Swissair Fare Reductions

I hope you know that as a Gemütlichkeit subscriber you are eligible for reduced fares on Swissair. The savings are $25 for each ticket between $450 and $600, $50 if the fare is $600 to $1000, and $150 if the regular Swissair price is over $1000. Business class tickets are reduced $400 and first class travelers save $600 per ticket. Remember, these reduced fares apply not only to you but to anyone flying with you at least one leg of the Transatlantic journey.

Lately we have been working with Swissair to simplify the ticketing process for our subscribers. Now, instead of getting a price first from the main Swissair reservation center and then calling a second number to have the tickets issued, the airline has asked subscribers to direct all calls to 800-238-0399. There you can get a price quote, make a booking and order tickets - one-stop shopping. Remember that you must book directly with Swissair. If you have a problem or a question, you can always call us at 800-521-6722.

Tipping

One of the mysterious facets of travel in Germany, Austria and Switzerland is tipping - when and how much. No doubt you've heard or read the general rule that goes something like this: since service is already included in the price of the meal, you simply "round up" to the nearest mark, franc or schilling.

On your bill or on the menu look for the phrase Bedienung und Mehrwertsteuer inklusiv. It means service and tax are included and that your waiter has been paid to serve you. This is different than in the U.S. where servers are paid at or near the minimum wage and rely on tips for the bulk of their income.

So how about this "round up" business? If you're talking about a couple of coffees, beers or a light snack it's probably o.k., but after a meal in a good restaurant such a practice will get you some strange looks - at the very least.

In the U.S. a tip is payment for service. In Europe it's more of a gift for good or special service, and if your waiter has done a good job he or she expects more than just the "round up."

My own practice is 5% to 15%, depending on quality of the service. If it's downright bad or rude I don't have a problem leaving no tip at all; the waiter was paid to do his job, did it poorly and thus deserves nothing extra from me.

Let's say your bill is 86 DM and service was bad. Take your change and put it in your pocket. For average service, give a 100 DM bill and say neunzig or "90." You get 10 DM in return and the waiter gets an extra 4 DM. For top service give the 100 DM bill and say Stimmt so, which means something like "it's right" or "we're square." Don't leave a tip on the table, give it directly to the waiter.

I feel on much less solid ground when it comes to hotels. If a bellman or, in smaller hotels, a general handyman or lower level employee helps me with bags I tip the equivalent of about $1 per bag. If it's the manager, owner or front desk person who escorts me to my room after check-in and helps with the bags, I don't tip at all.

How about services provided by other hotel employees? If you've stayed in the hotel for two or three days or longer, and the service was very good, you might think about leaving a tip for the staff that might be as much as 5% to 10% of the total bill. I know most Americans don't do that but it's a way of being remembered on your next visit.

Actually, I'm totally in the dark on tipping hotel employees and would like to hear your thoughts. What do you do?

From the desktop

• Travel guru Arther Frommer says he won't put anymore information about Austria on his website until the government is rid of Jörg Haider's far right party. I'll be a lot more impressed when he says he's through publishing his travel books on Austria, Vienna and the Danube Valley. Until then, it's a grandstand play.

• Hang on you folks planning to visit the big Hannover Expo2000 this summer, our Nick Selby spent a few days there earlier this month and we'll have his report next month. What we can say now is that most accommodations are in private homes. The hotel situation in Hanover has never been very good and those that are there have been booked for many months.

• Subscriber Charlotte Olstead sends us a letter received from the Austrian National Tourist Office in New York which asks for a contribution of $3 to cover the shipping and handling costs of sending her promotional materials.

March 2000