Sunday, December 2, 2007

Tipping - It's Not a City in China

After ordering a plain coffee without any frufru extras and shelling out a $1.85 for it I looked down and noticed a sad little tip jar starring back at me. It's the very same one that's there each time I visit and like most other times it has a couple of dollar bills and a sampling of coins in it. So what do I do now? I can drop my remaining fifteen cents in and make it an even two bucks this trip or I can pocket it and be about 12% towards my next cup.

Well at this point you may be saying, "Who cares, It's only $0.15" Alright granted we're talking about an insignificant amount of money here, but that's not the point at all. The fact that there's a tip jar there in the first place is what gets me. Am I to assume by leaving a tip today that on my next visit I might expect to receive my java in a fancy imported paper cup? Perhaps upon hearing the coins drop into the offering jar the young girl on the other side of the counter will pick up my cup and whisk it off to my truck then gently place it into the center console cup holder.

No, I don't really expect either of those things to happen. I do wonder though, why so many people expect a tip for simply doing their job. Isn't doing your job what you get paid for?

What about service industry jobs such as waiting tables? By all means, I fully expect to leave an adequate tip provided I receive more than, "Hi, here's your food and here's your bill." Trust me this I understand because I was in the restaurant biz for many years. It used to frost my shorts when the waiters would complain about not getting enough money from the customers. Almost every time, and I stress the word almost, this happened it was because the waiter wasn't doing anything above the normal 'job requirement'. The exception to this was the occasional cheap SOB customer who would stiff them no matter how pleasant they were to them.

This makes me think of something I learned from my mom (no, not the SOB part). On a few occasions I've seen her leave the waiter a small tip, but then call the busboy over and give him a much better tip. She does this when it's the busboy who's busting his backside setting the tables, filling waters and coffee, clearing the dirty dishes... and still manages to be pleasant and the waiter simply takes the order and brings the bill. If you've never done this it's amazing to watch their eyes (busboy's) light up with that 'somebody gives a rip' look.

OK, back to my original gripe. Why does everyone expect a tip these days? Maybe it's because the companies they're working for aren't paying them enough. Sounds like a legitimate reason right? It does unless you consider that they knew what the job paid when they took it.

Take for instance the local take out pizza place. Now in this scenario I have called in my order, driven to their place to pick it up and paid for it. They have taken my order, made the pizza (sometimes it's even what I ordered) and taken my money. That's pretty much all there is to take out pizza. Not a lot of room here for extraordinary customer service, but low and behold when I get there, once again I'm greeted with that wonderful little tip jar. Not paying with cash? Don't worry that's covered too, at the bottom of the debit card receipt is a line to add a tip. Not leaving a tip here is generally greeted with a 'you dirty dog, now I can't buy my school books look'. Nothing like Pizza with a side order of guilt! Ummm...Tasty.

At this point it may sound like I'm a real Scrooge. I'm really not. I mean I do feel compelled to buy Girl Scout Cookies or candy from the Boy Scouts when they hit me with their sales pitch at the supermarket and I've also bought my fair share of wrapping paper and magazine subscriptions for various school fundraisers. So no, I don't think I'm a complete tightwad, I just get tired of tipping out of obligation to everyone in the retail sector.


Christinker said...

I was hoping their were more comments posted before I left my opinion because I am on the fence with this one.

Like you, I feel obligated to leave a tip when there is a jar, yet I usually don't. Then I feel guilty for about 2 minutes and then get on with my day. Does that make me a bad person? Nobody tips me at my job...and I work in the Hospitality industry planning weddings. The servers & banquet captains who work the weddings actually are the ones who get tipped. But I don't see a penny of it. I'm not bitter, but I do think I do the majority of the background work just putting the event together. Maybe I should get tipped too. Which leads me to my point...i think.

My point is we can't tip everybody just for doing their job properly. I think we would be getting carried away and have to put a tip jar on every desk and counter. For you, you can place the tip jar on the hood of your truck at each job site. Haha! Good luck with this one and let me know your final verdict.

DrillerAA said...

In many restuarants the service is provided by more than one person. Someone seats you, someone else takes your order, and a third party brings the food to the table. Even at your favorite coffee shop, it may be a three person operation. One takes the order, one gets your sweet roll, and a third makes your coffee. I'm not sure that any single person has done much to deserve an extra tip from me. However, like most customers, if the overall experience is pleasant I wind up leaving an adequate tip at a restuarant but rarely leave that other fifteen cents behind at the coffee shop.

Mel said...

Keep in mind VERY small town.
And keep in mind my order's done in nothing flat....I always order the same thing from the same places...always look for the same little waitress so she can take good care of me--which she does. (Which reminds me.....I need to find her a little somethin' for the holidays!)

So yep, I tip the little fella who makes my coffee(he's such an entertaining little fella), the gal who brings my burnt hamburger with lettuce and tomato(she does a grand job of making sure that cook burns it, LOL), AND the gal who's cut my hair since before it grew back.

And when we leave 'Green Acres' and go to the 'Big City'?
I let himself figure it out. LOL

Matt-Man said...

Great post Jeff. I like the busboy advice. Amusing title too. Cheers!!

Odat said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you!
I don't leave tips all over either.....I also like the bus boy idea...I'm going to do that next time.

kevin wecker said...

What if, instead, the tip jar at these places were a "Leave a Penny, Take a Penny" jar?

katherine. said...

taking a VERY deep breath so I don't rant.

