nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic


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Slightly more serious than usual

Here’s a sobering chart. Every time I give someone a tip, I think it’s just a bit extra, a bit of cash in hand. But no, every time I tip, it looks like I am effectively topping up an incredibly low wage. The US tax man also thinks that I am tipping, so taxes on that income, so if I don’t tip, they have to pay tax anyway. President Obama is promoting a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour and most states get nowhere near that. What a system.

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It pays to tip well in New York

Every weekend I loyally go to Fairways for my weekly shop. It’s not quite as good as driving to Sainsbury’s, but I’ve got used to it. I started off by being really friendly to the staff, expecting them to comment on my accent and be nice back. But no, it doesn’t work like that, so I stopped bothering. The staff are helpful but not friendly, they all speak Spanish to each other and pretty much ignore you. On a more positive note they do pack your bags and offer a delivery service.

Today it was raining and cold. I did my thing, wandered around my usual circuit and expected no interaction. I was stunned when the guy who served me on the deli counter asked me if I was Australian or English. He must have served me dozens of times before and now he decides to be friendly and ask a question. The cheese guy corrects my pronunciation of Comte cheese and smiles. What is going on?

At the checkout I witness the woman at the checkout next to me having to justify the type of beans she has bought because the cashier won’t let her use her coupon. She says chick peas are not beans. Come on, give her a break, she wants to save 50 cents or something like that and they are giving her a hard time because it doesn’t say beans on the tin and she has six tins to get the discount. They are mean to her. Then my cashier starts giving me grief because my food is perishable they don’t want to risk delivering it. What? It’s cold outside and raining; they aren’t busy, they usually deliver pretty quick and I’m prepared to take the risk that my milk might go off. It won’t!  Urgh. My unusually pleasant experience is blighted by the perishable policy being invoked. I threaten to use Fresh Direct but they don’t seem to care. They take $85k a week in this store so my dollars are insignificant. I recognise the delivery guy and explain my plight. He says I tip the best in my building, so he’ll take my delivery straight away. It pays to tip well in New York.


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Tip top tipping

Or not as the case may be.  Tipping as something I do when in a restaurant, mostly taken care of by the bill coming with 10 – 15 per cent tip included and I don’t think too much about it. I’ll tip the cab driver, give the guy who delivered my paper in the sun, rain and snow at Christmas and that’s about it. In the US, and in particular here in New York, tipping is a way of life and it is expected.  I am told that the tip should generally be double the sales tax, which in New York is 8.875 per cent. This is fine if you have bought a service, like a meal, a cab ride, a pedicure etc. Confusion begins when there is no sales tax barometer to use. So what to give the guy who delivers my groceries on Sunday afternoon. I ask the doorman in my building and he is reluctant to advise when I ask, but comes up with 3-4 dollars. So I give the very pleasant delivery guy 4 dollars and he seems happy. I am typically British in my nervousness in not wanting to cause offence by getting the tip wrong but too embarrased to ask every time. I think it may take some time to work this one out. And most importantly, I must stop thinking that the tip is the place R likes to go on a Sunday afternoon with a car load of rubbish.