Are Blacks Poor Tippers…. in Charlotte?

March16/ 2015

The Great State of Mecklenburg is having yet another Brouhaha De-Jour.   They have lots of’em over there.   This latest one involves a hospitality entity levying a mysterious surcharge on its guests attending the recent CIAA Basketball Tournament.   The CIAA is a predominately HBCUs group.   Uh oh!

At issue is a preconception OR misconception that “Blacks” a/k/a AfAms are “poor tippers”.   My thoughts on this are maybe one iota more significant that many based on some personal experience.  So….. here goes.

First, I have held various menial jobs over the years.   Being an exalted Internet Legend is the apex of a host of less exalted positions.

I have delivered newspapers at 3:00 AM in the rain.   I have delivered telephone books door-to-door.  I have driven a gravel packer (don’t know its real name).   I have “dug ditches” (OK, that was for a week while in grad school).   I was “a store clerk” for a few months.  And I have been “a corporate minion”.   Only that last one made me feel “dirty” and ask “Why me, God?”

I have never waited tables…. bartended…. valeted cars….. delivered pizzas….. given lap dances…. been a bellman or any other noble occupations which depend upon “tips” for a majority of ones income.   If I wanted reliable information on “which socio/cultural/ethnic factions” are good / bad / OK “tippers” I would ask a panel of men and women who have been in those trenches for a minimum of 3-5 years.  They ALL “have stories”.

I would NOT ask sociologists, politicians, race-baiters, KKK members, anyone in academia, Bruton Smith, Michelle Obama or any member of ISIS.  I could go on with that list but you get my drift.

Yes, I know that TIP stands for To Insure Promptness and was designed to reward a service provider for prompt courteous service.   If service is not deemed prompt and/or courteous the TIP would be less or withheld altogether.

I traditionally TIP the standard 20% rounded off to the next dollar.  I don’t normally leave loose change.   I am the one who has to figure that in our household because “her math skills” was not why I married Blondie.   I’ve tried all versions of “move the decimal point and multiply X 2” to no avail.

Service has to be pretty darn slovenly and obviously the server’s fault before I scrimp on the TIP.

Moving right along….. I was “an executive” in the luxury hotel biz for 18 years.  “An executive” means I wore my own clothes and worked sort of normal hours.

ASIDE 1:  Can you guess what “a billygoat” is in Bellman lexicon?
Bellman:  “Good evening sir.  Welcome to The _______.  May I help you with your luggage?”
BillyGoat:  “Naaaaah,I got it.”

“Naaaah” is the sound a billygoat makes.   18 years and THAT is what I learned.

ASIDE 2:  IMO, The #1 Best Job Ever is Night Manager of a large downtown luxury hotel.  You are The Boss and on a normal night you’ll deal with hookers, pimps, drunks, bums, a suicide or two, a few nekkid people locked out of rooms, con artists, nitwits, stoned celebrities, some really nice people and maybe an international assasin or two.  Give me a do-over and thats what I do…. or be a MLB umpire.

The hotel in question in Charlotte’s Tempest Over Tipping is the Ritz Carlton.  I never worked for Ritz but did toil for hotels of that caliber….. known in “the biz” as “upscale luxury” or sometimes “hoity toity” or simply “fancy”.   I did work for one “middle-market” property.   “Fancy” ones are better workplaces in most ways.

In the hotel biz there is a universal term – SMERF.  No, not the little blue people although a convention of “little blue people” would be termed SMERF.   I forget each letter in the acronym but it covers “group business” that is of a sort you book only in “valley periods” when a heavily discounted room rate is better than an empty room.   I know the “R” stood for Religious and the “F” for Fraternal.   No, the “M” did not stand for Muslim.  I had left the biz before that became an issue.   I can only imagine the issues that has brought.

SMERFs are not bad people at all but they are very very “price sensitive”.   To get a Ritz level hotel at a Holiday Inn rate is such a deal.   Alas, travelers not used to a “fancy” hotel don’t know the level of service extended nor the expectations for such service…. i.e. TIPPING.