I live in a fairly small town...(meaning I can't go ANYwhere without running into someone who either knows my folks or one of my kids) However it is a tourist town...and home to a University of California campus.

In most restuarants....large, small, coffee places, et cetera...all tips are combined and divided between servers, busboys, bartenders et cetera. Ticks me off. Usually there is a hierarchial division....but not always.

Now if the service is so-so I want to tip lower than if the service is great. I want to reward good service. Nope. Doesn't work like that.

We typically want to tip higher if the server...or bus boy has a fun and engaging personality. It is possible as a family we try to make friends with our waiter and waitress as we know there is a chance we will be a high maintainance table. Extra this...that on the side....substitute something...can I get another one of these please? Can't say
"thank you" with an extra dollar or two tip...nope...they'll get the same reward as the surly cretin who never brought what we asked for.

The management is now required to add the tip amount to the servers' income for IRS purposes. Which is easier to do if they control the distribution. I suspect there could be some skimming sometimes...but I am cynical that way.

Also...the large grocery chains no longer allow the kids who push the cart out to the parking lot and help load up your car to accept tips (WHAT?!?) Even if you insist the poor kid looks at the cash and says "no, really...I could get fired."

Where I go to get coffee....most of the staff knows me...and they are all helpful...and I don't mind the "group tip" but when I sit down and deal with a couple people...I want to be able to tip THAT person...not everyone else.

The exception seems to be small diner type Mel's joint...and bars where you are dealing with a bartender or single waitress....but not always.

(You may want to ask at the places you frequent if the server gets all the tips you leave...or if they are combined....just sayin')

Desert Songbird said...

I just started noticing these tip jars popping up at various places. Give me a BREAK! I agree with you - why does everyone think they should be paid a little something extra just for showing up? Sheesh.

Jeff B said...

Christinker- I almost included 'a tip jar on my work truck' as part of my rant. Somehow I think that would go over like a fart in church.

Drilleraa- Thanks for stopping by and offering your two..I mean fifteen cents.

Mel- I knew you were a sweetheart. Ya ole' softy. (smile)

Matt- It's doubly sweet cause you know the waiter is gonna hear about it.

Odat- In Oregon it's against the law to pump your own gas. So I'm waiting for a tip jar to show up on the gas pump next.

Kevin- Ah, the great equalizer.

Katherine- Breath Katherine, breath.

Good point about having to declare to the IRS and the poor box boy (or is that clerks assistant?) that can be fired over a buck or two.

Great input and MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Songbird- Maybe I should have included a link on this post so everyone could enter their card information and leave a tip for me. Hmmm

~Deb said...

You do not sound like a scrooge at all! In fact, I've often wondered why there was a tip jar. It makes you wonder who and what you should tip for. Are we getting out of hand? I can TOTALLY see if it's right around the holidays.........but I'm with you on this! I'm not cheap, but I don't get either.

Then again..........most people who serve you coffee usually don't get more than $10 bucks per hr. So... hrmm...

Diesel said...

The only time I ever leave a tip in one of those jars is when I've got 17 cents that I don't want jingling around in my pocket all day.

Mel said...



There goes the reputation I've worked diligently to maintain.

Sir Jeff--would you object to me adding you to my 'privileged to visit' list?
'Pass' is an acceptable answer, of course.

Psycho Mom said...

I tip for and based upon service, no matter who provides it, and I'm less than thrilled over the tip jars as well. Let's don't forget the universal tip language for lousy service -- a single penny left on the table is understood by every surly waiter or waitress in the working world, and I've left my share of them.

"The Babe"

Travis said...

I'm with you on the obligatory tip. I don't tip the barista at Starbucks. I have gone to them and paid them to make my drink. I have not had a seat at a table, and they have not come to my table for my order, gone back, made it, and brought it to me.

Counter servers get no tips from me and I don't feel guilty about this at all.

Pleasant restaurant wait staff will get the standard 12-15% gratuity. Pizza delivery guys who come to my door in freezing rain with my hot pizza will get a gratitiy for letting me stay dry and warm.

Just doing your job in a service industry is not going to get a tip from me, nor should it be expected.

It never occurred to me to tip the busboy, but now that you point it out I could get into this. They make a hell of a lot less than the wait staff.

Annie said...

It's a little confusing, isn't it, wondering just what you are paying for when you fork over $1.85 for a cup of coffee.

Roger said...

I going to carry a tip jar with me every where I go (I just decided) & why not I could use some cash tips ;D...Oh Jeff your ornament is in the mail! No tip required lol! Happy Holidays!!

Jeff B said...

Deb- I tend to soften a bit as Christmas gets closer.

Diesel- Most times I just use a prepaid card to avoid the whole thing. At least at the coffee shop.

Mel- I'd be honored to be added. Now that you mention it I added your name to my list a while back but didn't bother to ask you if was alright. Not sure what proper blog edict (sp?) is. So if you'd rather I didn't list it let me know.

Mom- I actually had a waitress come outside after me when I did that. I don't ever recall going back there again.

Travis- Hot pizza delivered in the freezing rain...yeah that deserves a nice tip.

Annie- At that point I feel I've contributed my share. Seems like there's got to be profit enough to pay the employees a little more.

Jeff B said...

Roger- Missed you while I was typing. (not tipping)

Thanks for the ornament I'll go look for it now.

Oswegan said...

I have a tip for them.

Don't pee into the wind.