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9 People You Should Tip, and How Much You Should Give Them

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In the age of Square payments and online food delivery apps, it’s easier than ever to click a button and tip your barista or delivery guy. But those aren’t the only people you should  give a little extra. Here are a few tips for tipping, lest you start being known around town as a total Scrooge.

1. WAIT STAFF

Tipping 15 percent of the pre-tax bill (20 percent for good service) at restaurants is standard, but depending on where you live, a larger tip might be in order. In some states, tipped workers make less than minimum wage—even in expensive regions like Washington D.C.—so it’s always better to tip on the generous side. The federal tipped minimum wage is a horrifying $2.13 per hour, so keep that in mind before you stiff someone.

Plus, you should keep in mind that tips often don’t go solely to your waiter or waitress—tips are pooled between wait staff and back-of-the-house workers, and usually there are restaurant rules governing who wait staff should be tipping out. Bartenders, bussers, and runners usually get a cut, since they also play a big role in making sure your food and drink gets to the table in a timely manner.

2. BARTENDERS

At least a dollar per drink is the minimum, but if you’re on a tab, you can do the usual 15 to 20 percent. If you’re taking up bar space for hours but not drinking much, or if your bartender comps you a free drink, throw them a little extra. The same goes for complicated cocktails.

3. FAST FOOD AND COFFEE SHOP TIP JARS

The Emily Post Institute’s official policy is that there’s no obligation to put a dollar in the tip jar, but if you’re a regular or you’re asking for a complicated order, please be generous. While baristas generally make minimum wage, chances are they’re not getting paid much more than that. The Washington Post reports that at one D.C. coffee shop, tips account for around an extra $3 per hour for workers, while at a local La Colombe, baristas get about $50 a day from tips. When you’re slinging lattes to pay your bills in an expensive city, that kind of extra money can make a big difference.

4. DELIVERY DRIVERS

According to the food experts at Eater, the minimum tip for any delivery order, no matter how small, should be $5. On a larger order, go with 15 to 20 percent standard. That means if a 15 percent tip is less than $5, don’t default to the cheaper option! The same goes if you get groceries delivered. Remember, drivers don’t get a penny of that delivery fee, so don’t be stingy. And if you’re not sure why you need to pay a little extra for the pleasure of eating restaurant food in your pajamas, Groupon’s interview with a former pizza delivery driver is worth a glance.

5. PARKING ATTENDANTS

If a valet brings your car around for you, you should fork over at least $2 before driving away. That driver is the one keeping your nice car from getting dinged.

6. BATHROOM ATTENDANTS

Yes, you should give someone a buck for handing you paper towels and providing some lotion. But if the attendant is just there to make sure no funny business goes on in the restrooms, the Etiquette Scholar says you don’t need to tip.

7. SALON AND SPA WORKERS

A good rule of thumb is, if someone’s touching your body, tip generously. For one thing, that person has to deal with your gross toenails or back pimples. Give at least 15 to 20 percent to your manicurist, massage therapist, and waxing specialist. Keep in mind that in some salons with especially cheap services, your manicurist could be working for illegally low wages. And in the case of massages, working out those muscle knots for 60 to 90 minutes is hard, physical work. Tip accordingly.

8. HOTEL WORKERS

You need to tip the hotel staff, and the American Hotel and Lodging Association has a helpful tip guide you can consult [PDF] to figure out who gets how much. Tip a dollar or two to your shuttle driver, the bellhops who carry your luggage, and the door staff that hail your taxis. Housekeepers should get between $1 and $5 per night, left daily with a note specifying that it’s for them. Tip a dollar if the staff has to bring you something extra, like a cot or an extra blanket, and tip your concierge $5 to $10 depending on whether you’re getting restaurant recommendations or a hard-to-get theater ticket.

9. TAXI DRIVERS

In addition to the 15 to 20 percent tip, you should give your driver at least $2 for any bags carried. Maybe more if your suitcase is as heavy as a small whale.

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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