Q. A recent restaurant bill for 30 included a 20 percent gratuity. The management added the tax to the amount of the food and drink before applying the gratuity. Many other restaurants charge a gratuity only on the food. What is the proper method? We do not "consume" the tax.
-- W.S., of Waterloo
A. Boy, that could leave a sour taste in your mouth that not even an after-dinner mint could neutralize.
Unfortunately, the only advice I can offer is that you should have questioned the management before paying the bill or simply avoid the eatery in the future. There doesn't appear to be any "proper method" set in stone -- and no state law against the practice. From now on, you might want to ask about an establishment's policy in advance to save a few bucks.
The only thing a restaurant cannot do is tax the gratuity. Such a "revenue enhancement" might be in the back of the minds of some legislators in this cash-strapped state, but it's not on the books yet in Illinois.
"You cannot tax services," Sue Hofer, of the Illinois Department of Revenue, told me. "We tax only 'real stuff' in Illinois. We don't tax your haircut or your massage or your lawn service."
Otherwise, restaurants apparently can do as they please. Just for fun, I called Fischer's in Belleville, because I know they frequently handle banquets. The spokeswoman I talked to seemed quite surprised at your experience, saying any mandatory gratuity at Fischer's is figured only on the food.
Although she, of course, does not know the particulars, Hofer guesses that it's perhaps the restaurant's computer program that is adding the gratuity after the tax is applied. That way, the restaurant avoids breaking the law by taxing the tip, she said, although one wonders why a computer cannot be programmed to figure a simple tip on food and add it even after the tax is figured.
In any case, be glad you're not living in states like California, where mandatory tips and service charges are taxed as well.
Q. I'm always upset that when I watch a game on TV but want to listen to the commentary from the local guys on the radio, the radio description is always several seconds ahead of the picture, so it's like watching a perpetual replay. What is causing this and is there anything I can do?
-- C.W., of Freeburg
A. Imagine inviting a couple of new friends from Belleville for dinner. When they ask directions, you tell one to take Illinois 13/15 straight to Freeburg while you send the other on a crazy scavenger-hunt path via Hecker and New Athens.
Would you be surprised if the first guy arrived a half-hour before the second? Of course not, so neither should you be taken aback by the out-of-sync results from your multimedia attempt to find sports nirvana.
As explained to me, a radio signal from a St. Louis station has to go only a few miles to reach your AM/FM set. But even if the game is in St. Louis, a network TV signal is generally shot thousands of miles to New York and back via satellite. Add who knows how much equipment processing time to the signal and it's little wonder you're going to experience a lag time between sound and picture.
But as you might guess, there apparently are at least three things you can do to make the two mesh, depending on how electronically nerdy you are:
The easiest is to simply buy a special radio that allows you to delay the sound signal. Yes, those machines do exist, such as the SportSync SR202, which has a slider-bar that lets you delay the audio up to 16 seconds. It's $60 at www.sprtsyncradio.com
"It usually just takes one or two game plays to match the radio audio to the TV," the promotional material boasts. "Sometimes you can even match the sound of a referee's whistle or the ball hitting the pitched ball ... "
If you're a computer wonk, you can try downloading the free Radiodelay program from DaanSystems.com. Then, connect a radio to the computer's sound card, set the appropriate delay, and click play.
Finally, you might delay the video by recording and playing it through a DVR enough to sync it with a radio.
He was boxing's next "great white hope" until he was hammered in the quarterfinals at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Name him. Bonus: Name the man who beat him and went on to become only the second boxer in history to win three gold medals.
Answer to Tuesday's trivia: After winning a gold and two bronzes at the 1924 Olympics in Paris, Gertrude Ederle set her sights on a much tougher challenge: becoming the first woman to swim the 21-mile-long English channel. On Aug. 6, 1926, she did so at age 20 in 14 hours and 39 minutes, breaking the existing record by two hours. The mark would stand until 1950.
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or firstname.lastname@example.org