The drive to Skagway is quite spectacular to say the least. It’s easy to bring visiting family and friends for a pleasant day trip, as it only takes two hours to drive there. Yesterday was a perfect autumn day for it, and only one cruiseship was docked, which meant no fighting for sidewalk space.
One of the popular landmarks in Skagway is the Red Onion Saloon, a bordello turned eatery. The place has much flavour of the goldrush days: ladies are dressed in corsets and wear bright red lipstick.
Since I was bringing a visitor for the touristy stuff Skagway has to offer, and trust me, there is much of that, I decided to take her for lunch at the famed red velvet curtained establishment. I wouldn’t say the food and service is outstanding, but it is good, and the prices are very reasonable.
However, when I received my bill at the end of the meal, this is what I got:
I couldn’t believe my eyes, and I was downright insulted. Not only did she write down a tip without even implying that it was just a suggestion, but she was trying for about 20% in tips. This was insulting not because of the level of service or the quality of food, but because of her presumption.
We called her over to the table and first asked if we were expected to pay the $39.00 or if it was just a suggested tip. She said it was a suggestion.
I then mentioned to her that I am from Whitehorse (most of their business is from cruiseship passengers) and have been at the Red Onion on a number of occasions, and I have never ever seen a server do this. Was this something new? She replied that “we get people here from all around the world, and sometimes people don’t know how to tip, so this is just to help them.” She’s helping herself more than anything else in my opinion.
We reassured her that the food and the service were very good, but that the norm for tipping is 15%, not 20%, and that we felt that she was being very forward by indicating a 20% tip on the tab for herself.
In the end, I did leave her a good tip (a little more than 15% but not the requested amount). She eventually came by the table to collect payment and apologized, which I was pleased about, but I have to wonder if “Madam Jan” doesn’t have something going with ‘ol Soapy Smith, the most famed con artist in Skagway’s history. Maybe his ghost resides in the old Red Onion Saloon.
To leave you with a more pleasant impression of our drive, here are a few photos taken in and around Carcross, Yukon, the halfway point: