Sunday, May 29, 2011

To Tip or Not to Tip?

Granted, this may not be as deep as contemplating one's mortality, but still, I think it's a question that bears some pondering.  Not that long ago, this was basically a non-issue.  I don't mean that people didn't tip.  I just think it was pretty clear on who did get tipped – not so much nowadays. 


Because they work at a reduced rate, waiters and waitresses have long received tips/additional compensation from their customers which naturally encourages them to provide decent service.  It's similar with bartenders, and this can work greatly to your advantage.  If you go up to a bar that's three deep and generously tip your mixer, you're guaranteed to get good service the rest of the night.  It's a two-way street, you-scratch-my-back-I'll-scratch-your-back, quid pro quo sort of thing.  People wanting good service, from people providing a service, are able to reward those for said service, acknowledging the quality of the service provided.  Too wordy?  You get it, though.  It's a win-win.  No problem tipping these folks.


Then, of course, there are what I call seasonal tips.  These were probably born of a time when workers received Christmas bonuses and liked to spread the wealth – so to speak.  To digress for a moment, this was so long ago that they were actually called Christmas bonuses without any fear of PC repercussions – that wouldn't fly in today's standards, but most don't get bonuses (by any name) anymore so… In spite of that, though, we still have those who get a few bucks or a "holiday" gift card from us at the end of the year: postal carriers and/or regular delivery/service people, for example – but should they?   


And what about others, like, say hairdressers or pet groomers who may be seen regularly throughout the year?  Should I be giving year-end, seasonal tips to them, too?  I don't.  I tip these people at each service – never mind that they're owner/operators and tip etiquette dictates they shouldn't be tipped at all, I still do.  They don't seem to mind. 


But does everybody deserve a tip?  What I'm getting at is the tip jar.  The ubiquitous tip jar.  You know what I'm talking about.  It's on almost every counter nowadays: delis, Starbucks, ice cream shops, mailing centers, dry cleaners, the list goes on – basically you'd be hard-pressed to come across a service counter without a tip jar.  Now the thing is I can't go behind the counter and make a bagel, pour coffee or scoop gelato, nor can I ring up packing popcorn or retrieve my own dry cleaning.  This is why these establishments hire employees, and they pay them accordingly to perform these services – some even have health benefits.  This overhead is built into the cost of the consumer goods.  So, if we're already paying $2.50 for a bagel, $5.00 for a froo-froo cup o'joe or $6.95 to have a shirt cleaned, I say we're already doing our part – get rid of the stupid tip jar already.  I don't even like when grocery stores let teens come in and bag groceries for tips – and this has nothing to do with the fact that they don't understand simple bagging techniques.  This is a service the store should provide.  I think the teens can come in (squished fruit aside), but the store should make the donation – maybe on an hourly rate, whatever they work out – not the patron.  It's enough already!  


And here's the latest.  In the early Spring, I was traveling for work, and as such, stayed at a hotel – not some cheesy little flea-bag motel, no, a pleasant hotel designed for extended stay business travelers.  I've stayed at this place before.  I like it because their rooms are suites with nice amenities.  On this most recent visit, the clock in my room displayed an incorrect time.  Now I'm fairly bright and up until this point I'd never come across a clock radio with programming that was beyond my capabilities but, darn it, I could not figure out how to reset the time. 


"Well, I won't use the clock," I thought, "I'll just phone down to the desk for a wake-up call."  Who was I kidding?  I'm too OCD to have a clock display the wrong time.  According to the time on my cell phone, this clock was 3 hours off local California time.  I was still on MST which already had me off by an hour, so between my phone, my watch and this clock, I was in quite the time warp.  I had to fix it.


Willing to risk looking like an inept fool – is there any other kind? – I called down to the desk to inquire about fixing the time.  "Oh, we'll send someone right up," was their reply.  I responded, "You don't have to do that, just tell me how to do it."   "You can't do it," they said, "it's locked."  Locked?  Has there been a run on time-setting tomfoolery that I don't know about? 


Anyway, the maintenance guy comes up, unlocks the back of the clock and resets the time.  Easy-peasy.  Even with the chit-chat, this only took about a minute and a half.  While thanking him, I gestured toward the door.  To say he was lingering is an understatement.  He didn't move.  Thoughts raced through my mind.  Am I supposed to tip this guy?  I'm not tipping him.  It's not like I requested some special service – no, I'm not tipping him.  This room costs over $200 a night, the clock should have been set correctly – I refuse to tip for this.  If the clock wasn't locked (ridiculous), I'd have fixed it myself.  I am not tipping this guy.  I turned, walked to the door, opened it and thanked him once more.  Clearly put off by my lack of tipping, he left.  "I should not have had to tip that guy," I said aloud to no one.


With that behind me, I grabbed my bag and headed down to the restaurant.  Guess who I met at the elevator?  I smiled, then said, "Oh, by the way, here's a couple of bucks for helping me with the clock."  At the Lobby level, we parted ways.  He was $2.00 richer and I rationalized how it was worth the two bucks not to anguish anymore over not tipping him.  But I gotta tell ya – I shouldn't have had to tip that guy! 


At the tipping point,

~ M.