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Some years ago (2014) my friends and I did a trip to New York City, during which we were having meals in many restaurants and giving tips to the waiters, the way it's done in the USA.

However, later on, we visited a popular skyscraper building and we paid for the tickets in cash to the woman who was selling those. When she was taking the money she said something like: "Ok, you're six people, it's $138 in total and I'm going to take $12 in tip." I had paid with $150 so she basically took the whole change.

Even if I didn't realize it at the very beginning, I felt annoyed later on when we were already in the lift. In my country it's not usual to give tips and we do it to show gratitude when the service in some restaurant goes beyond the standard. I understand that in the USA it works in a different way, but I think you must do some kind of extra effort apart from grabbing some tickets for the customers. This situation isn't included in the table given in this answer.

Is this situation common? Or did the woman take advantage of us for being foreigners?

138

You were taken advantage of.

Tipping is very prevalent in the US, but it is extremely unusual to tip someone who sells you tickets to a tourist attraction. I've never done it or heard of it. Even if you were being given a guided tour, where tipping the guide is normal, its usual to do it after the tour and after you have decided how good it was. The cashier took advantage of your lack of knowledge of what is proper.

To expand the question a bit, for any service worker to decide what tip they want and take it is extremely bad manners, and stops short of theft only if you are given an opportunity to say no. The only exception is when a 'service charge' is advertised as part of the price.

If you are in this situation again with any kind of server who says "I'm going to take this amount of tip" I recommend saying "No you aren't" and demanding the correct change. Tell them you get to decide what the tip is, unless they can show you the rules that say a tip is included in the price. A ticket seller should get zero tip, and anyone who tries to take a tip on their own initiative should get zero tip. Tips are a reward for good service, and trying to take money from you is not good service.

While five years later is too late to do anything, had you realised a few days later you might have considered contacting the place you visited and telling them about your experience. They will also probably be unhappy with their cashier, and you might get your money back.

EDIT: While I'm going to leave this since it answers the question as asked, I'm also inclined to agree with opa that this might have been a mishearing and the seller meant "tax".

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Mark Mayo Supports Monica Aug 12 at 22:43
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    Do no longer post when the comments have been moved to a chatroom. You can post in the chatroom now. – Willeke Aug 13 at 15:14
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Given your update, I have doubts you were been taken advantage of.

Sales tax in New York city ads up to about 8.875%. Sales tax is almost never included in the price of anything in the US, including tickets. The calculation of sales tax for today on that amount would be 0.08875 * 138 = $12.2475. This is suspiciously close to the number you claim was for a "tip".

I suspect one of the following things happened:

  • They misspoke, they said tip, but meant tax.
  • You misheard them. Given that they both start with the same consonant, and the abundant vowel variations found in English, it is possible that you simply misheard. This would be conceivable for a native speaker as well, you have not made any indication whether this is the case or not.

As for the discrepancy for the 24 cents:

  • it may have been not existent (taxes change) or
  • since it looks like you paid cash, they didn't want to deal with finding change which they probably didn't have, so just accepted the 150 dollars, which has personally happened to me before.

Another thing I should point out, If you were really taken advantage of I would expect it from a 3rd party who handled the tickets, not a person who actually works for the site.

The woman was sitting in the other side of the reception desk, with her worker uniform, inside the building, actually.

In the future clarify if you think they've said tip in a situation where you pay before you get the service. Tips in the US only come after being served, even when they ask for it before hand.

  • Good point! I will, at least, be ready for this next time :-) – Xtreme Biker reinstate Monica Aug 13 at 15:03
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    This explanation makes far more sense to me than an official ticket worker literally stealing a visitor's money. The 24-cent discrepancy may account for the ticket-taker's explanation. "I'm going to take $12 ... ", meaning she would accept the $12 instead of requiring that they pay her the extra 24 cents. – iayork Aug 13 at 18:25
  • You pay separate sales tax on movie tickets? That's one of the few items I'm always quoted with tax included. – Andrew Lazarus Aug 22 at 21:45
  • In my experience ticket sellers never say that. They say "That'll be one hundred and fifty dollars 24 cents". I guess they could have been trying to explain things to a foreigner, but I've never had that happen either. – DJClayworth Aug 24 at 18:42

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