Bruce Feiler files a reports about the economic practices of an experienced maître d:
I slipped a fifty toward his hand and said, “Is there any way you could speed that up?” The man felt the money, then pushed it back into my hand. “Sorry, ” he said, “there really is nothing I can do.”
Four minutes later, though, we were seated at a table for two by the window. Moreover, the maître d’ came to our table several times to ask if everything was satisfactory. At the end of the evening, not because I had planned it but entirely because I felt like it, I gave him $30. He graciously accepted.
Outside, I realized I had just witnessed the gold standard. The maître d’ turned down the money when it was a bribe, gave us the service anyway, then accepted the money as a well-earned tip.
(Thanks to investigator Mark Dionne for bringing this to our attention.)