Great service by Marriott and others…Tipping in today’s world…

Billowing cloud view from the Madeira house, overlooking the sea.

Yesterday afternoon, I received an email from a Marriott manager asking if we needed anything during our extended 70-night stay at this Residence Inn. If we think of something, we’ll let her know. She also asked why we are staying so long, requiring a lengthy explanation.

It made me realize why we like Marriott hotels so much. After all, we spent ten months in lockdown in Mumbai, India, during the pandemic and have stayed at many other Marriotts worldwide, never disappointed by the facility or the quality of the service. We are members of their rewards program, Marriott Bonvoy, and it was through that program that we got a better price for this current two-month stay.

Overall, we’ve had considerable success with quality service from all the rewards programs we use for credit cards, cars, vacation homes, and hotels. Even as Costco Premium members, we recently received a check for almost $200 for Tom’s upcoming hearing aid purchase.

Another recent example is that we used some reward points on a credit card to pay for the expensive hotel in Milwaukee this past weekend. During those times, it’s easier to digest paying premium rates using rewards points when few other options are available.

Speaking of good service, overall, we’ve found that service in the US has been excellent in most situations. That’s not to say that the service in other countries is inferior. It is not. We’ve had excellent service throughout the world from country to country, but we’ve noticed a variance in the expectation of servers receiving tips.

We have no problem tipping for good service. We consider ourselves good tippers, but we investigate what tipping customs and expectations are before heading to a new country. In Australia, for example, service people are paid a fair wage. Early on, when we embarked on numerous cruises in Australia, Tom attempted to tip the baggage handlers at the cruise terminal. In each case, they refused the tips, saying, “Sir, in our country, we make a living wage and don’t accept service tips.”

We spent two years in the South Pacific and found this true throughout Australia, including Tasmania (part of Australia) and New Zealand. In some tropical islands, the expectation for tips was comparable to the US, especially when wages were low in many island nations. We understood and complied accordingly. Then again, prices were low in many venues, whereas prices are higher overall in Australia.

In the past five months in the US, we’ve observed that tips are not only expected but often added to the bill with suggestions for the amount of tips based on the bill. But, on bills in some restaurants, we’ve also observed add-ons for the following:

  1. Credit card use fees as much as 3.5% of the total or more
  2. Health insurance and employee welfare as much as 3.5%
  3. Employee retention fees as high as 3.5%
  4. Tips are expected on the tax on top of the the basic food and drink items

We don’t calculate the tip amount on these extras. We only tip a percentage for the food and beverage amount, not these add-ons, nor do we tip on the sales tax or VAT. For instance, when dining in Minneapolis and other cities, there are city taxes, stadium taxes, and others. We don’t tip on top of these amounts. Why pay a percentage twice?

We may seem tightwads, but living on a fixed income that allows very little for cost of living increases with the current inflation rate, we must consider what works best for us. Of course, if one is wealthy and money is no object, they may never question this process.

This is not to say we don’t appreciate excellent service for food and beverage and the hard work of many servers throughout many fields of endeavor. We tip generously when the service is good, but only, as mentioned, for the service, food, and beverages provided to us.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, June 18, 2014:

When we went for a walk in Campanario, Madeira, we took this photo of the back of our holiday home. It was a fantastic home. For more photos, please click here.

Health update…Figuring out solutions…

A kudu was nursing her baby in our yard.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

A White Helmetstrike perching near an unknown species of a blackbird.

Since we settled in South Africa, we’ve had many of our readers inquiring as to how I’ve been feeling after the awful knee injury in Buenos Aires and my continuing gastrointestinal issues. We both appreciate the inquiries and concern, constantly feeling our readers are so kind and in touch with what’s going on with us.

First off, I don’t particularly appreciate sounding like a medical mess. Who does? We all prefer to present a degree of health and wellness when we’ve made a concerted effort to be healthy, taking a certain amount of pride in good results.

One of many in the area, this termite mound s over 2 meters (6 feet) tall.  A variety of animals eat the termites from the mound.

In a perfect world, we can waft into “old age” with a modicum of good health. However, due to heredity, history and past injuries, many of us are plagued with certain conditions that, regardless of how hard we may try, continue to be a presence in our lives. Most of these “conditions” so to speak, only worsen as we age.

Since we began our travels almost 5½ years ago, I’ve been subject to three health situations, that regardless of how hard I tried, had to be dealt with the best way I could:  one, the problem with my gastrointestinal health from eating octopus in Fiji on Christmas Day, 2015; two, the injury to my spine in the pool in Bali which took five months to fully heal (no recurring problems); and three, the injury and subsequent infection in my knee from a fall in Buenos Aires in January, 2018, (since fully healed).

