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Tuesday, October 11, 2005 

Money for Nothing

At the beginning of each school year, the school requests that parents pay a small sum to supplement the wages of the school's cleaning ladies. For the first time, I have no problem paying the 8€ since my son informs me that the woman works 4 hours in addition to her regular shift each day to help out at the school and the children think the world of her. For the previous 5 years my son has attended school, this hasn't been the case. The cleaning lady would show up for 1-2 hours after school to empty the garbages and mop the floor every once in awhile. I wouldn't even allow him to use the washrooms in the schools because they were so disgustingly dirty. They also demanded the 'fee' at the beginning of each school year and then again at Christmas and Easter.

I’m fed up with the practice and it’s not just limited to the school’s cleaners. At Christmas and Easter, all hairdressers and cab drivers exact extra fees on top of their regular prices from their customers. This isn’t an arbitrary sum they invent, rather, it’s dictated by law what they can charge. They will have signs posted informing you of these ‘bonuses’. Even the school’s cleaning ladies are doing the same thing although it’s not covered by the law. I don’t even know why some professions believe they are entitled to these bonuses while others are excluded. Is there some mathematical formula to figure it out or was it done on a whim. How it all started and why it still continues, I have no clue. All I know is that I’m financially held hostage by such an innane law.

To question paying the sum is an insult to them. They believe it’s their God-given right to demand that customers give them money just because they don’t make enough money in their chosen professions. I'd love to be able to charge people extra just because I think I'm worth it not because they think I'm worth it.

Hairdressers can charge whatever amount they feel is appropriate for their services. If a customer feels it’s worth it, they’ll pay it. I have no problem paying my hairdresser 30% more for a haircut than his competition across the street because he’s a better hairdresser. That’s his “tip”…the fact that I chose him over another hairdresser.

Cabbies drive. That’s all they do and in Athens, even this is open to debate. They don’t even drive well, their cars are often scrapyard relics, most of them are rude and they’ll try to pick up other passengers as well so it’s not like you’re paying extra for driving in comfort and solitude. Demanding a bonus where none is deserved is nothing short of legalized extortion. Even the labour laws dictate that the cleaning lady who works at our stores makes more money per hour than our best performing salesman. Salary increases on minimum wage are also given if the employee has gotten married and then another raise if he has a child.

Merit-based salary raises are practically unheard of and productivity suffers as a result. They expect and demand wage increases without doing any extra work, learning any new skills or becoming more effective at their jobs.

A society which rewards the lazy, the uneducated and the unskilled punishes itself economically.

In Greece people get paid 13 salaries instead of 12. The 13th salary is ceremonial, as a Christmas present. That you have to give this extra salary to cabbies and hairdressers defeats the purpose of getting it in the first place.

Cab drivers get the 'doro' and the tickets for intercity coach travel have gone up. If somebody suddenly has extra expenses to cover or just wants to make more cash, all they do is transfer the extra expense to the immediate lower layer of the transaction chain thus the responsibility of covering the expenses is now transferred to that layer. Of course, the extra expense cannot be carried over below the individual customers, because their layer is the lowest.

A doro (=present) is something you willfully give to someone you think they deserve it. I haven't heard any case where someone demands a present (unless they're under 10, which is by the way the upper mental age of most Greek cabbies).

To question paying the sum is an insult to them. They believe it’s their God-given right to demand that customers give them money just because they don’t make enough money in their chosen professions.

I think you're being unjust here. It's a state-given right. Legally, all employees in Greece are entitled to a bonus at Christmas and Easter. This is governed by IKA. Even when you go on the dole, you get a separate cheque for these bonuses, although it's pretty small.

Taxi drivers and hairdressers do not work for an hourly wage, but get paid for each service rendered. They are considered freelance or self-employed, and are responsible for their own health plan and insurance, usually not at IKA but at TEBE. They have no employer to do this for them, and have no employer to provide them with the Christmas and Easter bonuses. So the law states that they are entitled to charge a certain amount during a certain period, so that they can have what everyone else has. (Unless your employer is withholding it.) There must be some index for each of these occupations. The rest of us should be getting two months' pay, when you add up the two bonuses and the summer leave money. It wouldn't be hard to figure out how much the average taxi driver or hairdresser makes in, let's say, a week or two, and apply the same percentage.

I agree steel...I don't mind paying tips to cabbies when they're polite, their cars are clean and air conditioned and they don't drop me off 10 blocks from where I need to be. It's the same with hairdressers. I also give them tips..from the shampoo girl to the stylist to the hairdresser...every single time I go. The majority of the population does as well. It's the forced ΔΩΡΟ I don't like.

Thomas, I know what I've said seems harsh but why should it be my responsibility to pay them a bonus? As I said to steel, I'm already paying them tips all year long and then I have to pay a bonus on top of it all. Salaried employees don't get tips every time they fax a letter or answer the phone. I wouldn't mind paying the ΔΟΡΟ if they weren't getting tips as well.

Citizens are already supplementing the incomes of both professions through 'tips' all year long and I believe it's wrong to demand a ΔΩΡΟ as well since salaried employees don't get tips for the work they do.

