Sunday, August 26, 2007

Tipped Off

I’ve always tried to tip well. I try not to think of it as paying someone to be nice to me, but in the end, that’s what it really is, I guess. Waitpersons have to really be bad to get below 15%. Great service will often get better than 25%, especially if the meal is cheap and/or the server is especially funny and entertaining. Plus I REALLY want everybody to like me.

Nice hotels cause me a bit of anxiety, probably because I don’t stay in them often enough to get the hang of the protocol. I know you tip the guy who takes your luggage up to your room, but what if one guy takes your luggage out of the car and hands it off to another guy to take it inside, do you tip both of them? If you tip one, will he share with the other? If you don’t have any luggage, but one of the bellhop people holds the door open for you, do you tip him for that? Does one door-holding warrant a tip? What if somebody just smiles and points you to the restroom in the lobby, do you give them a buck or two for that? And jeez, how many ones and fives can a person be expected to keep handy? If you run out of small change are you expected to start handing out twenties, or is it OK to ask for change? I just don’t know, and therein lies the anxiety.

Mostly I just hate the thought of being seen as cheap or rude or uncivilized. I have an irrational fear of walking around with a metaphorical sign hovering over my head, with a big arrow pointing at my forehead that says in glowing, neon letters:

“Please forgive her, she’s a hillbilly. They don’t have bellmen in Hooterville.”

Or just “Ignoramus coming through!”

The absolute worst was once when Slag and I were swarmed as we drove up to a really nice hotel in Hawaii during our wedding trip. They were on us like ants on a piece of cake, if ants could say “Aloha” in a very welcoming manner. There were people opening each of our car doors. There were people grabbing the luggage. Somebody else held the door and then a lady brought us cool, damp, amaretto-scented towels on a decorative platter. And on top of everything, they were all dressed EXACTLY the same, making it impossible to keep track of who was who. I just about freaked. In my head I was silently screaming “Back off! Get in line! I’M LOSING TRACK OF WHO NEEDS TO BE TIPPED!!” They were all greeting us with friendly smiles and I responded by having a little anxiety attack right there in the lobby. I don’t think that was the intended effect.

For the most part, though, I can handle the day-to-day stuff. I know you tip your waiter/waitress. You tip the valet parking guy and the bartender. You tip the manicure lady and the person who cuts your hair, but only if they just work at the shop and don’t actually own it. If a different person washes your hair before the haircut, I know you tip that person separately. I’ve got the basics down.

Then there are the tip jars that have appeared everywhere. Some of them are fine. The tip jar next to the band at a club is fine. I know they don’t get paid much. I can handle tipping the guy at Thundercloud Subs who makes me a sandwich. No problem there. Tipping the girl behind the counter at the coffee shop who puts a muffin on a plate for me is pushing it, but OK, I’m not complaining yet.

But now a tip jar has appeared at our favorite local pizza joint, where you order at the counter and find a table on your own. OK, I guess I don’t mind tipping someone for taking my order. Especially since the cashier rings a bell and all the pizza cooks cheer whenever somebody puts money in the jar. That’s satisfying for me. A little recognition is always nice. At least I’m getting something out of it too.

But then a while back, I reached my limit. I saw something that left me completely flabbergasted. Three little girls had set up a table outside the local drug store and were selling Girl Scout cookies. And, on the table, next to the piles of cookie boxes, they had…. a tip jar. A TIP JAR. What the hell?? I’m supposed to tip somebody for selling me overpriced cookies, just because said person is a little kid??

They lie in wait for you to leave the store and then sing out, in their sweet, little girl voices, “Would you like to buy some cookies?” And of course you look like a total creep if you decline, because who wouldn’t support little kids who are trying to raise money for a good cause. So you hand over your $4 for a box containing exactly 12 Thin Mint cookies, and then you’re supposed to TIP them for taking your donation?? (Oh, I know I get cookies, but I could get cookies just as good for a third the price just inside that very store, so don’t try to tell me it’s not a donation.) People, this is out of control.

