Shooting free throws with near perfect accuracy is not the only thing professional basketball players do better than the rest of us. They also tip restaurant servers and hotel bellmen with much greater generosity.

Kevin Aho, a senior server at Gastronomy's Baci Trattoria, served a table where an enthusiastic NBA crowd gathered after the championship-series game between the Bulls and the Jazz when a sick Michael Jordan made 38 points.Aho remembers Dr. J, a legendary player for the Philadelphia 76ers who now does NBA color commentary, surrounding a bounteous culinary treat with other basketball notables.

"They were so nice and so cool," says Aho. "They battled over who would pick up the check. Then Dr. J walked up to me and quietly slipped me his credit card, as if no one else should know about it, and he left me a tip over 20 percent. On his way out, he said, `Hey, Kevin - nice service!' "

Judd Eades, a bellman at the Marriott Hotel, says chauffeuring Shaquille O'Neal to McDonald's for a Big Mac netted him a $100 bill. The eccentric Dennis Rodman may outrage Jazz fans for his court antics and his disingenuous comments on the Mormon culture, but he is a good tipper. According to Eades, "He gave tons of money to a bellman for a 20-minute errand."

More typical, unfortunately, are the less sophisticated clientele, who go so far as to offer tips in kind.

Greg Currier, the Doubletree's director of front office operations, says naive hotel guests routinely offer vitamins, herbal tea and Shasta black cherry soda to bellmen in return for services rendered.

A case in point is Brian Jewkes, a Doubletree bellman, whose tip from a woman whose bags he recently carried was a couple of Dolly Madison Brownies.

Much worse than any of these are the seemingly unconscious patrons who do not tip at all. Eades can easily recognize some of them who bring their own bedding. "If you see a pillow on the cart, you can forget the tip," he says.

More broadly, he is talking about all patrons who don't travel much and therefore don't know the rules. Some will think a tip is necessary but have no idea how much, so they will grant a bellman a quarter or two.

At restaurants, patrons who rarely dine out also tip at a lower rate. Baci's Aho doesn't consider Utahns lower tippers than people elsewhere. "But," he says, "many don't realize that servers depend on tipping for their survival."

Even a cursory check of restaurants around the Salt Lake Valley reveals that most servers make $2.13 an hour or less, with the hope that they will be tipped by patrons to the tune of 15 percent to 20 percent.

At hotels, it is not much better. Bellmen and shuttle drivers usually make in the neighborhood of $3 to $4 an hour, hoping for tips from patrons to push their income to a livable level.

Aho says, "Something a lot of people don't realize is that waiters usually don't get paychecks. If you don't tip us 15 percent, we're going to lose money - and if you don't tip us at all, then we're actually paying for your meal out of our own pockets."

Aho says he would tip a server 15 percent "even if he fell asleep while he was waiting on me."

Sofie Arakin, a server at Marie Callendar's at 1300 South and Foothill Drive, says her customers usually tip 15 percent, but many don't tip at all. "Others may leave 50 cents or a dollar without doing any figuring."

Even if it is not always understood, the social nicety of tipping for services rendered is customary. According to industry estimates, Americans give $16 billion annually in the form of gratuities.

John Becker, a Salt Lake public relations executive who represents Gastronomy, almost always tips 20 percent, because he knows that people employed by restaurants "count on tips as an important part of their incomes."

When Becker travels, he tips bellmen, parking valets and chamber maids. For anyone who may be in doubt, he suggests reading etiquette books.

Restaurant servers are more likely to see the standard 15 percent to 20 percent than hotel employees. Many restaurant servers consider it a challenge to render such excellent service that patrons will want to tip more than 20 percent.

Shelly Curtis, who makes $2 an hour at La Caille, says patrons are good tippers - in the 15 percent to 20 percent range. If she receives less than 15 percent, she assumes the person in question lacks knowledge about tipping requirements. When Curtis dines out, she tips her own server 20 percent to 25 percent.

At lower-cost restaurants, tipping is much less dependable and at lower rates. Annette Fuchs, a server at Dee's Family Restaurant, says most people tip only about 8 percent. Fuchs, who makes $2.24 an hour, only rarely sees a tip as high as 15 percent.

Georgia Kefalopoulos, a server at the Olympian Restaurant, thinks Utahns are lower tippers by nature. Her tips are usually from 10 percent to 15 percent, and her highest tips come from out-of-state visitors.

At hotels, bellmen can usually count on receiving a reasonable tip for taking bags to a room - a dollar a bag - but parking valets are often not tipped at all.

Steve Lindburg, manager of the Doubletree, can't figure out why Utah patrons are so insensitive toward valet parking when other cities routinely accept it. "A buck is standard, but here it is a rarity."

Hotel employees are notoriously underpaid for service above and beyond the call of duty. Even when people request a special favor, such as taking their clothing to the cleaners, giving them a ride downtown or bringing them a shaving kit, many do not tip at all.

The pet peeve of most bellmen is the patron who waits until his bags are delivered to his room, then says, "Guess what? I'm out of change, so I'll have to get you later." Brian Jewkes at the Doubletree knows later will never come.

James Peterson, a Doubletree bellman, has served the extra whims of several celebrities, and says "they are the worst tippers in the world."

He recalls taking actress Brooke Shields for ice cream for several days with no tip. He overextended himself to help singer Vanessa Williams get to the grocery store, then he arranged for a person from Sandy to drive downtown to do her nails, and when the person arrived, Williams "blew her off."

All this without a tip.

In Steve Lindburg's opinion, "The folks that excel at earning big gratuities," he says, "are gregarious and outgoing and quickly establish a relationship."

On the other hand, the general public ought to be much more sensitive to a service industry that depends on tipping for survival.

According to those who make a living serving the public, the best advice is this: When in doubt, tip. When not in doubt, tip.

*****

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Tipping Standards, based on industry information and interviews

Restaurant Server 15-20 percent

Parking Valet $1

Wine Steward 15 percent of wine bill

Hotel Bellman $1 per bag

Housekeeper $1-2 per night

Room-service waiter 15 percent of bill

Parking Valet $1 each park/pick up

Shuttle driver $1 per trip, $1 per bag

Taxi Cab driver 15 percent of fare, minimum 50 cents

Airport Sky cap $1 per bag

Beauty Haircutter 15 percent of bill, minimum $1

Stylist/manicurist 15 percent of bill

Cruise ship Busboy $1.50

Cabin steward $3

Headwaiter 75 cents

Waiter $3.00

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Miscellaneous Coat check attendant $1 for one/two coats

Restroom attendant 50 cents

Arena/stadium usher 50 cents to be shown seat

Newspaper delivery $1 per month

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