Consumer Issues

October 7, 2008

THE “TIPPING” POINT

Filed under: consumers — Tomi @ 8:47 pm
Tags: ,

 Tipping as I understand it is supposed to be optional and entirely at the discretion of the giver. In fact, the Merriam Webster dictionary defines tip (also frequently called gratuity) as a gift or a sum of money tendered for a service performed or anticipated. I find it rather amazing therefore that these days tip giving has ceased to be discretionary but has rather become more of an anticipation on the part of the receiver so much so that they do not care whether they perform a service or not worthy of a tip.

 

For example, a lot of  restaurants now automatically add a 15% gratuity to your bill if it’s a group of 6 or more it doesn’t matter what the constituent of the group is.  A case in point my family went out to dinner with my mom (there was in our group of six 3 adults, 2 preschoolers (we ordered 3 adult meals which was shared meals with the preschoolers)  and a 3 month old baby who was exclusively breastfed.  When the bill came an automatic 15% gratuity had been added to our bill (for our use of table space I guess) but to make it more interesting underneath the total was another tiny line for “Tip”. Obviously the gratuity goes to the restaurant and the actual tip added  to the subtotal of the actual cost of meal and automatic gratuity is what goes to the waiter or waitress. 

 

The other day a friend went in for lunch and right outside the restaurant windows, were employees carrying placards “stop stealing our tips” a message addressed to the owners of the restaurant. On further investigation, we discovered that employers are beginning to consider tips as part of the wages received by the employees thus in a bid not to overcompensate, some of them simply aren’t paying good enough wages to these people leaving it to the client to bridge the gap. 

 

While I have no hold back on the giving on tips, I prefer that it be given to duly deserving people and not just to anyone who feels like they have a right to it.  The other day we ordered delivery and the food came in 1 hour later than the promised delivery time rather cold.  We complained to the driver but rather than apologize,  he matter of factly stated “I lost my way and when we handed him a $1 tip, the guy goes “ I won’t accept that, “ according to him he’s gone to too much trouble delivering the food $1 was too small.  He insisted on having more added to the receipt rather than accepting a $1. Another delivery guy not only insisted on been paid the tip in cash but said we looked too rich for a $5 tip on a $20 delivery order. I thought that was astounding until a friend mentioned that fact that at her hair salon you had to put the tip for each individual in a labeled envelope before actually putting it in the tip box and when she innocently asked one of the individuals why you can’t drop a sum for everyone to share in the tip box the abrupt reply “you obviously have never had to work for tips in your life”. 

 

Though the tipping issue is most obvious in the restaurants, the unreasonable expectations on tips is going on everywhere.  Another example is the porter at the airport who goes in search of someone who could break a large note for change and not only does he bring the individual over to us, he takes the larger bill then hands us the change automatically keeping what he believes was commiserate to the level of service he’d offered. 

 

Personally, I have reached my own tipping point and I am done with the giving of tips to undeserving people.   As a matter of principle, these days, I do not give a tip unless I am genuinely impressed by the level of service received.  Over the summer, I got a nice lady who came to babysit for me, she played with the children and even made them dinner.  She was so good to them that I gave her a tip bigger than what I had paid the agency for her time.  That was someone who was deserving of a tip and I had no guile in giving it to her. But when we went to a restaurant and the attending waitress not only got our orders wrong but also slammed the food down then forgot to refill our drinks, I refused to give her any tip she was so nasty afterwards and complained loudly to the cashier “ they didn’t give me any tip”.  My friend did say that she gives 1cent  in a case like that so that she would not be tagged a stingy person but like that old age adage little drops of water makes the mighty ocean as far as I am concerned even 1cent is valuable it has to be deserved. 

 

People have to understand that it pays to treat other people with respect and it seems the only way to get the message across is to speak a language they understand. 

  

 

 

September 26, 2008

Expired or Not?

Filed under: consumers — Tomi @ 1:50 pm
Tags: , ,

Expired or Not?

 

With the recent increases in gas prices, and the mortgage slum, a lot of consumers are implementing different methods to cut gas expenses by limiting driving time as well as experimenting with others ways of cutting their living expenses.  For example, more and more family shoppers are going into the store with a list for items needed in the homes in a bid to cram all shopping need into one visit. Instead of daily or weekly shopping trips, many are choosing to stock up for a few days, for some it’s weeks and for some it’s months as a means to save on gas costs.  Also many are going in to discount warehouses for the first time, some clipping coupons to get more items per trip while cutting reducing the costs.

 

The efforts of the consumer are however frustrated by the manufacturers who it seems is unsympathetic with their offerings of confusing listings of expiring days on items available for purchase. Going from one aisle to the other in a regular grocery store, you’ll be amazed at the differences on the listed expiring dates on the items.  There is – use by, best by, best before, sell by, buy by, use or freeze by, enjoy by and then there is the one that has different days for different localities like the sell in NY by and in NJ by which you see mostly on milk.

 

A basic analysis of the different prints:

 

Use by: this is the most plain and easily understandable of all it tells you exactly when to use the item and after the listed date, you discard the unused portions.

 

Best before: I’ve often wondered if this means the item is still good after the date stipulated or if and if it’s only at it’s best before then.  I often thrown it out by the date but then sometimes I wonder if I could be saving more if I use it after the dates since I’d actually finished a box of cookies once afterwards noticing that the expiring date was 2 months prior to my consumption date. I’ve also bought bread once that got moldy two days before the listed date.

 

Sell by: This you find more on meat. Obviously the listed date is for the retailer but if I as the consumer buys the item on the exact same date listed and then change my mind for my recipe and I don’t use it that day but plan on using it the day after, would it still be ok?

 

Use or freeze by: this is as confusing as it can be. If I don’t use by but buy it and decide to freeze it would it still be okay to use if in 6 months or let’s say it gets tossed into the bottom of the freezer and I don’t get to see it until the next year. Would it still be okay to use it?

 

Finally, the use in NY by and in NJ where usually, the date in NY is an earlier date than the NJ date This begs the question why is there an earlier date. Obviously, certain laws limit the shelf life of these items in NY but the same law doesn’t apply in NJ.  It does makes one wonder if the people of NJ are being used as guinea pigs for an experiment. Why don’t we just have the same date for everyone???

 

True these manufacturers have laws governing their conduct but where exactly does that leave the common man.  The retailers offer on sale some items a few days before the printed expiring date and some don’t even notice that some items on their shelves are past the said expiring date.  As a rule I try to go for the item that is farthest from the expiring date but using online grocery delivery service, I get items within a day of it’s expiring date and the time I’m trying to save by not going into the store in the first place is wasted because I would have to go into the store to exchange it eventually.   Wouldn’t it be fair if the FDA mandated the use of same statement of expiring by all manufacturers? It would certainly help a lot of shoppers coordinate their shopping if only they understood when exactly the useful life of the item expires. Thus there would be no confusion and shoppers would really be able to save time and who knows it might be a major step in saving the environment from that dangerous Carbon Monoxide exhaust culprint that’s contributing to  GLOBAL WARMING.

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