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Talking With: Steve Dublanica about tipping

Steve Dublanica made a name for himself back in 2008 with "Waiter Rant," his searing perspective on what it's like to be a professional waiter - the good, the bad and a whole lotta ugly. The book, based on his popular blog, became a bestseller.

Dublanica proves he's not just a one-rant-wonder with "Keep the Change: A Clueless Tipper's Quest to Become the Guru of the Gratuity" (Ecco, $24.99). This breezy read explores the history of tipping (it dates back to the Middle Ages) and the ways gender, age, ethnicity and nationality affect how much we tip. It's full of amusing tales of big tippers and tightwads told by waiters, shoeshine men, bathroom attendants, strippers and more.

What surprised you the most in your research?

It's all the Europeans' fault. They moan and groan about tipping in this country, but they invented it. In the day of Talleyrand, they came here and marveled that there was no tipping. But now the situation has flip-flopped. We took to tipping like a duck to water.

Ever stiffed anyone?

If I have, it's been by accident - if I was inebriated and messed up the tip. I'm basically a 20 percent tipper. I even tip waiters when the service isn't too hot. I've been in the business and know that sometimes the service is affected by what you can't see in the back.

You never know with some jobs. Like bathroom attendants - I was surprised to learn they sometimes have to buy the items they offer.

Some things the restaurant or club provides, but attendants see what customers want - and if the owners don't supply the right cologne, or nail polish for a run in your stocking, the attendants buy it. Sometimes they pay for all of it. So, when you take something, you should give them a dollar. People just grab a handful of stuff and walk out the door. No, no, no ... these attendants aren't there for their health.

Are low tippers the most demanding?

Sometimes. The top dog of this car wash was telling me about "the pointers" - the ones who point at every little mistake. These people want a detail job for $13.

Who should be tipped these days but isn't?

Those poor kids who work in the movies, the ushers. They gotta clean up your gum, popcorn and God knows what else. If they had a tip jar, I'd throw money in it. But I don't think you should see a tip jar at the hot dog concession of a baseball stadium. Or a fast-food restaurant.

You say if we don't know what to tip, just ask. Won't people lie?

I don't think so, because if you find they're lying and come back, they'll get in trouble. Tip workers also tip, and understand the dynamic. Generally, if it's more than 15 or 20 percent, they're probably lying. That's the golden rule - not all the time, but most.

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