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April 7, 2008 5:29 AM   Subscribe

How do you tip people without anyone else noticing?

You know, the way they do it in the movies and on the soaps. It always seems so smooth, and you don't feel like a jackass for stumbling through the whole thing and making a big deal out of it.
posted by hadjiboy to Grab Bag (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm talking about when you're at a restaurant and the valet brings your car around, or opens the door for you to sit in, and you have to pass him a tenner or something, how do you do it? How do you place the note in your hand so that it can be easily transferred into the palm of his, without anyone being the wiser?
posted by hadjiboy at 5:32 AM on April 7, 2008

I would probably palm the bill in my hand and shake theirs. When you release, slide your hand against theirs and leave the bill in their palm. This requires a little bit of complicity - somehow indicating beforehand that you have a tip for them, or situate the bill in such a way that the receiving party can feel it in their hand during the shake.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:38 AM on April 7, 2008

I fold the bill into 4ths and hold it to my palm with my thumb. I don't necessarily hide it, but you can shake someone's hand and give them the money that way. They usually say "thank you" and put it in their pocket right away.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:42 AM on April 7, 2008

Unless you know that every note or coin in your pocket is the denomination you need and if you truly want it to be seamless (ie not fumbling around in your wallet or pocket) you have to prepare - go to the toilet before you leave and get a note / coins ready and then put that into a pocket with nothing else or keep it in your hand.

Or maybe, keep a supply of suitable notes for that purpose in your breast pocket, something like that.

Once you know that the note in your hand is the one you want (without looking) then actually passing it over should be a lot smoother.
posted by jontyjago at 5:43 AM on April 7, 2008

If you're so stealthy that you do something that the valet guy does not expect (eg: a slick Hollywood-style secret tip), you're more likely to confuse them and cause a scene.

Just keep in mind that, whatever you concoct in your mind, the valet guy is not in on your secret plan, and has been trained by the other bazillion customers who just hand him a couple bucks that it's normal.
posted by popechunk at 5:43 AM on April 7, 2008

trust me, these people know that no one is shaking their hand without a paper barrier. They are well skilled in all types of discreet transfer. Just palm it and offer your hand with a thank you, they will do the rest.
posted by any major dude at 5:44 AM on April 7, 2008

The palming method is as old as tipping. Anyone in the service industry knows how it works. If you're unsure of how to do it smoothly then practice with a friend. (Practice with a friend who will give the bill back to you!)
posted by JJ86 at 6:22 AM on April 7, 2008

Save the handshake tip for times when you want to feel truly stealth. It's not stealth, but it's good for the maître d's, "get me a better table" tip.

Of course, with a valet or anyone who generally receives a cash tip it may seem to an observer that you've neglected to tip. Anyone who notices the handshake and doesn't realize it's the tip transfer is going to think you stiffed the valet on a gratuity. Not that what you tip is anyone's business, but it may appear that you are a non-tipper.

Better to hand the person his tip, smile and thank you.
posted by 26.2 at 6:32 AM on April 7, 2008

I assume you're talking about tipping valets and bellhops. It's just a matter of being prepared -- don't wait until the valet has gotten out of your car and is walking toward you before starting frantically to fumble for your wallet, but have the bill(s) ready beforehand in your pocket folded in half -- and doing it a few times to get comfortable (everything gets easier with practice).

It's not a big deal, really, other than when you're on vacation or in a situation where you'll be giving cash tip, making sure you have kept aside some small bills in your wallet to use for tips.

But you don't need to be a secret agent about it, or palm the folded bills like a magician: no one else besides you the service person cares or even is paying attention to you. (If they do, then they need to get a life and mind their own business.) Just hand the tip to the service person discreetly and calmly with a nod and a friendly smile.
posted by aught at 6:36 AM on April 7, 2008

They're alert for tips, so you don't need to catch their attention. Put the bill between 2 fingers and reach out your hand while saying "Thanks." It's not the palming so much as the tipper paying very little attention. If there is cash in your hand, the tippee will retrieve it.
posted by theora55 at 6:54 AM on April 7, 2008

Seconding theora. No one notices a natural gesture or dwells on it if they do notice. It helps to keep 'small' money in the front right pocket and the 'big' money in the front left, or whatever combination works for you as long as they're separate. This eliminates fumbling, even for everyday things like buying a newspaper.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 7:08 AM on April 7, 2008

I would probably palm the bill in my hand and shake theirs. When you release, slide your hand against theirs and leave the bill in their palm.

Don't do this, it's demeaning, A gratuity might not be necessary, your touch may not be welcome.

It' easy.

Smile, say thank you, present the tip. Often it will be accepted, sometimes it won't be.

Life is often more complex than movies.
posted by mattoxic at 7:17 AM on April 7, 2008

Yes, the way to make this look effortless is to put some effort into it. While I'm all in favor of handing money over and saying "thank you!" if you want to do it like my great uncle did at the family party before I went off to college (warm handshake which mysteriously left a twenty dollar bill in my hand) you have the bill folded and at the ready in some handy pocket and hold it between your fingers on the inside of your hand. You don't have to be all stealth about it (please see what popechunk says re: secret plans) but you can make it clear that you have something for them and palm the money over.
posted by jessamyn at 7:23 AM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

The situations you refer to do not require hiding the tip, they are situations where everyone is tipping. In fact, it would look out of place if you didn't tip. The situations where you might hide it would be when you are getting a special favor that others aren't getting, i.e. a special table from the maitre'd or a certain vote on an appropriations bill.

But I see what you are saying about the awkward hand off of money.

Have the desired amount in your shirt breast pocket, folded in fourths. Take it out with your index finger and thumb and tap your forehead with it in a goofy salute and just hand it to them.

