Wednesday, August 19, 2009


The Merriam-Webster Disctionary describes a tip as "a gift or small sum given for a service performed or anticipated".

My understanding has always been that this “small sum” is being given in addition to the server’s regular compensation from his or her employer. Correct? So, really…what you are attempting to say when you tip someone is, “You are so strikingly outstanding at doing your job that I simply must acknowledge this with even further compensation, above and beyond whatever you’re receiving from your employer, because…well, they are obviously severely underpaying you for your superb and exemplary abilities and I feel it is my duty as your loyal and appreciative customer to acknowledge this very fact with this mere tidbit…a morsel, if you will…of your actual worth.”

A tad dramatic, I’ll admit…but otherwise basically accurate. Agreed?

Why is it then, that I’m seeing “TIP” jars every-freakin’-where?? I’ve seen everything from Folgers coffee cans with the word “TIPS” written on masking tape on the front of the can to those white plastic trays they serve Chinese take-out in (minus the clear plastic top) with the word “TIPS” written in bold letters on the side (facing the customer, of course).

Tip? For what? For doing your job? For hopefully not spitting in my latte and remembering to add the extra foam I’d requested?

In the past week, I have seen “TIP” containers in the following locations:

  • The dry cleaners
  • The Italian deli
  • The bagel place
  • The pharmacy
  • The bakery

One can only assume that these particular employees are feeling somewhat gypped out of what they feel is their rightful 15-25% (depending on so many, many factors) just because they don’t have the formality of putting a plate in front of you on a tablecloth, or schlepping to the back of the parking lot to retrieve your overly-pine-scented-interior car so you don’t have to.

Let’s face it: A lot of the people we tip these days is really in hopes that they won’t completely screw us over. That guy parking your car, the guy taking your luggage at the airport, the maitre d who says there’s no tables available…we’re basically bribing these guys into giving us what we want, while it’s silently understood that we don’t want them to hurt our stuff.

We tip the coat check-person (please don’t drip chocolate ice cream on my cashmere), we tip the newspaper boy (made the stoop 5 out of 7 times….good job!) we tip the hairdresser for allowing our locks to look publicly respectably fashionable (knowing full well it could go either way, let's face it), both in color and style. We tip the lady who cleans our hotel room in the hopes that she’ll actually wash the dirty glasses, instead of the “spit and shine” we’ve seen on 20/20.

So. We’re either tipping to say “PLEASE….PLEASE DO THIS FOR ME,” or we’re tipping to say “PLEASE…PLEASE DON’T DO THAT TO ME.”

The way I figure it, either way…we’re probably screwed.

f8hasit said...

When I was in college I worked at a restaurant as a server. I worked damn hard at it, and I was good. So I got good tips! One night the coat check girl couldn't make it so they asked me to fill in. Sure, no problem.

Do you know that every single person gave me $1! I made more as a coat check than as a watiress! And all I did was sit there!

But I agree. Everywhere. People figure, "Hell, why not?" Maybe you shoudl carry a tip jar around your neck so they can tip you for using THEIR services!

kathryn said...

YEAH! I mean, we SHOULD get paid EXTRA for delivering all this witty, high-quality bantor...
Oh, wait.
We're not getting paid at all. Are we? How can you get tipped if you're not even getting paid?

Is it too early to drink??

Chris said...

That's IT! I'm putting a tip jar on my desk. You think many parents will throw a few bucks in there in appreciation of me suspending their kid from school?

Seriously, I may go ahead and do it just for the laughs.

kathryn said...

Welcome Chris! You're definitely onto something. Just find a blank piece of paper with report card grades on it...then show the A been crossed out, then the B....sadly, the C ain't looking so hot, either. When an irate (or not, depending on your mood) parent says something you don't quite agree with, simply tip your head in the general vacinity of said words need be spoken. Or you COULD say something like "Isn't it that 'D' is just SUSPENDED in mid-air...."
Think of the mind games...think of the pow-ah!
Okay. You can have your chair back now...come back soon!

Theresa said...

Good point. I've recently stopped tipping the pizza delivery guy because now, they already tack on a $3.00 delivery charge. But ya know, he might be one of the "please don't do that to me" kinda people. I mean really, who knows what he could do to my pizza. Ugh!

kathryn said...

Hi Theresa- That's JUST what I mean! What do you do when the suddenly "tip-less" person knows where you live? This whole thing has gotten completely out of control. Let's go back to just waitstaff, okay? Oh, and valets. And I guess we have to do coat-check....and then there's the hotel maids...

Bobby Allan said...

Pharmacy? Really??

JD at I Do Things said...

I used to work as a waitress, and we needed those tips, man. Our paltry salaries would not have covered even a humble Band-Aid for our blistered feet.

But I draw the line at the ubiquitous tip jars at every counter of every store in every profession. People think if they ask, you'll feel guilty and give.

Sorry, bub! I work hard for mah monies.

Susan F said...

It's completely out of control! We were just talking about this recently.

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