Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Durham's got cojones

On Saturday, a friend and I attended the "Durham Rising" event, a celebration that marked the end of a long downtown revitalization project involving realigned streets, brick sidewalks and public squares, new trees and decorative streetlamps, and a general hope that downtown Durham is on its way to becoming hip and vital.

As part of the festival, the city officially unveiled an enormous bronze sculpture of a bull, our city's mascot (we're the Bull City, home of the Durham Bulls, etc.).

"What a handsome bull," I thought, filled with beer garden-induced civic pride. And then the man in the blue shirt stepped aside, revealing the bull's bullish attributes.

Sure, I know it's totally juvenile to note just how anatomically correct our bull is, but how could you not? I wasn't the only one noting, believe me. There were plenty of snickers and shy pointing.

But when I got done having a chuckle, I couldn't help but feel warmly toward my oft-maligned city. In a region where public art is derided as a waste of money, and anything more risky than a bronze acorn draws outraged criticism (heh hem, like Raleigh's snub of renowned Spanish sculptor Plensa), it took, well, balls to embrace this sculpture as the city's icon. And if there was ever a city that thought of itself as ballsy, it's New York, and even its famed Wall Street bull can't compare.

HTT: How do I tip a curbside delivery person?

Dear HTT,

This is more of a 'modern etiquette' question than a 'life, love, and the pursuit of happiness' question, but here goes... I know how much to tip waiters/waitresses in a restaurant: 15% of the check is traditional, and in the New York metro area 18-20% seems reasonable. (I assume such an amount is reasonable in most North American metropolitan areas.)

I would always rather over-tip than under-tip. I figure that anyone who's waiting tables for a living is working harder than I've ever had to work, and I know that person is counting on my tip as part of his/her salary. So unless the service has been really bad, I tip 20%.

But what about when those same waiters/waitresses deliver take-out food to the 'Curbside To Go' (or "Curbstyle To Go' or whatever cutesy name the chain restaurant uses) parking spots? Surely some sort of tip is in order, but since the waitperson hasn't taken my order, answered my questions, delivered my food, cleared away the dirty dishes, and refilled my coffee, 18-20% seems a little steep. What do you think is appropriate?


I’ve never taken advantage of curbside delivery, so I did a little Web research. Let’s just say, as is often the case when you ask the entire world of web-posters for advice, opinions vary. In fact, I ran into a number of long and heated threads about this issue.

I agree that 18 to 20 percent seems over the top. As you point out, the person who brings food to your car doesn't have to do nearly the amount of work that someone who waits on your table throughout an entire meal does.

Some argue that the curbside delivery person makes the same lousy salary as tableside waitstaff and, hence, should be tipped equally. However, I would imagine that curbside folks can serve far more customers per hour, so they might get smaller tips but more of them.

From what I can tell, tips for curbside delivery range from nothing (which I do not advocate), to $1-$2 per bag of food delivered, to 10 percent of the bill.

I’d probably lean toward 10 percent, but my decision might also be affected by the following factors:

  • Did they get my order right?
  • Was service relatively quick and friendly?
  • Am I a regular at this establishment?
  • How’s the weather?
  • Would an extra buck or two kill me?

I’d be curious to see what others think.

Thanks for writing!