I came across this tip jar when stopping at a doughnut shop in Pike Place Market in Seattle. “God knows when you don’t tip,” it read in handwritten marker, on a piece of paper duct-taped to death on a milk jug with the top cut off. Tipping. We all do it, a lot of us, because everybody else does. After all, it is a “social norm”. And with giant jars sitting on counters everywhere from coffee shops to might-as-well-do-it-myself establishments, we feel pressured to do it, guilty if we don’t or maybe we just want to impress. Whatever your reason, does it show as a reflection on you, the person being served, or is it a reflection on the person providing the service?
I’m sure the answer could go either way depending on the situation. I’ll use myself as an example. The other day I went and had lunch at a “mediocre” Mexican restaurant chain. The food was “ok,” the restaurant itself, “eh” (left much to be desired) but the service was pretty much non-existent. I would consider myself a decent tipper (at least 20%) and a generous, optimistic, “glass half full” nice person but maybe something in me that day just wasn’t bending. Lunch was cheap and even when I only drop $5 for a meal I’m likely to tip at least $2, but that day, I really felt like that $1 I left was pushing it (maybe I was influenced by the “eh” environment I was in… *shrugs*).
Now I’m sure people say, “Well, you never know what a person is going through.” or “Be the bigger person even if the service sucks.” or “Don’t let them think ill of you.” With the exception of the last statement, I have (or usually) concurred with those reasonings (because I could care less what any one thinks). But what about the times when the service is really horrible? Do you leave a poor tip to send a message (which they probably won’t get anyway)? or do you “suck it up”, “be the bigger person” and leave a good tip in hopes that it will somehow brighten their day (which may actually have an adverse effect and perpetuate the same lousy service).
A little history on the practice of tipping…
According to the somewhat vague history of tipping it started in Europe as a means “to ensure promptitude” (or T.I.P.) from servants, i.e. people basically working for free, not hired (that’s pay-check-receiving) employees. The practice migrated over to the States in the late 19th century but supposedly was not well received initially citing it defeated the purpose of establishing a class-less democracy (in essence, tipping was seen as a higher class supporting a lower class). But now days with the “base pay” that many service jobs pay, all of that history talk about democracy seems a little silly. What’s even sillier is legislators in some states tried to make tipping unlawful! Here’s an excerpt from a book titled The Itching Palm by William Scott, written in 1915:
In the American democracy to be servile is incompatible with citizenship. Every tip given in the United States is a blow at our experiment in democracy. The custom announces to the world…that we do not believe practically that “all men are created equal.” Unless a waiter can be a gentleman, democracy is a failure. If any form of service is menial, democracy is a failure… If tipping is un-American, some day, some how, it will be uprooted like African slavery.
I’m pretty sure if someone said something like that today most people’s response would be “Dude, whatever.” Today, in the 21st century, I believe it all goes back to what we’re thinking – what we thought of the service, what we want them (the servicer) to think of us. So let’s role play… You’re the one providing a service and I’m your patron. Only you know in your heart if you would be truly giving it your best. Regardless, I leave a good tip. Was it me or was it you? Roles reversed, I’m serving you and say I do a lousy job. How would you tip? Remember God knows when you don’t tip (better make it good, lol). :p