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Altitude Adjustment: Your Only-in-Aspen Questions, Answered

How to handle gratuities in Aspen, during a Covid-inflected time of often unexplained added fees

By Meredith Carrol December 21, 2021 Published in the Winter/Spring 2021-22 issue of Aspen Sojourner

Q: My family has been coming to Aspen for years, including throughout the pandemic. But now, instead of feeling the love for continuing to patronize local businesses, we can’t help but take personally a palpable surge in prices, especially the new mandatory service fees. We’ve always been generous tippers but feel taken advantage of when faced with a nebulous fee tacked on to bills for meals or jobs that are already up to 15–30 percent more expensive. Are we jerks for tipping less than 20 percent when we’re also hit with these additional charges?

A: “If you are paying too little for something, it’s somebody losing,” says World Central Kitchen founder and chef José Andrés. “Somebody or something is being lost in the chain.” On the flip side, just because you’re paying too much for something doesn’t mean everyone associated with it is reaping the benefits. While underpaying is not a familiar concept in Aspen, rest assured that the person raking in any extra cash from newfangled service fees is not the one conveying your truffle fries. Aspen’s pandemic problems look a lot like everywhere else: worker shortages, supply chain interruptions, and a dearth of affordable housing. Demanding a living wage for servers is a worthy cause. And picking a sparring partner other than the person serving your predictably overpriced resort-town meal will likely yield more productive results.

Have an Aspen etiquette question for Meredith? Submit it to [email protected], and we’ll consider it for a future issue

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