An infographic from the study abroad office at my college appeared on my newsfeed this week caught my eye. It detailed the customs of tipping in different parts of the world. Although by now I think I have Mexican tipping etiquette down, I wanted to confirm what I have learned over these nearly three months. The trickiest tipping situation I have encountered thus far pertained to valet parking. Since most students studying abroad don’t have cars, this section was understandably missing, however, an infographic for grown-ups (or people who feel grown-up) should have included it. I have never used valet parking in the U.S., and I can honestly say that I have no idea how much it would cost, $10? $15? Plus tip? But since parking is at a premium here and I don’t know the streets of surrounding areas well enough to know where else to park, I have left my car at valet once or twice. Valet parking is common here, once I left my car with the valet at a Starbucks. The tricky part was that I didn’t know how much to tip since the valet itself was free. I texted my cousin, my mother, and asked the person I was meeting at the Starbucks and they all gave me different responses, the range was between 10 and 25 pesos. I ended up giving him 20 pesos, but still felt that it wasn’t that much. Then I saw that he parked my car right next to the coffee shop, in a space I probably could have parked myself, and then I felt less bad.
Another tipping phenomenon in which I have only seen in Mexico is that of the men who help you get into or out of a parking spot. Referred to as the viene vienes (because they say viene or “come” to direct you into a spot) or franeleros (the rags they swing to motion a spot to you are called franelas), they are usually older men, although I have seen a few sassy young boys who act like they own every sidewalk and tree in a neighborhood they definitely do not live in. Sometimes the franeleros are helpful, like when you are in a short car and the car next to you is a huge truck and you can’t see anything, or when you have to reverse out of your parking space directly into traffic (the one time I did this, they were nowhere to be seen), but most of the time they are a hassle and you could have gotten out of the space just fine without them helping you. For their “service” you’re supposed to give them about five pesos, any more is up to your discretion. I usually try to evade their vision, or park far away from the main entrance of supermarkets or malls so that I can avoid them.
One last monetary situation I encounter often is that of guys washing my windshield at stop lights. I cannot stand it. It infuriates me to no end when they surprise attack me waiting at a stop light with a water bottle filled with soapy water and their rags. Some point their bottle at your windshield to ask permission, but most just ambush you and before you have a chance to say no your windshield is a soapy mess and you can’t do anything about it. Since they provided you with a “service” you’re supposed to pay them. I begrudgingly lower my window and give them three or five pesos, depending on what I have on me and how much I actually needed to clean my windshield. One day they ambushed me and I didn’t have any change. I pleaded with them to not clean my windshield, and motioned with my hands that I didn’t have any change. They completed the job and told me that I could pay next time. Thankfully, I am rarely at that intersection during the time of day they are there, although I doubt they would recognize me and demand that I pay my three peso debt.