Tips for Service by Mark Twain

Tips for Service by Mark Twain is discussed in his book A Tramp Abroad [1880]:

(Note: Tips for service were called “fees” by Mark Twain in 1880 in the following passage, back when travel was first becoming more widespread.)


I do not know whether hotel servants in New York get any wages or not,

but I do know that in some of the hotels there the feeing system in vogue is a heavy burden.

The waiter expects a quarter at breakfast—and gets it.

You have a different waiter at luncheon, and so he gets a quarter.

Your waiter at dinner is another stranger—consequently he gets a quarter.

The boy who carries your satchel to your room and lights your gas fumbles around and hangs around significantly, and you fee him to get rid of him.

Now you may ring for ice-water; and ten minutes later for a lemonade; and ten minutes afterward, for a cigar; and by and by for a newspaper—and what is the result? Why, a new boy has appeared every time and fooled and fumbled around until you have paid him something.

Suppose you boldly put your foot down, and say it is the hotel's business to pay its servants?

You will have to ring your bell ten or fifteen times before you get a servant there; and when he goes off to fill your order you will grow old and infirm before you see him again.

You may struggle nobly for twenty-four hours, maybe, if you are an adamantine sort of person, but in the mean time you will have been so wretchedly served, and so insolently, that you will haul down your colors, and go to impoverishing yourself with fees.


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