Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Art of Tipping

Shakesville, a blog I sometimes haunt but don't comment on (because I, at my heart, am still the Luddite still somewhat frightened by technology and by not seeing the people on the other side of the box to whom I'm typing), had what I thought was an interesting Question of the Day:
Who do you tip? Are you a good tipper?
I tip. I tip almost everyone you could think to tip. If check out people had tip jars, I'd probably end up tipping them too.

I'm also an extremely good tipper. I have never worked for tips, and I've yet to feel the want of money. Which helps feed the white-liberal-faux-Catholic guilt I've picked up through the course of my life (this is also why I give to a lot of different charities). I leave 20%, both because I think 20% is a good tip amount and because it is soooo much easier to figure out than the standard 15%. I can't do that easily, so I figure unless the server was particularly bad, I'm not going through the extra math work to get to the proper figure.

But I have known people who just didn't tip. I got into a heated debate with a friend of mine once about tipping, and I have to say I thought less of him after the debate was done. This guy was (is) a straight up crazy liberal, and I couldn't understand how he couldn't understand people depend on tips - and that as a crazy "the entire world's in on the conspiracy, maaaaaan" liberal, how he could in all seriousness dispense the "If they can't live on the wages they're getting, they should just get another job" schtick. Which he did. Repeatedly.

I understand that places are supposed to supplement their wait staff's wages if they don't make minimum wage. I also understand - having had plenty of friends actually work at places like restaurants - that doesn't always happen. So, not tipping the wait staff because you support them receiving at least the minimum wage seems kind of like shooting someone in the chest so they can get a flu shot. It hurts that person more in the short term. And if something like paying rent is on the line, what might come about in the future doesn't seem to be the best thing ever, or something that person should truly be appreciative of. Plus, he seemed to think that the wait staff at these various establishments should agitate for change themselves, instead of writing to his congressmen himself about his own distaste for the necessity of tipping.

What really gets me about the not tipping argument, though, is that it seems like the basic premise - people should get paid enough in the base salary - gets mixed up in the idea that leaving the tip is paying someone else's wages, and that isn't the customer's job. Except, that is exactly the customer's job. In a lot of situations, the customer doesn't directly pay the worker, but the price paid for the service or product is part of what pays the worker. Likewise, the price of the meal should cover the worker's wages; but since it doesn't, the customer is, by not tipping, simply not covering the true cost of their meal. If workers did agitate and did manage to get minimum wage, the cost of the meal would go up to cover that new expense in service.

Even barring that, though, I like tipping. It feels good to acknowledge someone's service to you. There are probably other ways to do this as well, but tipping seems to be the most convenient.

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