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Tips tell the tale of winter



Business, and customers, about on par with last season, say servers

As tourists poured into town for the 2001-02 season, Whistler's servers say they have been just as generous, or as notoriously cheap, as in previous years.

"Sales are the same or better and it's definitely a reflection. I think overall (the tips) have been the same as last year," said Dubh Linn Gate manager Paul Cosgrave,

In this international setting, the measure of a tip can be an even bigger clue to a visitor's homeland than their accent.

"Gratuities always fluctuate (depending on) if the customers are educated in our customs or not," said Citta's bartender Eli Milenkoff.

"It's not customary in many other countries to give a gratuity. Their servers are paid better wages."

It's no secret in Britain and Australia, tipping in bars is not a common practice.

This practice sometimes travels over the water and right into the local Irish pub in town, where Brits can get a little taste of home away from home.

Visitors can get traditional fish and chips, Wicklow Mountain Irish stew or shepherd's pie. And to wash it all down, a pint of Guinness.

But there is also the expected 15 per cent tip on top of the bill.

To skip that North American obligation, some tourists will sit down at a table and then continuously walk up to the bar to order drinks, bypassing their servers.

"It's out of principle because they think they're at an Irish pub and it's customary to do that," said Cosgrave, who is originally from Ireland.

Bartender Andrew Mackintosh agrees with his manager.

"If it's $5 they'll give you $5. If it's $4.75, they'll generally give you a quarter," said Mackintosh, who has been tending bar at the Dubh Linn Gate for about one and a half years.

Still, servers there say they usually rake in about 10-15 per cent and this season was just as good as last year.

Servers in busy Whistler bars echoed this sentiment.

But they also agree that a good attitude is a reflection of good tips at the end of the night.

For example, apres at the Longhorn patio is packed on any given day.

"A few years ago it was so busy you were just running around like a mad man," said server Julian Wilson, who has been working there for four years.

Since that time, the patio isn't as busy due to capacity requirements, but apres is still hectic.

Wilson said selling over $1,500 in three hours in a patio section isn't unusual. But while the sales might be higher, the tips may not be as high just because the servers are so busy and cannot take too much time to interact with their customers.

During the night shift however when the bar isn't as busy, servers can sit down at tables and really talk with their customers. "That's reflected in the tips," said Wilson.

Even if some international guests ignore the unwritten 15 per cent rule, others make up for it.

"The best tippers are the vacationers," said Chrissy Charlton, a day leader at Earl's.

She said there was no hard rule that Brits were bad tippers while Americans were great, it just depends on the individual travellers.

Likewise, there was a disparity in the tipping habits of some of Whistler's Mexican guests.

"During the Mexican spring break, either they tipped really well or really poorly," said Charlton.

Charlton has been working at Earl's in Whistler since it opened last December and she said locals aren't the most extravagant tippers, but they are consistent at 10 to 15 per cent.

This winter there were a lot of average Vancouver families at Earl's who tipped in that range, she said.

The most recent figures from Tourism Whistler show that there is not a huge disparity in the number of visitors to the resort this year as compared to last year.

If tips are a way to measure the resort's success for the 2001-02 winter season, Whistler is on track with prior years.

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