And thanks to both of you for explaining the origins of the practice to me. Much appreciated.

Whether or not you tip should have nothing to do with it. A tip is given for each job done well. A Christmas or Easter bonus is nothing more than a Christmas or Easter bonus. You don't have to do anything special for it. You are entitled to it. A gift is not a reward.

If I did a good job at work and my employer gave me a bonus as a reward, and then at Christmas time said, "Now I'm not going to give you anything because of that bonus a few months ago," it would be both cheap and illegal.

You don't have to tip. You do it out of generosity. You do have to contribute to the bonus if you decide to be a customer.

I rarely tip here in Greece. Should I then refuse to give my share of the bonus because you tip regularly?

Many people (myself included) don't get all their IKA stamps, or often don't get any IKA stamps at all, simply because their employers are stingy bastards. This means they're not getting their basic health coverage. This also creates a burden on tax-payers, because of lost revenue to the government. The government has recently announced that it's considering making pensions (which your IKA is also for) based on what you have contributed, which means that if your boss was a stingy bastard, you can look forward to scrounging through the dumpster at the local supermarket and eating cat food.

In my opinion, this is a far more important problem than whether or not I have to give a taxi driver an extra 80 cents.

I find the whole bonus thing extremely weird, although we benefit from it so I won't complain.

In America, you work for a company that either gives bonuses or it doesn't. Most times it seems they don't, or the bonus is some crap thing they give at Christmas like a ham or something, which I guess isn't bad, but what if you don't like ham? Bonuses at Easter and in the summer? American business owners would laugh in your face.

The self-employed don't expect bonuses from their customers and never would. Nor would service employees like hair dressers or cabdrivers. The general opinion is to tip more generously at Christmas, perhaps even give small monetary gifts to services you attend on a regular basis. But it is never expected.

To this end, I think it is rather crass that it is forced in these instances here. Very rude. Regardless of whether it is a government thing or not. Especially since I don't think I ever met a cab driver in Athens who was worth the fare to start with, let alone a bonus.

Melusina, if someone went to the States and complained that they didn't get bonuses like this, they'd be told, "Too bad. You're not in Greece any more, you're in the US."

Likewise, what's done in the US is irrelevant when you're here. All that matters is that the law in this country says we're entitled to it. If the government wants to change this law, fine.

In Canada, this whole thing would seem even weirder and that's because the state provides you with free medical care. But not here. You pay for half of your insurance, and your employer pays the other half. Or something like that.

While it's true that taxi drivers in most places in the States and Canada don't expect to be tipped, with other professionals, if you wait for exact change, you can be sure, unless you're a pachyderm, that you will be given a withering stare. And that's saying nothing about waiters and waitresses. It is your legal right to not tip a waiter or waitress there, but if you don't, you had better hope never to get that person again if you return to that restaurant. The idea, ironically, is "Tip if you like, and make sure it's at least 13 to 15 percent. If you don't, everyone will know what a bloody miser you are."

As for crass and rude, it only seems that way if you're not used to it. What seems rude to you is simply what the norm for other people. If they went to the States, they would consider it rude not to be given the bonus.

I don't have an issue with tipping. We even tip cab drivers in America. The thing is, for people who have such jobs, the idea of getting a bonus is...very socialist, I guess.

Like I said, we make up for it in smaller ways, like upping the tips we give around Christmas, but demanding or being forced to pay a bonus, especially if a service person hasn't earned it, is completely wrong.

I can sort of see the idea of mandatory bonuses for standard businesses. But the service industry, one that relies on tips, is completely different.

Melusina, you're not getting it. There's nothing to the issue about deserving it. They get it because everyone else gets it and the law says they shouldn't be left out. That's all there is to it.

The solution is simple. Stop tipping. Most professions have already included your tip in the price of things, so you're tipping twice.

I have MAJOR problems with tipping. Why should we be forced to make up the wages of a cheap employer? And why should cab drivers be tipped and not pilots and bus drivers? If the people who are employed in these "tipping professions" say it's not their fault their jobs don't pay much. True. But if they want a bigger paying job, find one. I find it reprehensible that you should have to "bribe" people with tips to ensure good service. For those of you who think that tips and gifts are the equivalent of corporate bonuses...let me tell you that not all companies provide bonuses. You get a paycheque and you get to keep your job. That's your bonus. I especially hate it when the gratuity is included in your bill and THEN..there is STILL a tip line for you to add even more money to their bank account. Disgraceful.

HRH Queen Bee

Thomas: What do you mean the state provides you with free medical care? Does this happen regardless whether you work or not? How is this medical care funded, just by taxes?

I think I'll like Canada. Health care sounds Scandi-oriented.

Melusina: In the UK the bill slip says whether service is included or not. In Greece this doesn't happen as far as I can remember, thus you don't know whether the waiters are tipped already or not.

Steelheart, it must be from taxes. As far as I know, in the whole country, although health care is governed by province.

If you leave the country for six months, you no longer qualify for it, but you do again once you return for a certain amount of time.

As far as I know, it's for everyone, whether they work or not.

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