Christmas. Everybody's shoving their grubby little paws in Unreal's face. The mailman, the paper boy, the upstairs maid, the lap dancer. Even the garbage man expects a little palm-greasing.
Baffled, we turn to Leonard Green, a Washington University psychology professor who has studied tipping behavior at restaurants and who comfortably throws around terms like "delayed and probabilistic outcomes" and "magnitude effect."
Unreal: What is "magnitude effect"?
Professor Leonard Green: In tipping, we know the obvious: The larger the bill, the larger the tip. On $10 you leave less than on $100. However, what we wanted to see was, what about the percentage of the tip? What percentage do you leave on $10 versus on $100? And what we found was that the percentage of the tip decreases with the size of the bill. Percentagewise, you leave less up to a point.
We have a lot of friends who are servers, so we're pretty consistently up there.
My wife at one point was a server, so she's a big tipper. But even there I've been sort of looking at her tipping behavior. Even though she's a big tipper, she leaves a larger percentage tip on a smaller bill than on a larger bill.
The ultimate existential question of the service industry: Why do people tip?
There are several theories, but no sufficient answer yet. There's the notion that you tip to get good service. Obviously that doesn't work, because you tip after. You haven't ensured good service. It's too late. Then there's the theory, "There's a norm. If everybody tips, then it does ensure good service in the future." So if there's tipping, then servers are more likely to serve well. But I'm not sure I agree with that, either.
Do you find that servers are able to manipulate diners into tipping more?
We didn't look at that, but oh yes. If I'm running a restaurant or I'm training servers, I can teach them how to increase the tip.
Sell bottles of wine, and dessert.
See, that drives me up the wall. That should not be part of the tip. That's not real work. Open the bottle, give it to me. But when they have to go back and bring me $40 worth of food, they have to go back and forth a lot.
We have this mail lady. She's not a good mail lady. She doesn't deserve a tip at Christmas. But is it because we've never tipped her that she's not a good mail lady?
There's also the other part: "She may not be very good, but if I don't tip, I run the risk of it being even worse." It would be interesting to see how service is affected: On these yearly Christmas tips, do you find better service just prior to Christmas? And do you find better service soon after the tip, but then it drops back down to the baseline?
No to the first question. As for the second, guess we'll never know.
Log Cabin Republicans Seek Investigation of Gay Sex
The Log Cabin Republicans of Greater St. Louis have asked for an investigation of a drag show at the University of Missouri at St. Louis last month.
Charles Stadtlander, president of the political organization for gay, lesbian and bisexual Republicans, attended the Oct. 14 drag show. The second annual show was sponsored by several groups, including PRIZM, an organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered students.
Stadtlander said performers in the show mocked heterosexual people in the audience, wore revealing outfits, used inappropriate language and simulated sex acts.
From a November 29 news brief in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
The Log Cabin Republicans of Greater St. Louis have asked for a new investigation involving a drag show at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Two weeks after alleging that off-color behavior occurred during the show, Charles Stadtlander, president of the political organization for gay, lesbian and bisexual Republicans, says he now has reason to believe that homosexual sex occurred after the show.
"Those actors wore revealing outfits, used inappropriate language and simulated sex acts," said Stadtlander. "Pretty inappropriate. But it pales in comparison to what they did later that night."
Stadtlander says he has learned that two of the show's participants had consensual sexual intercourse at a motel.
"Two dudes doing it is just nasty," said Stadtlander.
Somebody Buy My Crap
Item: Kiss Busts (Ace Frehley,
Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley)
Condition: Still in box
Price: $200 each
Issue: December 6
Unreal: You have only three of the four original Kiss members. What happened to Peter Criss?
Spencer: He's almost impossible to get. I called all over the country trying to find him. I was lucky enough to get Paul Stanley. He was on hold for another customer, but I knew one of the employees at Spencer's. He sold it to me before the other guy could claim it.
What are the busts made of?
I think they're some kind of industrial plastic. They retail for $250. The bust of Gene Simmons is almost life-sized. It goes from the top of his head down to his nipple. It's painted with all the make-up and also has his spiked shoulder pads. Paul Stanley has a rose tattoo on his chest.
What compelled you to buy these?
I used to collect all types of Kiss stuff. I have all their albums, every doll and action figure they ever made, guitar picks and drumsticks. I used to have an entire room dedicated to Kiss. But chicks thought that was weird, so I put it all in boxes. Now I'm 37 and wondering what I'm doing with all this stuff. The band sucks.
Why do you say that?
Let's say my musical skills have surpassed those of a novice. When you get past playing barre chords, Kiss is no longer interesting. Plus they've completely overmarketed themselves. They did it in the '70s and everyone got sick of them. Now they're doing it again. They even sell coffins and condoms now. Gene Simmons markets a French-tickler, for crying out loud!
Was there a seminal moment when you realized Kiss sucks?
It was at [UMB Bank Pavilion] a few years ago. They were playing their second farewell tour with Aerosmith. Steven Tyler and crew blew them away. It wasn't even close. I said to myself then: I'm finished making Kiss richer and me poorer.
Given all that, do you think Kiss busts make a good Christmas gift?
For a Kiss fan, definitely. Let's hope there are some left.
From time to time Unreal trolls the St. Louis Post-Dispatch classified section's "Bargain Box." We cannot guarantee any item remains available for purchase at press time.
LOCAL BLOG O' THE WEEK
Author: Jim Varagona
About the blogger: Jim, who has Type 1 diabetes, says the name "Diabetoboy" was used by a grade-school classmate to taunt him. He also sells "Free the Mad Russian" shirts (among other things) at www.cafepress.com/diabetoboy_prod.
Recent Highlight (November 15, 2005): He told me he tried to take a few from the first litter home and his dog ate them. I figured I could give one a better home than the digestive system of a canine, so I asked if I could take one home. He said as long as I caught her myself. I attempted to chase the tiny bunnies around. I believe there were four or five of them. Dallas and Brad, another man that worked there, told me to corner it in the hutch that they stayed in. I chased her into it, then lifted the roof.
To my horror and disgust, this rabbit family was sleeping on matted fetal rabbits. It was literally a layer of dead pink bunnies mushed together. I couldn't do it, so leatherface stepped in. He put her in a bucket and agreed to take us home. His car was half made of wood. You see he was the resident handyman at the center, so of course this translated into his everyday life as well. His bumper was missing; in its place was a two by four. The console inside the car was gone; instead, a wooden box. There were no handles on the doors on the outside. You had to get it to open by sticking your hand in a hole and shimmying a bar. I considered failing high school at this point.
We arrived home and I named her Hefner...ita, because I'm not really sure about the sex one way or another.
Know of an Unreal-worthy local blog? Send the URL to firstname.lastname@example.org.