Currency in the Finger Lakes
Credit and debit cards are becoming as common as cash in the Finger Lakes, in fact it's more difficult to find a store that DOESN'T accept credit cards than to find one that does. Most ATMs will dispense cash from credit cards, though you are likely to be charged a fee by your credit card company.
Traveler's Checks or Traveller's Cheques
One and the same, traveler's checks are truly as good as cash, however, you don't see them very often (most people preferring to use plastic) and you may be asked for identification if you try to cash one.
The U.S. dollar is accepted in all establishments in the Finger Lakes and beyond. A lot of stores will accept Canadian coins, though they usually won't accept bills.
Unlike in Europe where the gratuity is often included as part of the bill, this is rarely the case in the Finger Lakes. Whether you tip someone or not is your choice and is based on many factors: Is the person providing you a service for which one normally tips? Was the service good enough to deserve a tip? And so on.
Waiters, waitresses, servers, hosts, and other people in the service part of the restaurant/food service business other than fast food chains.
Taxi cab drivers and similar forms of transportation but not bus drivers.
Hotel staff such as concierges, bell hops, and maids. If you don't see the maid, you may leave a tip in the room when you check out or put a tip in an envelope and give it to the concierge for the maid.
Tour guides on buses and boats.
Airport assistants, especially those who help with luggage.
Baby sitters at ski resorts.
Beauty salon and spa personnel such as those who cut hair, polish nails, and give facials.
Pizza and other food delivery workers.
Grocery store clerks and other grocery store personnel unless they deliver directly to your home.
Cinema and theater workers who show you to your seat. (Tipping may be acceptable in certain theaters in large cities outside the Finger Lakes.)
Car repair personnel and those who provide roadside service.
Police officers and fire fighters no matter what they do for you.
How Much to Tip
Fifteen percent is usually the minimum and the norm. You may tip more based on the quality and type of the service.
How to Thank Someone You Can't Tip
When it's inappropriate to tip someone, it is often appropriate to write a letter to the editor of the local paper, thanking the person, even if you only describe them, their vehicle, or the event. Example: I would like to thank the elderly gentleman who stopped to help me around noon on September 12 when I had a flat tire on Rt. 59A.
I never thought I'd be putting this on my Web site, but two recent incidents have made this necessary.
Rarely should you see a truly indigent person begging in the Finger Lakes, or anywhere else in New York State for that matter. The reason is that each county operates a department of social services (funded with taxpayers' dollars), one of the duties of which is to make sure that the truly indigent have a safe place to sleep and to eat. Non-profit organizations also work to provide the indigent with clothing and food. People with some form of mental illness often live in supervised group homes. People who have lost their homes temporarily (due to fire, for example) are helped by either the department of social services or the local chapter of the American Red Cross.
However, a new type of begging I'll call "high-class begging," for want of a better name, now exists that you need to be aware of. You will be approached by a person who dresses nicely who will tell you some tale of woe. "I lost my wallet." "My car broke down." Etc. They will come right out and ask you for money, maybe even mentioning a sum. They may even say something like, "God will bless you for your generosity." DO NOT GIVE THESE PEOPLE MONEY. THEY ARE CON ARTISTS.
Any person, either a resident of New York State or from somewhere else, who is in trouble, should be contacting the police who will put them in touch with organizations that can help them temporarily. No one needs to walk the streets, asking for money.
Not long ago, I was approached at 11:00 p.m. in the parking lot of a grocery store by a woman who claimed to be having car trouble and needed money to get to her home in another city. Just yesterday (as of this writing) I was approached by a fellow at a gas station and asked for money.
1. Don't believe these stories no matter how desperate these people appear. Watch out for tears, it's all part of the act.
2. Don't give them money.
3. Don't tell them how much money you have or show them your wallet.
4. Do offer to help them contact the police. (They'll probably take off at that point.)
If the person continues to pester you after you've refused to give them money, either call the police on your cell phone, if you have one, or go into a store and ask to call the police.