In a country like India, where giving bakshish is a way of life, I was surprised to read about the brouhaha surrounding taxi drivers who are adamant that, in addition to being paid the metre fare, they now want to be tipped at the end of every journey. It is customary not just in developing nations but also in metropolises across the world to tip cabbies, usually by rounding off the fare. That this practice hasn’t caught on in India is clearly an aberration, and citizens who are used to tipping postmen, waiters, delivery boys and other service providers should now reconcile to forking over gratuity to cabbies as well.
The word ‘Tips’ is an acronym for ‘To Insure Prompt Service’ and was traditionally given by a patron to the wait staff at the beginning of a meal rather than at the end. In cities like New York, it is imperative to tip the server almost 20 per cent of the restaurant bill and stories abound of irate waiters chasing after and abusing customers who haven’t left the customary gratuity. Many students and struggling actors, who moonlight as waiters, depend on tips to survive in the Big Apple but there is an innate arrogance about demanding to be tipped even if the customer isn’t satisfied with the quality of service.
My advice to desi commuters is to tip cabbies in cash only if they have been provided with exemplary service. And for rude cabbies, here’s a list to adhere to:
TIP 1: Do not refuse to ply short distances and do not take the most circuitous route to a destination. And please don’t pretend not to have change for a hundred rupees. No one likes feeling suckered by a crafty cabbie.
TIP 2: Just because you have obtained a licence to thrill from the RTO doesn’t mean that you honk incessantly, hurl abuses and weave through traffic like a maniac. Obey traffic rules and stop at signals. Resist the urge to mow down pedestrians because that is the prerogative of Red Line bus drivers.
TIP 3: Commuters expect to pay a fixed fare as per the laws of the land. Kindly do not tamper with your meter and don’t pretend that such a contraption does not exist, particularly at airports and railway stations where you think it is your birthright to demand exorbitant amounts.
TIP 4: Please extend the courtesy of asking your passengers if they want to hear music cranked up on your cab stereo. A surprising number of customers may not want to be subjected to a medley of Bollywood item numbers or foot-stomping Bhojpuri/Punjabi hits.
TIP 5: At times of crisis do not extort for vast sums from passengers to drop them home. These are not occasions to squeeze cash from stranded commuters, but rather a time to display your humanity. Your rewards will be manifold in heaven and yes, a grateful passenger will certainly give you a hefty gratuity for your largesse.