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led astray

January 2013

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do what?

What happened to tipping??

I have noticed a disturbing trend in Boston.  People don't tip.  Ok, some people do.  But I started to notice this trend a few years ago when I was living with Scarn and angel_heart.  We ordered a pizza one night.  As I recall, it was a pretty bad storm of some sort outside, so we prepared a hefty tip for the delivery driver for having to work in such shitty conditions (I think it was 25%).  When he got to us, he thanks us profusely.  It was the first tip he had received during his full day of work!  This episode recurred with variations time and time again, to our dismay.  It still does.

When I was growing up, I was taught that you tip everyone who performs a service for you, wait staff, salon staff, gas station attendants, you name it (this is part of why I prefer to be able to do something for myself).  You did this for several reasons.  This person has a thankless job, your tip is your appreciation.  It was assumed that this person was not paid enough to do this thankless job and relies on that tip as necessary to survival.  The tip is a social lubricant.  It encourages pleasant consumer/service provider relations with incentives on both sides; the customer gets treated as an important guest, the service provider gets a better tip.  It was (in theory) a reciprocal exchange.  It enhanced the atmosphere of any place of business.  So what happened?

I believe there are 2 main culprits, ignorance and entitlement.  I am not well traveled, but I had the privilege of traveling to China for a couple weeks while I was getting my Bachelor's degree.   It was a wonderful experience and I'm still learning from it.  I learned that, at least in Beijing, people don't tip.  It assumed that it the employer's job to pay workers their full wage, or that the service is already being paid for as part of the cost.  I tipped a few times out of habit, and met with strange looks and polite refusals.  Who knows what they thought I wanted with that extra money!?  Then I began to wonder how it is in the rest of the modern world.  Are there other places that simply do not tip?  Probably.  Boston is blessed with a diverse immigrant population, making it one of the most interesting places I've ever been.  But, do they all know about tipping?  Probably not.  

Boston is a classic college town.  The population skyrockets when school is in session, and plummets when it's out.  Without going on a tangent about how television is destroying our youth, I cannot help but see a correlation between Reality TV and an increase in youthful entitlement.  I have overheard co workers proclaim proudly that xyz service did not meet expectations and no tip was left.  They feel entitled to the kind of service that makes them godly, and if they don't get it, they see no reason they should thank someone for poor service.  I can see the logic in this argument.  It does not change the fact that the system is still set up with the expectation that if service is bad, you leave a tip, just not a large one!  The service people get stiffed on the tip, morale goes down, service slacks, customers are annoyed and servers aren't getting the money they need to survive.  In this system, life sucks for everyone involved, making days bad, attitudes bad, and spreading distaste for humanity among the participants.

The solution?  Tip!  Tell your friends to tip.  The guidelines I grew up with are: a regular tip is 15% of the total cost of your meal (or other service), excellent service is a 20% tip, and poor service gets 10%.  Remember this when you plan for the cost of your meal.  Wait staff make less than minimum wage because the system assumes you are tipping at least 10% of the cost of your meal to make up the difference in pay.  And many places make servers pool tips and split them evenly, so you're not just stiffing your bad wait person, you're stiffing the whole staff!

Have I ever stiffed a wait person?  Yes.  Once.  And I felt so bad about not having the money to tip with, I wrote her a poem to apologize.


this reminds me of a friend's advice on how to get good drinks at bars (espeically if you want to order something more labor intensive like a mojito). he suggested that you order a very simple drink to start with - a rum and coke or gin and tonic or something like that - and tip *well* on that drink. then when you come back and ask for a drink that takes effort, the bartender already knows that their efforts will be well rewarded and will usually take a bit more care.

i've tried this. it has resulted in happy bartenders and tasty drinks and on the whole has cost... $1 more? maybe $2.
Indeed. I was at a drag show recently and the bartender was kind of haggard at first, but the people I was with were tippers, and looking to have a good time. By the end of the night, that broad wore a smile from ear to ear, and somehow our drinks kept getting stronger...:-)
If I were a waiter, I wouldn't work at a place that required shared tips. I'm not splitting my good tips for good service with someone else who gets crappy tips for crappy service. That's ass, IMO.

I'm a big fan of tipping. When I was too poor to tip (when I'd go somewhere to order orange juice with the change I found on the sidewalk), I'd draw pictures for a tip.

We're often the only people on our pizza guy's route who tip him. We tip him 15%, regularly. He's nice, he's always on time, the pizza is never squished, and a good amount of time, he brings a (vending machine) toy for the kid. He's fantastic! I'm horrified he doesn't get tips!

The entitlement thing drives me nuts. If someone gives me shit-poor service, they get a 5% tip. If I get average service, I give 15% (which is the average tip amount). My favorite waiter (Siegfried! I love that man) gets about a 30% tip, sometimes more.

Shit-poor service still meant my food got brought to me, my plates were taken away, and the bill was brought to me. It means I don't have to do dishes, and it means I didn't have to come up with a meal plan of "what to cook". That is still work done for me, even if it was done slowly, or with attitude. If it's work I didn't have to do, I'll tip for it.

So yes, I'm preaching to the tipping choir: tip, tip, tip!! :)