BWF: star struck

The Brisbane Writers Festival was held at the State Library, with panel discussions conducted in several auditoriums throughout the complex. As such, there were many concurrent talks at any one time, and it might’ve been hard deciding which one to go to at each time slot, but this particular one was an easy choice for me.

The second of three talks (yes, I’m doing this out of order) that I attended at the BWF was titled “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives” and, like the title suggests, was about finding extraordinary things within the ordinary and everyday. This was a panel discussion, chaired by Steven Lang, with guests David Cohen, Robert Drewe and Kyo Maclear. I was drawn to this event because it’s something that eternally fascinates me, and it’s part of the reason why I read blogs, and why I enjoy talking to customers at work, and why I usually try to be the one asking questions in a conversation, etc, etc. Continue reading

Brisbane Writers Festival 2017

Yesterday I attended a few panel discussions that were held as part of the annual Brisbane Writers Festival. I’d previously only attended the BWF once before, several years ago, and, for various reasons, hadn’t been back since. I was either too busy, or had other things on; perhaps I found out about it too late, and didn’t have a chance to get tickets for the talks I was interested in; or maybe there was part of me that thought my time would be better spent actually writing rather than hearing about things that other people wrote.

This year, however, I felt compelled to go, and thank goodness I did!  Continue reading

afternoon contemplation

Today was a lovely day. A blue sky, mild weather sort of day. Brisbane springtime at its best. Around mid-afternoon, after having met up with a friend for lunch and a general catch up, I made my way over to my favourite grassy spot in South Bank to just sit and relax.

I’ve gotten into the habit of always (or almost always) bringing pen and paper, and a novel with me wherever I go; but today I’d also brought earphones, and decided I just wanted to sit back, listen to music, and people-watch. (Well, initially I did try to write a bit, but the inspiration wasn’t really coming, so I didn’t worry about it.)

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many thanks

Taking a solo trip to Launceston, I had expected to spend a lot of time in quiet contemplation. Well, I did spend a lot of time in quiet contemplation, but I also ended up having plenty of good conversations with perfect strangers. Other than the general feel of the place, what impressed me the most about Launceston was probably the people.

Of course, not everyone is super eager to chat to everyone, but those that do strike up a conversation certainly make you feel very welcome. I didn’t always get names for these friendly people, and there’s probably very, very minimal chance that any of them will ever stumble upon my blog and read this post, but I wanted to dedicate a post to them nonetheless.

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tipping quandary

A friend of mine who has been working overseas for two years came back to visit last week, so we went out for dinner and caught up and all the usual stuff. On one of the nights, we went to Malt, which is potentially my most favourite Brisbane restaurant (or at least one of them). This post is actually not about Malt (I could probably write an entire other post about why I like Malt) but about tipping.

In Australia, it’s not a big deal if you leave a tip at restaurants and cafes and wherever, because apparently the staff get paid enough, or everyone’s just too stingy so people don’t expect it. I know it’s required/expected in the US, and the custom sort of varies between different countries. My friend’s boyfriend said that, in Singapore, they don’t tip because the money goes to the owner/manager, rather than being apportioned to the staff who actually served the customers.

I don’t have a problem with the tipping system here – I think it’s great that if you do a good job and provide excellent service, you could earn a bit of extra money (even if it is coinage). What I actually wanted to write this post about was why it’s only customary/acceptable/whatever to tip certain types of people/businesses in the service industry.

This might just be me (potentially because I live in Australia, or because of my limited life experience) but the only places that I remember ever leaving tips for people are all food-related – cafes, bistros, restaurants, etc. I don’t always leave a tip, but I will if the service was friendly and the food was good. (I don’t think I’ve ever tipped just because the food was good – it’s more about the service, right?)

Well, I work in a pharmacy, so I thought, “Why is it not acceptable to tip pharmacists or pharmacy assistants?” Not to boast about it, but we provide some important services to the community, and we give out a lot of free health advice. I could spend ten minutes talking to someone about their blood pressure (and measuring it for free), or talking to someone about what to do for a rash (before they tell me that they have that product at home, and walk away without buying anything). But no one would ever think of tipping their pharmacist for these things, would they?

Of course, I’m over-simplifying, but you get the point, right?

As a health professional, I’d actually kind of feel uncomfortable accepting tips from customers. Maybe if it was already common practice, I wouldn’t think twice about it? It’s hard to say. I suppose I’m doing this to help others, not for the money. Well, it kind of is for the money, but the primary concern is the patient (gee, all those placements during uni really drilled that part of the Code of Conduct into me). But maybe the people who work at cafes just really love coffee, or just really want to be in the industry. They still happily receive (and encourage) tips anyway.

Imagine if GPs accepted tips. Imagine if GPs actually needed tips to supplement whatever they’re getting rebated from the government. No offence to waiters, but having a bowl or something for patients to deposit tips in a GP waiting room kind of seems undignified.

And what about people at clothing stores? Sometimes they provide pretty good service, helping find sizes and whatnot. I don’t spend a lot of time in shoe stores or department stores, but when I do, I might notice an assistant spending a lot of time with one customer – finding the right kind of shoe, showing them different styles, ensuring the fit is right, etc – and then they may decide not to buy anything, or they’ll just buy one pair (and it might just be a pair of shoes for their kid). Does that shop assistant then deserve a tip if the customer leaves happy?

Should we give tips to check-out operators at supermarkets, especially if you have a trolley full of 50 different things, half of which is fresh produce that must be looked up and weighed? Where do we draw the line?

But I don’t think people would ever consider tipping their car dealer or real estate agent (no offence to car dealers or real estate agents), since they get a commission from what they just sold to you anyway. Maybe people give gifts or some other token of appreciation if they got a good deal or had a smooth sale, but who could afford a 10% tip on a car, let alone a house?

And surely there are no countries where it’s commonplace to tip bankers (again, no offence to people who work in banks). These people already have most of your money, so why would you give them the loose change from your wallet as well? I’ve been fortunate to get some really good service at banks, though. You’ve got to have good people skills to do well in the service industry.

I think I’ve heard of people giving tips to taxi drivers or limo drivers (I personally haven’t been in enough taxis to really know), and I suppose that’s fine – if someone drives me to my destination safely and in a timely manner, I’d want to show my appreciation. But, thinking along those same lines, why not give a tip to the bus driver? I generally thank the driver as I get off the bus, but they’d probably be quite baffled if I tried to give them a tip.

This post actually turned out to be a lot longer than I expected… Better head off to bed… Another day of work awaits me tomorrow!