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Zuckerberg sparks tipping debate after skipping gratuity in Rome

When travelling abroad, it's advisable to find out beforehand the expectations on tipping for your destination. Just ask Mark Zuckerberg.

The Facebook chief executive officer has been singled out for reportedly failing to leave a tip after having lunch in Rome during his honeymoon with wife Priscilla Chan. As The Telegraph reported, staff at the Nonna Betta restaurant were stunned Mr. Zuckerberg left no gratuity on a €32 (approximately $41) lunch, not just because of his immense wealth but because Americans are known for tipping well. After all, it's not as though he didn't enjoy the meal, the newspaper said.

"I asked him 'How was it?' And he said 'Very good,' " the owner was quoted as saying.

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Mr. Zuckerberg also reportedly neglected to leave tip after dinner at a different restaurant in Rome the previous night.

(In Mr. Zuckerberg's defence, some have pointed out that a service charge is already included in the bill.)

Mary Forgione, who writes a travel blog for the Los Angeles Times, suggests Mr. Zuckerberg, who has dropped off of Bloomberg's top 40 billionaires list since his company went public, should have known better. As she points out, travel outfitter Magellan's indicates it's appropriate to leave tips of 10 per cent above the service charge. Condé Nast Traveler also suggests leaving up to 10 per cent.

But some argue Mr. Zuckerberg has been unfairly cast as a tightwad.

"It is not customary to tip for meal service in Italy," Jodi Smith, of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, told MSNBC. In the United States servers have a lower minimum wage – tips are expected to supplement their income. "In Italy, servers are paid a living wage and tips are for extraordinary meals and/or service," she says.

But while it may be okay for locals to skip leaving gratuities, it appears travellers, particularly Americans, tend to be held to a different standard.

"Zuckerberg not leaving a tip is a bit of a faux pas, but really because of Italian expectations of Americans," Kathy McCabe of travel newsletter Dream of Italy, told USA Today. "Americans absolutely have a reputation for tipping, and many Italians have come to expect a tip when serving them."

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What's your policy on tipping while travelling?

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About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More

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