I’m really bad with tipping, but it’s usually in a good way. I avoid doing simple math as often as possible. If my bill comes up to $13.72, I’m just going to fork up an even $5.00 so you can get $18.72. I’m not pulling out my phone to pull up an app to make sure I don’t short change my waiter or waitress. But honestly, in the process I’ve probably ended gypping myself more often than not.
Luckily I’ve never had to endure complaints over empty ketchup bottles and debate the percentage of “pink” in medium rare as anyone’s waitress. My service jobs have been kept to a minimum besides the decade I worked at a Dairy Queen slinging cream and stacking waffle cones. I didn’t have to live on tips thankfully, but if I wanted to I could. And the one thing I’ve always felt, whether I was in front of or behind the counter, is that tipping is not a given.
I believe tipping should only be left for service that goes above and beyond. I’m not paying anything along with a proverbial “cherry on top” because you sat behind a register, pressed some buttons and threw a sandwich in a bag. Now it’s completely different if you did all that with a smile, quickly and left me with some kind of incentive to return. And by incentive I don’t even mean anything free, I mean just providing an experience that made me feel welcomed, appreciated, and dare I say it, special.
For example, pizza delivery. I understand not everyone makes above minimum wage and the way many businesses survive is to pay the lowest man on the totem pole as little as possible to get the job done. If I didn’t see that I’m being charged for delivery as clear as day on my receipt, I might be a little bit more generous with my tip. But if you show up a whole hour after I ordered, with cold pepperoni, excuses and attitude, you will get whatever ones I have in my pocket. If this “delivery” charge isn’t covering your pay, what exactly is it going towards?
Many other countries culturally avoid the whole social pressure that can come with tipping by regularly including gratuities or frowning upon tipping in general. In Japan, tipping is seen as an insult and other countries don’t practice tipping beyond table service in restaurants. The United States has extended tipping beyond restaurants to service jobs in general. But I wonder is it really necessary to tip everyone from the cable guy to the bagger at the supermarket? Restaurant service, I can understand. Your life could literally be in someone’s hands if they choose to come to work with the flu and give your salad some extra dressing and blow their nose at the same time. But there are some places where I assume those serving me are included in the price I’m paying from gate. I’m not giving my mechanic anything extra unless he leaves my tank on “F” when I pick it up.
In the Wall Street Journal article, “The Point Of Tipping”, Eric Felten writes, “It’s not that we tip waiters because they are paid so little; they are paid so little because they can expect to make up the difference in tips.” He makes reference to Starbucks stating that customers basically subsidize the company’s payroll cost. Is it me, or is there no point in being employed if your income basically depends on the kindness and economic advantages of others? Why is it that a multi-million dollar company has my working class behind basically paying their employees?
I admire anyone who puts in a hard day’s work for their money, but one thing I will say is that you can’t expect to work at Walmart and live like the Rockefellers. And when I was working I didn’t expect or feel entitled to make tips because I only got paid minimum wage. Tips were based on the generosity of others and how much I went above and beyond my responsibilities. And I refuse to feel pressured by society to be polite in spite of sucky service.
So my apologies in advance to all of the service workers, but if you find some triple zeros written in on the gratuity line once I leave your table. Don’t take it as an insult. It only means you did your job, and literally nothing more.
Toya Sharee is a community health educator and parenting education coordinator who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.