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Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg: Culturally astute or Ugly American?

EPA / Giuseppe Catuogno

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, are seen in Capri, Italy, on Tuesday. The couple got married on May 19 and honeymooned in Italy.

Tongues are wagging about stories of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg stiffing the wait staff after dining out with his new bride, Priscilla Chan, at restaurants in Rome.

Zuckerberg reportedly didn’t leave a tip after the couple’s dinner at Pierluigi, a historic trattoria in the heart of Rome, or for a lunch at Nonna Betta, a Kosher restaurant in Rome's historic Jewish ghetto neighborhood.

Wait staff at Nonna Betta went public with details of the couple’s €32 lunch ($40)  — fried artichokes, stuffed ravioli, bread and two beverages — and a copy of the credit card bill.

So, did Zuckerberg, worth an estimated $20 billion, make a faux pas by not tipping? 

"It is not customary to tip for meal service in Italy," said Jodi R. R. Smith, of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. "Here in the States, servers are paid less than minimum wage and are expected to make up the difference in tips. In Italy, servers are paid a living wage and tips are for extraordinary meals and/or service."

"Not leaving a tip wasn’t as terrible as it seemed," said Stacy Rapacon, channel editor for Kiplinger.com and author of a recent article titled "What You Need to Know about Tipping While Traveling."

Americans are expected to leave a 15- to 20-percent gratuity for sit-down meals, an amount considered extravagant in Italy, she said. "But it is traditional to leave the change from your bill or at least a few coins." 

Many travelers don't know the tipping standards of foreign countries they are visiting, but Rapacon says it's important and easy to research before leaving home.

"The Emily Post Institute has a tipping guide and plenty of advice, as do many of the travel websites," Rapacon said.

Tip or no tip, Smith notes, the restaurants visited by Zuckerberg received some major attention. "To hire a PR firm for this amount of publicity would have cost a small fortune — there’s the tip."

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