“Fancy” hotels like RitzCarlton have “Are you kidding me” high rack-room rates.   Hardly anyone pays those other than Rock Stars, lottery winners and kids on a honeymoon that Daddy is paying for.   Everyone else gets some sort of corporate or group discount unless the hotel is 98% capacity.   Even with a discount, Ritz’ rates are pretty darn high ….. BUT so is its level of accommodations AND level of service.   AND THERE is where our current brouhaha begins.

That Ritz applied a “CIAA surcharge” to guests’ accounts at check-out was pretty darn stoopid UNLESS this was made very clear to everyone involved in the booking / registration process…. especially to the individual guests upon booking or at least at check-in….. not at check-out.    The Ritz GM screwed up UNLESS we are NOT getting the full factual story.   THAT happens more and more in these “It’s Racist” situations.   Perhaps you’ve noticed.

The official explanation once this all blew up was that the surcharge was to compensate for “blacks being poor tippers”.   OK, they were not stoopid enough to use those words but that’s what it was.   The hotel somehow “knew in advance” that its service staff throughout the hotel was not going to be TIPPED to the amount they normally depend upon.   In fact, they weren’t but how did Ritz “know in advance”.

The CIAA Basketball Tourn (predominately HBCUs) has been held in Charlotte for 4-5 years.   Ritz would have documented proof of those attendees’ tendencies.    In retrospect Ritz should have opted out of being “in the hotel block” for CIAA attendees.   That might have meant “empty rooms” but perhaps that would be better than the PR debacle that happened.

This isn’t a study in human genetics.   Is there a genome in a “black” person’s DNA helix that says “be a chintzy tipper”?   Whoa!   I’m not even saying there is a genetic predisposition to “dunk” or “dance funky” or “wear ones hair in dreds”.   Is “being poor tippers” a cultural thing?   That is a no-win wood chipper debate involving way too much harumphing and bloviating.

The “Whatta we do now?” Charlotte city-fathers quickly commissioned NC State to “do a study” on “Are blacks poor tippers?”   The study showed that city fathers who order “studies” never do what the study concludes they oughta do 97.3% of the time.

Certain types of guests do have stereotypical tendencies.   Charlotte hosts two major NASCAR races each year.   What good / not so good tendencies do NASCAR fans exhibit as a group.   NOT the same as conventions of lawyers, doctors, accountants, Mary Kay reps, or the Billy Graham Evangelical Assn.

Did Greensboro have the same “issues” with John Swofford’s soiree last weekend that Charlotte did with the CIAA?   THAT would be about as “apples to apples” a comparison as one could make.   Did, for instance, Grandover add an ACC surcharge to its ACC attendees?

Would it behoove the complaintants in Charlotte to do a direct comparison?   Should not be that difficult to do.  I’d be interested in the findings, wouldn’t you?

This was our “IT WAS RACIST” headline of the week.   Actually that mess with the Univ of Oklahoma fraternity got more ink and air time.  Now THAT was pretty stoopid but there’s probably two sides to that pancake too…. but its 2015 in Obama’s America so its gonna be impossible to plead any mercy for the dumb white frat boys.  They’re toast.

If I was brought in to mediate the Charlotte Mess I would (1) hold a focus group of career service personnel for their personal experience with the demographics of TIPPING; and (2) I’d do that comparison with Greensboro.

Then (3) I suggest Ritz rebate that surcharge back to all guests who paid it simply for some PR value.  They won’t score many points however.  There’s that whole “disrespect” thing involved now.

(4) Transfer the Ritz GM, Rooms Mgr and F&B Mgr to other properties and hustle to find any kind of SMERF group to fill the hotel over the CIAA dates for the next 10 years.   An SAE convention would probably not be an option.

I’ll have to ask Princess Fairmont what those other letters in SMERF stand for.

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