I was just reading the Reader’s Digest article “My Planet” – column, I guess – by Mary Roach. It was entitled “Gratuitous Gratuities.” It really hit a nerve with me.
I wish I had Mary’s sense of humor. Mine runs closer to a sarcastic wit than hers. She writes about everyday life – things like automatic-opening trash cans and keeping up with your friend’s bathroom remodel. This column was about tipping – tipping in general and holiday tipping in particular.
She wrote tongue-in-cheek about the newspaper deliveryman who left a subtle “hint” that he expected a tip by leaving a Christmas card addressed to himself in their mail slot. The appropriate response? Put a check in the card, sign the card and drop it in the mail. Clever? Okay. In keeping with the Christmas spirit? Not in my mind. She also wrote about requestsfor tips from the garbageman and recycleman.
I agree with Mary: “People hate tipping. It forces them to make an unpleasant choice between feeling cheap and feeling taken. Americans are nickeled-and-dimed from every direction. Just factor it into your rates and be done with it.”
That isn’t to say you can’t tip. But it has become expected! When I was young, giving a tip was an expression of gratitude for service above and beyond what you would normally expect. You left a “little something extra” for exceptional service. You didn’t have to leave something so that the waitress/waiter a tip so that the employer could pay them less than a reasonable wage. The employer gets the benefit and the service person gets no more than they would anyway. What does the patron get? The need to choose between paying more for the meal than they expected to amidst very mixed feelings – feelings of coercion, generosity, insincerity, annoyance.
Have you ever gone into a restaurant with a party of 6 or more? They often add a 15% gratuity” to your bill automatically!!! In other words, they’re telling you that tipping isn’t optional – it’s required!! So how is that tipping? That’s extortion!
Ever try to leave without leaving a tip because the service was worse than lousy? If so, be prepared to be accosted by management telling you that you forgot to tip your server. Heaven help the manager that tries that one on me!
In this season of giving, it’s wonderful to give a small gift to those who help you out throughout the year. But do it because you want to, not because you’re supposed to.
Remember that it isn’t a gift when you’re forced to give.