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Mark Zuckerberg Didn’t Tip in Rome Restaurant, Following Custom

The Telegraph is getting serious traction with a story headlined “Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg left no tip after Rome lunch,” with the catty subhed “He may be worth $20 billion, but when Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg took his new wife to lunch during their secret honeymoon in Rome he spent just 32 euros (£26) – and did not leave a tip.”

The owners of the kosher restaurant in Rome’s Jewish Ghetto – a historic quarter in the centre of the city – were surprised when Mr Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan walked away without leaving a gratuity.
Their bill came to just 32 euros after a lunch consisting of deep-fried artichokes – a Roman Jewish speciality – fried pumpkin flowers and ravioli stuffed with sea bass and artichokes.

Instead of wine or beer they opted for a bottle of water and a pot of tea.

Waiters at Nonna Betta, which specialises in Roman Jewish cuisine, were amazed by Mr Zuckerberg’s parsimony, not just because of his huge wealth but because of Americans’ reputation for tipping generously, as is expected of them at home.

It was not a case of not enjoying the meal, said the owner of the restaurant. “I asked him ‘how was it?’ and he said ‘very good'”, the owner, identified only as Umberto, told Corriere della Sera newspaper. “I had gone up to him and said ‘Are you …?’ and he said ‘Yes’.”

It was not the first time that the multi-billionaire chose not to tip – he reportedly did the same thing the night before at Pierluigi, a historic trattoria near Campo de’ Fiori, a pizza in the heart of Rome.

Apparently, Zuckerberg is up on local customs. While Americans typically leave generous tips while dining in Europe, following the expectation at home, Europeans do not. Quite often, a service charge is built in. Regardless, Europe requires restaurateurs to pay wait staff a decent salary. The custom, therefore, is to round up the bill to the next whole Euro or leave no tip at all. Given a 32 Euro bill, then, Zuckerberg did exactly as he was supposed to.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. I was more surprised by the fact that they’re in the middle of a city packed with restaurants, and the ended up a McDonalds at one point.

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  2. Franklin says:

    Look, I believe in taxing rich people more, and on top of that think they should feel a social responsibility to give back to charity and so forth. But that doesn’t mean they have to just hand out money to anybody they encounter all day long.

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  3. michael reynolds says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I’m not. First: bathrooms. Second: it’s hard in Italy if you don’t want to eat precisely on the Italian schedule. It’s especially an issue when your body is on West Coast time.

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  4. @michael reynolds: We had that problem when we were ported in Italy. Unless it was somewhere on the actual base in Naples, or the surrounding area that catered to squids, we were positively screwed after 8PM, which is a very bad thing on a ship that has a schedule that outright screws lower-ranked people. There were times I didn’t see shore until 9PM.

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  5. Quite so. When I lived in Germany, we never added extra for a tip. Instead, following German custom, we would give the waiter/waitress cash sufficient to pay the check and tell her to keep the change, but the change was never much.

    Suppose the check was for DM48 (this was pre-Euro days). I’d hand her 50 marks and say, “Stimmt so,” literally “that is correct,” but colloquially, “Keep the change.” The greater the amount of the check, the more liberally we’d round up, but we’d never approach the relatively high percentage we use in America.

    I am surprised that a Brit doesn’t know this. It’s not like Europe is far away, but “fog in Channel, continent cut off.”

    I follow a Euro-like version of tipping here. I compute 15 percent of the before-tax amount of the check (I do not tip on sales tax, which is 9.5 percent where I live), add it to the check’s total, then leave cash to the next higher dollar. If the bill is high I will round up the next $5 level.

    BTW, I never pay at a restaurant with a card, only cash. Bad idea to pay with a card when you lose physical control of the card.

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  6. WR says:

    It’s just 8 am here, and already I’m supposed to be outraged that Obama used an awkward construction about concentration camps in Poland and that Mark Zuckerberg didn’t leave a tip in Rome. I’m going to have to pace myself, or I won’t have any fury left when someone tangentially associated with the Obama campaign suggests that some business practice is not morally pure.

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  7. ernieyeball says:

    @Donald Sensing: Even when I do use plastic to pay the bill, I like to tip with American Money. I often hand it to them and tell them to stick it in their shoe before the government sees it.

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  8. ernieyeball says:

    “them” = the server. Click to edit down already?

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  9. Andre Kenji says:

    Here in Brazil no one gives tips in restaurants. I had a lunch some months ago with an American couple at a churrascaria(You know, a line of people serve you with beef) and I don´t remember that.

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  10. roger says:

    There’s a line in the story that bugs me.