Or, do what I do, take a fat roll of hundreds out of your pants pocket and start peeling off bills and handing 'em to everyone in the room when you walk in. That's always appreciated. And respected.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:35 AM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

your touch may not be welcome.

I actually like the idea of shaking their hand; gives me a chance to really appreciate what they are doing, and as far as I've noticed, people really appreciate you when you think that they're worth the time and effort to make personal contact with.

Slarty, just thinking about you today! You know, actually, it would look out of place if I DID tip the people I'm talking about (the security guard who happens to watch over the car while it's parked and eagerly waves you out of your parking space in the hopes that you'll give him something), since "tipping" people is not much of a social custom over here, as you remember from that time we spent in the cafe.
posted by hadjiboy at 7:49 AM on April 7, 2008

Well, I think trying to hide it is headed for confusion.

I fold the money into fourths and put it ready to go in my pocket. When the service is complete (car arrrived, taxi door opened, coat returned, bags placed in room, etc.), I reach into my pocket and pullout the tip.

As I lift my hand out to the person, it's much like I'm heading for a handshake. Almost universally, the service person lifts their hand, palm up, toward me. I put the money into their hand and say 'Thanks for your help'. They say thank you, and we are done.

I never try shaking hands and secretly sliding money. That feels like they just slipped me the coke bindle and I'm paying off.

IMHO, tipping is valid and beneficial practice that doesn't need to be hidden.

If a money handoff is not for tipping, but as a gift. I tend to go with an envelope that can be slipped into someone's purse or pocket. The Chinese style red envelopes are perfect for this.
posted by Argyle at 8:50 AM on April 7, 2008

Is it important that tipping be so discreet? (sorry if this is a side issue, it seems fairly relevant)
posted by amtho at 8:55 AM on April 7, 2008

I have both palmed/shook hands and quasi-palmed/not-quite shook hands with the bill folded for easy passing. No one has ever been confused by what was happening or failed to respond in any way but to say "Thank You."
posted by MasonDixon at 9:17 AM on April 7, 2008

To prevent others from noticing, you must only be nonchalant. Keep the money ready, choose your moment, and let that moment coincide with moments when other people are distracted or unsuspecting. That moment is usually earlier than the normally anticipated 'tipping time,' and usually while people are in motion. (Amazing how much people can miss while pulling on a coat, getting into a car, or simply walking.) Indicating 'this is for you,' avoids any confusion on the recipient's part when tips are not expected. In some circumstances, you may wish to motion your target aside for a short private conversation (ask for directions, what days they work, how's the family, anything) and casually pass the money.

Nonchalance works everywhere, whether I speak the language or not. Being a girl, I've never tried palming the money inside a handshake (for me, that would be unreliable at best). However, I do slide the folded bills between my index and third fingers so that they're semi-hidden when my fist is closed, and then passing the money is reduced to the tiny motion of uncurling the fist and turning the palm up in the universal 'offer' gesture.

Almost sounds like I've thought this all through, eh?
posted by zennie at 11:02 AM on April 7, 2008

I fold a $20 twice and finger-palm it behind the first two fingers of my right hand. But this is for people you don't normally tip, like the maître d' who got you a table on a busy Saturday night.
posted by nicwolff at 12:57 PM on April 7, 2008

It really depends on the place and who you are tipping. While many commenters here say it is not needed to be stealthy at all, there are situations where the service person doesn't want it known that they are getting a tip. It is always safe to hide the fact that you may be overly generous as well so there is no jealousy on the part of managers or other service people. Some places have definite rules on taking tips so giving a person any sort of tip could get them in serious trouble. It isn't necessary to tip every waiter or bartender this way - use your best judgement.

Just to show a situation where stealthy tipping is mandatory, my father was in the hospital and was very well taken care of by a nurse. The hospital policy is absolutely under no circumstances is tipping allowed. Being that the door was open and the corridor was busy he had to make sure she received a tip out of sight or she could be fired and in deep shit. So yeah there are some situations when you need to be prepared to be stealthy.
posted by JJ86 at 2:41 PM on April 7, 2008

I admittedly didn't read all the comments, hope I'm not repeating. I did see a few that ask about tipping, there are situations where you may want to tip someone casually. Especially if they are in in front of someone who did the same/similar task for you, but not as well.

I can't really think of a good example, but maybe this one will do.

I pull into a gas full service gas station. I park, there are two gentleman outside, one immediately starts pumping another checks under the hood. On my way out I see they are both cleaning the windshield, one working each side. As I walk around the car to my drivers door I see the passenger side is smeared horribly, like there's grease on the rag. Sure I could rub it in to the messy guy that I'm giving the other guy a tip, but I could also just shake his hand slip him the money and leave. Messy guy never knows.

The same situation occurs when the employees are supposed to be tipped, but you feel they've earned it.

The casual handshake is best, but have a friend practice it with you.

Never tip someone like the maître d' right in front of other customers, at least not if you're "tipping" him in advance. I.E. If you're tipping him to get you a table faster, don't let others see it happen.

I've successfully pulled this off even at VERY average places (Applebees and Texas Roadhouse come to mind).

I used to work at a very low quality restaurant. An average table left $2-$5 in tips. I had one guy who was there with his (wife?). The whole time he was an absolute jerk. Cruel and mean. When they finally left there was a $1 on the table. As I started picking up the dishes there was a crisp $20 under his plate. To this day I've wondered what was going on. Why treat me like crap then drop $20 on me? Still, it was very casual, no doubt she didn't know he gave me so much money.
posted by TheDukeofLancaster at 2:51 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

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