[UPDATE: 4:30pm: After publishing this post this morning, we heard a lot of feedback from you, and we have decided that this piece does not meet Brokelyn’s editorial standards. We have since fired Sally Nakile, effective immediately, and will pledge to return our commitment to Brooklyn’s hard-working service industry employees. Sally Nakile has been forced to returned to her career as a cat burglar. Our readers deserve better, and we are sorry if anyone was offended.]
Here’s where the problem I’ve been wrestling with for years started: I spend waaaaay too much money on brunch. Like, it’s an addiction. On an average weekend, I have crammed in anywhere between three to five brunches in the past. But I’ve found it’s worth it, because too many friendships have broken over too many missed mimosas or un flapped jack. Anyway, that’s not the point: The thing all these weekend meals pointed out to me is that eating out at restaurants all the time really takes a wallop out of the wallet. I found myself dropping three figures each weekend, and that’s before you factor in the necessary post-brunch cocktails and crostinis (a girl cannot live on kale omelets alone, after all).
So about a year ago, I had an idea: how much money could I save in a year by giving up tipping? I mean, the Europeans have been doing this for ages, so why not America? I kept track of how much money I saved by not tipping for all of the past 12 months, and it added up to hundreds of dollars a month, and a whopping $10,000 for the year! It turns out, it is way easier than you think. This is how I did it, and how you can too:
This experiment started about a year ago, while dining at Michelle’s, that new trendy brunch spot in South Bushwick, a small tapas and tequillas dive that Gothamist highly recommended. But when we sat down, the restaurant had the blatant rudeness to let multiple servers wait on our table at the same time. Which is cheating, right? I mean, if you don’t have one server waiting on you hoof to marrow for the entire meal, how can you possibly judge what kind of tip they deserve? I mean, you’re called a server, so serve!
The answer was clear: no tip was necessary. So just like that, we shaved $30 off our bill. That’s half the cost of the facial I had scheduled for the next day! (I never tipped facial spa employees anyway either. Yeah, your job in a freaking spa makes me feel so bad for you.)
So I started doing this at other restaurants too. Sure, ditching the tip at Alfred’s, the Soho diner that we always end up at after an evening of slamming exotic guano-infused bitters cocktails at happy hour after work, barely saves you $10, but you know that every little bit counts, so you can put that in the bank to save up for something you really want, like a VIP GoogaMooga pass (PS: Did you get a chance to taste the CaveBBQ rips last year? They were cut from an actual live pig! I will be first in line to hear those squeals of deliciousness again this year.)
The other reason I decided to start saving money by not tipping is a personal one. We’re all creative types in Brooklyn: artists and writers and such, which makes it all so fun to live here! Just yesterday, for instance, I wrote some adorkable emails to coworkers that I spent all day on, and I felt like my creative juices were just flowing like boxed wine at book club. Sure anyone can just bust out a memo about the new 401K regulations, but I wanted this note to really come from a place of realness. My grandma died last year, and she had a 401K, so I felt like this issue spoke to my particular role as a 20-something alive today more than anyone else. Don’t you think the money is better spent with us artists than some heartless local “business” or whatever? All they’re going to do with it is return it to their employees, and it’s not like I ever see those people around my midtown office handing out money.
On an average weekend night out, I used to walk out of a bar with anywhere between 1/5-1/6 less money in my purse, all thanks to tipping. No more. Last week, the birds of prey (that’s what I call ma ladiez) and I were chugging a few Grey Gordons (a special goldfish-bowl sized daiquiri that’s just so much fun to hold, reminds me of Hipstamatics of collllegggge). I watched the bartender, some boring-looking hipster with ivy tattoos and an elaborate belt, make our drinks. He practically didn’t have to do anything: he just ground the ginger, mashed some mint, chipped ice, distilled some sugar, shook the glass and poured it out in equal proportions, with a handmade parasol on top, which just happened to be lying around like someone had just made it, and viola, instant drink. Like he’s special? Like this is hard to do? Like some penguin with a liberal arts degree couldn’t handle it? Please.
I didn’t tip, but I think he appreciated my frugalness. The next time I ordered a drink, he even put something extra special in it. I think it was a sort of tobacco-infused gelatin liqueur ball or something. I didn’t even know they made those yet, but these are the wonderful things you learn while you’re young and free and in your 20s.
Did you know you don’t have to tip the hairdresser either? I haven’t been able to get another appointment after my last one, which just confirms my theory: she must be so busy that she doesn’t need my tips. You’re a hair dresser, not a hair beggar, so dress! She’s cool.
Then I expanded this philosophy to transportation. Last spring, I took a cab from the Narrows to Kane Street. I didn’t give my customary $2 tip this time, and the cabbie didn’t even mind. He must have seen my Yankees key chain and realized I’m such a huge baseball fan because he even said “You Bunt!” out the window to me in thanks, which is Yankees’ slang for a baseball bat term, you Red Socks fans wouldn’t get it.
I kept up this experiment for a full 12 months. I only have a day gig that pays $50,000 a year, so I have to be as frugal as possible; which means I have to drink friggin tap water instead of bottled (don’t homeless people pee in that water?) and can only go to the food trucks for lunch four days a week (yes, sadly, I have even been reduced to ordering from the VEGAN truck one day a week, which makes me even sadder about the state of our economy for young professionals I just wish Obama would really have lost that election).
So here we are, 12 months into my decision to adopt the European philosophy of not tipping, and I’m never going to stop: my records show I’ve saved an incredible $10,000 just from not tipping at all! I can’t believe everyone in Brooklyn in those crappy service industry jobs complain about not having any money. Why not just be a little bit more careful about how you just hand out it all willy nilly at bars and stuff and maybe you’ll finally have some money in your pocket for once. Enjoy my 0% tip, you joker.
Follow Sally’s further budget exploits on Twitter: @Sallynakile.