I think I’m going to put a tip jar on my desk at work. Next time somebody wants me to do something for them, I’ll glance expectantly at my jar. A really generous tip and whatever they need will be my top priority. A paltry tip and I’ll do it before the end of the day. No tip at all and I’ll take the tactics of a third-world government: I’ll tell them to come back tomorrow. It may take everybody a couple of days to catch on, but I think it’s only fair. I’ve personally handed out a boatload in tips over the years and I think it’s time to complete the circle, so to speak.


Blogger Schmoopie said...

I am so with you on this. It is getting ridiculous. I used to laugh quietly to myself every time my Grandfather took us to a buffet. My Dad told me it was because he hated tipping people for doing their job (waiter/waitresses etc.) I only tip in jars for local places, not chain places.

3:28 PM  
Blogger ian said...

I dare you to put that tip jar on your desk and see if you get anything in it.


5:19 PM  
Blogger Whippersnapper said...

Yes, and set up a pay-pal thing on your blog while you're at it, so we can tip you whenever we read an extra good post.

Of course, that would mean I'd have to tip you each time I read you.

That sounds so brown-nosy! But I really like your writing.

P.S.: I've NEVER stayed in a fancy hotel EVER, so I'm afraid I can't help you there. At the No-Tell Motel, you pay, do your thing and run...

9:11 PM  
Blogger Jazz said...

A tip jar on the desk, what a brilliant idea.

As for girl scouts and their cookies, they are spawns of the devil, each and every one.

7:25 AM  
Blogger Em said...

LOL...this is excellent. I'm with you, the easy ones like in a restaurant, I can handle. But hotels and porters at all gets a bit confusing. And sometimes, a bit too much in terms of just asking for money.

I love your solution. A tip jar on my desk might be just the thing. Maybe it will scare away the people I don't really want to work with!

12:08 PM  
Blogger Evil Spock said...

Tip jars befuddle me. There's a local bakery that I get coffee from, and I'll tip when they make me a latte. Sometimes I just go in and pick up bread. Do I tip for them putting bread in a bag for me?

One time I didn't tip for bread, and it was the end of the day. The gentleman then proceeded to give me two free cookies since they were closing. I felt like an ass. I wrote in a tip after that.

3:05 PM  
Blogger Kara said...

I reject counter tipping. If I don't even get to see what kind of shoes you're wearing, you don't deserve my extra dollar, you know?

5:07 PM  
Blogger Cheesy said...

Oh I wonder if the boss would mind if I hung a tip can from my postal vehicle...that would stir the pot!

11:11 PM  
Blogger Jill said...

schmoopie, Some buffet places around here give you a "server" though. They refill drinks and bring new plates and stuff like that. I end up feeling like I should tip them too. You can't win.

ian, Oooooh, I'll do it. I will so do it.....

whippersnapper, Hey, that's an excellent idea! I want to be tipped for complaining. Oh, wouldn't life just be perfect then??

jazz, I totally agree. They are evil. Some people even bring them to work to sell for their kids. I can't even escape them here. Sigh.

em, Give it a try. Ian has dared me, so I have to do it. We can compare notes later.

evil spock, I KNOW. Do you tip someone for taking your money and handing over your purchase? If that's true, then why don't we tip cashiers in grocery stores and the kid behind the counter at Blockbuster?

kara, I think that's a good rule. If you don't have to move enough for me to see your shoes, then you don't get extra money. Besides, those people behind the counters could have much nicer, more expensive shoes than me. I shoudn't have to subsidize their shoes. Yeah.

cheesy, I HAVED heard of tipping the mailperson. Well, I guess it was more like a gift at Christmas left in the mailbox. We lived out in the boonies though. Maybe it's a rural thing. Or maybe that's left over from the old days. I haven't heard of it recently, but I haven't lived in the boonies for a while either.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Jocelyn said...

Ah, excellent thinking. Maybe you could put a jar out, too, for your mail carrier, and he/she could leave you a tip for, um, providing him/her with a place to leave mail.

I'm with you on getting overwhelmed and bewildered at the fancy joints.

11:48 PM  

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