Buying stuff in the US is niggly. So niggly there have been occasions when I’ve decided against buying something to avoid the hassle of a cash transaction.
The photo above is $2.91 in change. Enough for a bus ride here in NY – in fact you’d be 16c to the good. As we discovered, you can’t actually get on a bus without a metro card or the exact change in coins. Notes are no good. So if you don’t have a funded card, your best case scenario is you happen to have 11 quarters on you. The reality is the above is how many coins you’re actually slotting for a one-way trip. It’s not worth thinking about going cash on a return journey. You’ll have to buy a carry bag for these little metal mosquitoes.
It took only a week for me to get sick of the coins. If I was rich I would just throw them away. But I’m running a budget, so I’m starting a coin jar. Once it’s full I’ll take it to the overpriced supermarket down the block to buy some beers. Out of desperation I paid $4 for four rolls of single ply toilet paper from those scoundrels. A rookie move for newbies. Revenge will be sweet.
The coins are bad. But that’s only the start of it. Then there are sales taxes and tipping. Say you’re hungry and walk into a cafe with $10. You see a nice little soft taco combo for $9.75. You can go chicken, beef or pork. Or mix and match. Rice and sour cream on the side. A nice little salad even. Guess what? You can’t buy it. That menu price, it’s the Lochness Monster. It’s just a catfish to suck you in. The mighty US of A might have Tesla, Google, Amazon, Apple and Cinnabon, but its retailers still can’t include taxes in the price of anything.
The tacos are off the table. How about a nice salad for $8.95? Seriously, I couldn’t tell you if you could buy it. I’d be spraying in the wind and it would probably blow back on me. I know you couldn’t buy it if you’re eating in. Because then you have to tip the waiter that brings it to you. And in NY the going tip for eating establishments is 20%. 20%!
Even if the service is terrible we’ve been instructed not to tip less than 15% otherwise we’ll be chased down the street. One of the Germans BB met experienced this within a week of arrival. In my younger years I’d back myself to outpace a waiter. But these days there’s a good chance both the achilles and hammy would go, which appeals to me as being more humiliating than parting with cash for someone who has ruined a very rare and precious culinary experience due to blowing at their job.
So the lesson here, is only eat in when you’re flush. The risks start to escalate otherwise. I say that having never eaten in at a cafe. I’m not stupid enough to pay an extra 20% to try and wrangle two kids at a table when I can just take the food to a park and let the little terrors loose on the squirrels.
It’s not just waiters you have to tip. Bartender pops the top off a beer for you. That’s $3 for the beer (well not in Manhattan it isn’t, but you get the gist), no idea what for the sales tax, and then $1 tip for him. He/she gets $1 for mastering how to use a bottle opener. The solution to this one is obvious. Only drink beersies at bars that serve jugs. At least pouring from a tap is multi-skilled. You’re meant to tip $2 for a cocktail. Probably a little light in the scheme of things. Speaking from experience you can crack 20 beers a lot faster than the time it takes to make a whisky sour.
Baristas love the tip too. Imagine that in Wellington. They’d be millionaires. The lot of them. Hairdressers, doormen (fortunately only at Christmas) and taxi drivers aren’t missing out on that gravy train either. Uber I can understand. Otherwise they’d be homeless.
It makes complete sense that those enjoying the tipping bounty don’t want it to end given it bares little relationship to the quality of service. What amazes me is the Government is so happy to watch this pile of income tax sail on by. There is simply zero chance tips are accurately declared. Who knew a Government anywhere happy with less money to buy votes with?