John Boehner is a lousy tipper


UPDATE 9:20 a.m. Julie Shenkman, co-owner of Sam’s Chowder House, wrote SFBay this morning to clarify that Speaker Boehner did not actually pay the bill personally, it was paid by the Secret Service. Initially, a “nominal” tip was left. After reaching their hotel, they called back immediately, leaving “a completely appropriate tip.”

Like many of us, I’ve worked for tips. It hurts when you get stiffed or shorted.

Sometimes, you understand. You can pick up when someone’s on the struggle and you let things slide. Certain people just come out and tell you they’re too broke to tip. No problem. Hit me up next time.

With others, lousy tips illuminate bankrupt character. Your clearly well-heeled customer — whom you’ve graciously served with care — walks out leaving behind a pocketful of jingle-jangle or a triplet of George Washingtons.

If you’re a server at Sam’s Chowder House in Half Moon Bay, and  your customer is House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and an entourage of staffers and Secret Service agents, imagine the disappointment when your party rushes out leaving you feeling “unappreciated” after a tableful of lobster rolls, ahi tuna, clams and oysters.

In the Bay Area last week for a $1,000-a-plate fundraising dinner, Boehner landed his plane at Half Moon Bay hungry for some local cuisine. Sam’s, of course.

Lobster rolls run $21.95 at Sam’s. Multiply that times eight Secret Service agents. Then, add ahi tuna ($14.75), ceviche ($11.95), steamed clams ($16.50) and a bowl of chowder ($10.25). Throw in some soda pop ($2.25 x 6) and coffee ($2.50 x 4), and one can modestly estimate a bill for 12 to be around $260.

The Half Moon Bay Review reported Boehner personally paid the bill — without haggling — then took a photo with the owner. Afterward, the group rushed out, leaving a tip the paper said left the server feeling “unappreciated.”

There’s no word of what the actual tip was, but the Half Moon Bay Review reported the Secret Service called back to apologize for skimping on the tip. They added $30 to the total bill.

Based on our estimated tab, a tip of around $50 would be about 20 percent for what was certainly bend-over backward service at Sam’s. Nothing to sing to St. Peter about. Certainly nothing to stimulate our local economy.

I guess we all know the Secret Service doesn’t tip well, but  to call back and add $30 — somewhat more than 10 percent — to an already lousy tip just tosses a few more pennies into a fountain of disappointment.

If you’re not sure how much to tip, and you want to feel gracious, just double what you feel would be “normal.” If you’re cheap, your tip might encroach on decent. And if you’re already a good tipper, the smile on the face of your server/driver/sherpa should be enough to let you know you won’t miss the extra dollars.

Jesse Garnier
Jesse Garnier is the editor and founder of SFBay. A Mission District native, he also teaches journalism as associate professor at San Francisco State University.

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