    “Waiters at Nonna Betta, which specialises in Roman Jewish cuisine, were amazed by Mr Zuckerberg’s parsimony, not just because of his huge wealth but because of Americans’ reputation for tipping generously, as is expected of them at home.”

    If the custom in Italy is not to tip, why should this surprise them? I wonder if really, they were more surprised that the newlyweds ate there instead of a more posh upscale restaurant.

    Frankly, I find it humorous that given his wealth, Zuckerberg can eat anywhere he wants. Instead, he chooses to be lowkey and frugal. Wonder if he and Donald Trump ever eat together.

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  11. roger,

    My guess is that someone at the restaurant knew who Zuckerberg was and went to the press with this story.

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  12. @ernieyeball:

    I often hand it to them and tell them to stick it in their shoe before the government sees it.

    In most American restaurants, the tips are pooled so that cooking staff, the busboys, etc. get a share of the tips as well, so you’re basically encouraging them to cheat their coworkers.

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  13. @Doug Mataconis: Exactly so.

    Tourists in Italy get fleeced in places like that. When Americans, especially, visit Europe, they do tend to overtip and one of the articles I read talked about how service people in Rome were getting accustomed to being overtipped.

    Here in Germany, it is still exactly as outlined above. If you tip a few euros, they are very grateful. And I mean to tell you–a meal here is a wonderful experience. You can go into any restaurant virtually anywhere and have a great time. I was in a hotel restaurant in Haigerloch last month and tipped a few euros and had an outstanding meal.

    Zuckerberg acted like a worldly traveler. I had fun posting praise for his actions on Google+.

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  14. Franklin says:

    Maybe he should be doing like his Russian equivalent copycat:

    http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/russian-millionaire-throws-paper-planes-made-money-crowd-174532847.html

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  15. ernieyeball says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Don’t know where you are. Where I live there is only one restaurant that actually puts all the tips of all the servers in a pool and then divides them evenly at the end of the shift. Other places let each server keep what their customers give them minus what ever income tax withholding and tip outs they may have to disperse. Any server that sticks whatever cash tip “in their shoe” on my advise knows how much they have collected and can calculate their tip outs accordingly. If they want to cheat their co workers that is their call to make not mine.

    And yes I did write “before the government sees it” not “before your co workers see it.”
    A subtle distinction to be sure but a distinction none the less.

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  16. Moderate Mom says:

    Heck, I wish I had known that. I recently spent 12 days in Denmark, Germany and France and left 20% tips at every restaurant. In Paris, breakfast was included with the hotel room, and I still left money on the table. God knows, I could have saved a lot of money had I known the European custom.

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  17. Franklin says:

    @Moderate Mom: Consider it your contribution to the fragile economies in Europe.

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  18. Richard Gardner says:

    In Iceland it was considered an INSULT to leave a tip (other than the rounding to the nearest 50-100 Kronur – about US$0.50).

    I often pay by card, but leave my tip in cash. In a tavern my tip is $1/drink, regardless of cost.

    I also check my credit card bill – a place I regularly go (and am acquainted with the owner) has twice had a data entry problem – $13 turned into $31 for example. I have my receipt and went to the manager rather than reporting to the credit card company.

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  19. pylon says:

    The reason tipping is not a custom in Europe is because they actually compensate staff pretty well. That’s why you see more mature and usually more professional serving staff (it’s not just an entry level job). Or, in many places, the operation is simply a family business so you wouldn’t tip anyway (just like you don’t tip the owner of a hairdressing shop, just salaried hairdressers).

    Loss of physical possession of the credit card is getting to be an almost non-existent problem, with chip cards.

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  20. merl says:

    when i worked at a hotel European visitors would ask me about the custom of tipping and ask me what was a fair tip and if they should tip me. I tried to explain about tipping and then told them that no, they didn’t have to tip me. I did like the Japanese habit of handing out money to everyone, though. And they wouldn’t take it back when I told them they didn’t need to tip me.

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  21. merl says:

    ,

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  22. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    In Korea, no one in a restaurant will even accept the tip. It appears that it is insulting to the restaurant owner–it implies that he isn’t willing tell you plainly what the meal will cost and that he doesn’t pay his employees adequately, and to the staff–it implies that they have to resort to begging to make ends meet (although I suspect that some of the factor on staff is that they don’t want to embarass their employers). Taxi drivers will keep the change from your payment sometimes, but only drivers who drive after midnight really expect tips.

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  23. spank says:

    Good for him. Do u guys go into a car dealership and pay more than sticker price? Do u expect him to? Just cuz he has money. Dosent mean he has to give it away. He could buy the country. But instead he is just like everyoune else. Only richer

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