wants a tip-free haircut in the United States, he should ask to have it done by the owner of the business. Owners are not supposed to be tipped, although they are only too eager nowadays to encourage their clients to do so.
See what Miss Manners means about its being a system that brings out the worst in everyone?
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it acceptable to correct one's elders, and how does one politely do so?
My uncle referred to the president of Venezuela as "Cesar Chavez"; my aunt pronounces salmon "SAL-muhn"; my mother-in-law told her young granddaughter (my niece) that "peruse" means to lightly skim over written materials.
No one likes a know-it-all, but I cringe when I hear someone making a mistake, although I certainly don't want to embarrass anyone or come across as rude. In the above examples, I said nothing to my mother-in-law and uncle, and kept repeating "SAM-uhn" to my aunt, but she never got it.
GENTLE READER: To go around correcting others is to cause embarrassment, make oneself unpopular and, as you have noticed, fail to make any impression on the person you attempted to correct. Cringing seems a small price to avoid all that.
However (and if you have faith in Miss Manners, you knew there would be a however), you can question them. To your uncle, you might have said, "Hugo? Wasn't Cesar the civil rights organizer? Remember 'No grapes'?" To your aunt, "Do they pronounce the L where salmon comes from? I've always heard it SAM-uhn." And to your mother-in-law, "I thought it was the opposite -- am I wrong?"