Ms. Warthog rolling around in the hay pile.

The only remaining issue has been gastrointestinal which initially became a case of H. Pylori (Helicobacter Pylori), gastritis and eventually ulcers which have plagued me consistently for over two years.   

The H. Pylori resolved after having had a blood test in Tasmania and being prescribed the usual “triple therapy” of significant doses of two types of antibiotics and a proton pump inhibitor (PPI).  In many cases, even after this extensive treatment, one can end up with ulcers, which may require the continuation of a PPI indefinitely.

A  single mongoose gets an egg.  We purchased a container of 60 eggs for this purpose.

As a result, when I stopped taking the PPIs (omeprazole) while we were in Costa Rica I still was experiencing ulcer pain and knew I had to continue them for an extended period which is now over six months ago. 

After reading about serious side effects of taking PPIs long term, I’ve been determined to stop taking them when I wasn’t explicitly feeling any ulcer pain although I still had bouts of bloating, discomfort and other symptoms you can well imagine which can be a result of side effects of the pills. 

These tall cone-shaped structures act as scarecrows to keep birds away from banana trees.

Recently, I decided to stop the PPIs and see what happens. Now, that we’re settled here in South Africa and not traveling until May, this was a good time as any. 

As it turns out, stopping long-term (or short-term) treatment with PPIs causes a “rebound effect.”  The gastrointestinal tract has been signaled by the drugs to stop producing stomach acid. Without adequate stomach acid (hydrochloric acid, HCl) food is difficult to digest, causing bloating, pain and diarrhea,  constipation or both. It’s a catch 22.

With the grounds of our rental consisting mainly of low-lying bush, we don’t expect giraffes to come into the yard unless they wander down the dirt driveway. Giraffes prefer to graze where they don’t have to be continually ducking trees and branches. Subsequently, we drive around Marloth Park to find them.

Two weeks ago yesterday, on March 4th I abruptly stopped the pills. A week passed, no pain, no issues. During the second week, the burning started which I must admit has been almost unbearable. The reason for this is, without the drug, the stomach begins pumping excessive amounts of HCL to compensate for the lack of the drug. With the way the pills are made, there’s no way to taper the dose.  

Eventually, the amazing body will generally correct itself and a normal and adequate amount of acid will be produced, sufficient enough to handle the assimilation and digestion of food. Via comments on many medical sites, this process can take from two to six months to fully resolve.  I’m two weeks in.

Francolins often visit us.  They are shy, run very fast, fly very little and make lots of noise during the day and early evening.

It hasn’t been easy but I have to stick with this. After seeing three doctors for these issues in Tasmania, all with varying opinions and treatment options, I felt getting off this drug is of utmost importance, especially since I no longer feel any specific ulcer pain. 

The burning sensation of the excess acid my body is pumping to compensate for no longer shutting down acid production from the medication, comes and goes throughout the day and night. In the past week, I haven’t slept more than five hours at night and often find myself pacing in an attempt to stop the discomfort.

We may not see them each time we take a drive but we’re always thrilled when we do.

Nothing I eat or drink makes any difference although I am trying a low acid, bland diet within the framework of my usual way of eating. Last night, I had mildly seasoned sauteed liver, onions, mushrooms and steamed vegetables for dinner while Tom enjoyed homemade low carb pizza.  We’ll have leftovers tonight.

Hopefully each day it will become a little easier. I’m hoping it won’t require the two or more months to work itself out. In the interim, we’re staying upbeat and busy with many social events and activities, all of which are a good distraction. 

We’ve only had one wildebeest visitor to date but have seen others in Marloth and Kruger.

No words can describe how much I’m looking forward to being free of this. But there’s no better place to be during this time…loving life in Marloth Park, among our animal and human friends, all of whom provide a plethora of “feel good” hormones that certainly aid in the recovery.

So, there it is dear readers, the answer to the thoughtful inquiries many of you have kindly sent our way, the answers in one fell swoop. Tom, as usual, is lovingly supportive and has the uncanny ability to keep me laughing, living in the moment and looking optimistically to the future.

Vervet monkey are prolific in Marloth Park and are considerably less destructive than baboons.

May each of you enjoy good health and a sense of well-being. As we all know, above all else, nothing is more important than making every effort to maintain good health.

Photo from one year ago today, March 19, 2017:

Cloudy night at the Sydney Opera House when we attended an opera we’d booked well in advance for excellent seats. For more photos, please click here.