Dear TripAdvisor: Tipping the piano player ... Seeking advice
Q: If you request a song in a piano bar, do you have to tip? How much?
A: If you actually want the pianist to play your song, I'd back it up with some cold, hard cash. Sitting on a barstool yelling, "Play 'Bohemian Rhapsody'!" is probably not going to work, unless you're the only person in the bar. (And if it's a cruise-ship piano bar, you never, ever will be the only person there. Cruise-ship pianists have groupies. Serious groupies. Once I saw two women nearly come to blows over who got to sit on the stool closest to the piano.)
How much you should tip varies. It depends on what other people are tipping and how badly you want to hear your song. If everyone's tipping $5, and you'll simply die if you don't hear your request, throw in a $10 or $20 bill. Now, there's still no guarantee he or she will play it, no matter how much you tip. But in my experience, the more you tip, the more your odds improve. Just make sure the pianist sees you put the tip in the jar, or it's all for nothing.
Q: I'm going to New York soon. I have a bunch of friends there and e-mailed them for advice. They responded, but now I have a list of five-star hotels and pricey restaurants, which is just not helpful for my family (my kids are under 5). I don't want to seem ungrateful, but I'm getting a lot of unhelpful advice ... yet I'm sort of embarrassed to go back to them saying, "Actually, all of these things are too fancy for us." What should I do?
A: If there's one thing I've learned in the TripAdvisor forums, it's that you need to be specific if you want good advice. "What's your favorite restaurant in NYC?" is going to get you a list of the expensive places your friends go for birthdays and business dinners. You can't really blame them -- they're answering your question truthfully. You need to ask, "Can you recommend any family-friendly restaurants (diners, pizza places, etc.) in NYC?," if you want helpful information.
In your case, I'd just write back saying, "Wow, all of these sound amazing. We're going to have to come back sometime without the kids and check them out! But I should've been more specific. Can I ask you for some more family- (and budget-) friendly places?" There's no need to be embarrassed (or to make your friends feel guilty about having expensive tastes).
(E-mail travel-etiquette questions to Lesley Carlin at deartripadvisor(at)tripadvisor.com.)
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