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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Facebook CEO Didn't Tip for Lunch

Story first appeared in USA Today.

When in Rome, Facebook's honeymooning co-founder and CEO reportedly did as most Romans do: Pay for a meal without adding an additional tip beyond the already-included service charge.

But by failing to leave a separate gratuity on their 32 euro (about $40) lunch of deep-fried artichokes, fried pumpkin flowers and ravioli stuffed with sea bass and artichokes washed down with bottled water and a pot of tea, the CEO and his bride have set tongues wagging on both sides of the Atlantic.

Waiters at Nonna Betta, which specializes in Roman Jewish cuisine, were amazed by the parsimony, not just because of his huge wealth but because of Americans' reputation for tipping generously, as is expected of them at home.

So was he playing by the rules of European etiquette, or just playing Scrooge after his considerably smaller than expected IPO windfall?

It is not customary to tip for meal service in Italy. In the States, servers are paid less than minimum wage and are expected to make up the difference in tips. In Italy, servers are paid a living wage and tips are for extraordinary meals and/or service.

In most sit-down restaurants, especially the nicer ones which have no counter service, you may find both 'il coperto' and 'servizio incluso' written on the menu. 'Il coperto,' generally one or two euro, takes care of things like bread before the meal and a glass of tap water. 'Servizio incluso' means they've already figured in a tip for you – usually around 15% – so the total due on your final bill is all you'll owe.

If the service has been particularly outstanding or you've had an exceptional experience, leaving a couple euro on the table is a lovely gesture. But there are plenty of Italians who are actually annoyed when they see tourists leaving big tips, because they're afraid the waiters will begin to expect it – thereby ruining it for the locals.

Not leaving a tip is a bit of a faux pas, but really because of Italian expectations of Americans."

Europeans know or expect that gratuity is almost automatically included. But Americans absolutely have a reputation for tipping, and many Italians have come to expect a tip when serving them.

Readers, what do you think? Should he have ponied up more as a grazie for his Roman lunch?

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