The Ubiquitous Tip Jar
May 12, 2003 2:16 PM   Subscribe

Why does everyone have a tip jar now? And where do you draw the line when it comes to baiting the jar? Starbucks? Take-out counters? Drive-thrus? How about the girl that takes your money and stamps your hand at a nightclub? While tipping is the economy of an underpaid service industry, it seems the jar itself has gotten out of hand and onto every counter with a dollar already conveniently inside.

If it is appropriate for everyone who performs any kind of public service to be entitled to a tip, why aren't we tossing our coin to police officers, teachers, or flight attendants?
posted by FearTormento (68 comments total)

hate tipping. hated working for tip. service included please, and more than minimum wage, that'll do me.
posted by dabitch at 2:33 PM on May 12, 2003

In my opinion, tipping in most places should be optional, and based on your assessment of the service received.

At the same time, I think it's past time that restaurant owners/chains to stop leaning on the tip excuse and pay their wait staff at least the federal minimum that they pay everyone else. If they make more money in tips, so what? Great incentive for great service.

The best job I ever had as a student was as a pizza guy. Paid minimum wage, but drove a company vehicle around all night and could expect to make at least my days' wage in tips if I was motivated. Why should that be any different for wait staff in a restaurant, who actually have more stressful jobs?
posted by spirit72 at 2:38 PM on May 12, 2003

the tip jar that irks me the most is the kind found on personal websites. i don't understand the mindset that thinks it's ok to ask strangers to pay for their trivial little hobby, regardless of how much bandwidth their visitors eat up. mind you all of the personal website tip jars i've seen have been on weblogs that don't get that much traffic, which makes it so much ruder.

anyway i restrict my tipping to wait staff, fast food delivery persons, and cab drivers.
posted by t r a c y at 2:42 PM on May 12, 2003

'xactly. I hate tipping. Tipping, as has been said, subsidizes restaurant owners who don't want to pay a reasonable wage for labor, and the costs involved with that. So they foist those costs on you, the customer, without including them in their own ledger. I'd rather pay more for food, with no tipping, and know my wait person was guaranteed a steady, known, decent (enough) income, than play this game of "The service was terrible this time but I might eat hear again so I don't want to piss people off..." Fact is, that $8 entree costs 9.1% in tax, plus 15-20% in tips... I'm paying 1/4 again as much for the food as what's listed, a bulk of that to ensure someone makes a barely living wage. I'll pay the same if the greedy restaurant owners just paid a steady wage and pass the costs on to us directly in their food prices- without the added guilt and psychodrama. "Externalizing the costs of production" is one of those no-nos of the market, correct?

Oh, and the guilt- like somehow I'm less of a person because I don't want to pay a tip, so of course I do anyway so my fragile ego won't sustain the blow of snarling service workers calling me a jackoff behind my back?

Ugh- hate it. Terrible idea- it is a detriment to service resulting eventually, as one poster on that first link noted, to a situation where even basic decent service is considered a luxury you better pay up front for.
posted by hincandenza at 2:43 PM on May 12, 2003

If there is a counter and no prospect of a tab, then there's not going to be any tip from me.
posted by NortonDC at 2:47 PM on May 12, 2003

yes! finally those people who are lucky enough to work retail get their comeuppance. I say, take the tip jar, and then mash it up their nose, and then tell them to go back to college and get a REAL job.

All kidding aside, the tip jar usually comes about as sheer desperation when one is trapped in a low-paying job for whatever reason. This can be hard to understand, but being a cashier and taking people's cash (oh, if only everyone just used cash) all day can actually be made very stressful by people-- the sort of people who write articles like this, I imagine-- who look down their lattes at register monkeys.

YES, these people should get paid more. But complain to the COMPANY BOSSES, or the PEOPLE WHO MAKE THE LAWS IN THE STATE-- not to the poor city college student who has to push the buttons all day and scan checks and swipe those never-approved credit cards.

Now, granted, I'd advocate that anyone working retail should be working as hard as they can to get out of retail, but sometimes keeping the job is part of that proccess. Jobs that at first glance appear to be easy are jobs nobody wants because they are boring, or surprisingly stressful, and people who think those jobs are easy are rude and sarcastic to the people who are working them. That's not nice.

Maybe I'm just annoyed at the prideful tone of the post.

(Or maybe I'm just bitter because I've had my tip cup swiped by bosses in the past, and they didn't believe me when I told them (truthfully) that I really only like to put the cups out so that I can doodle on them. :)

If you don't want to tip, don't tip. If the person behind the jar is rude or "appears to be entitled," and that bugs you, don't tip. If there's no jar and you don't tip, or if there is a jar and you don't tip, the end result is the same. But whether you put out a plastic cup or subtly adjust your company's policy to be friendlier to stockholders, YOU STILL WANT MORE MONEY. Everyone wants more money. Usually I personally wanted the tip money so I could take a bus back to my dad's house instead of walk the whole way, and not feel like I worked any amount of time at the job to pay for the privelage to get home from the job.

And really: nobody's going to remove their tip jar because you think it's stupid. The tip jar usually gets confiscated by supervisors anyway, so I advise that you worry less about the stupid cup with the ballpoint pen doodles on it and more about the product and/or services you recieve.

Sorry about the rant, I guess I just like playing devil's (or wageslave's) advocate.
posted by kevspace at 2:47 PM on May 12, 2003

Why it is legal in America to pay people less than minimum wage just because they work with food?
posted by dydecker at 2:57 PM on May 12, 2003

Tipping the waitstaff exists in part because restaurant owners want to keep the menu prices low so customers will come in, and the added cost is "hidden" by the gratuity that customers are required to pay. It's not optional. If the waitstaff doesn't have a "take" equal to at least minimum wage, the employer is required to make up the difference.

But for goodness sake, whining about the presence of a tip jar (virtual or otherwise)? How pathetic can you get? Look, this is completely optional. There's no law against putting out a jar that says, "reward me with money." If the boss thinks it's screwing up the store, he'll take it away from the staff. If you want to give, then fine, if not, ignore it-- tipping isn't required here. In fact, the "tip jar" is exactly what people who complain about restaurant tipping have been saying they'd prefer-- namely a non-required tip to reward excellent service if they so choose.
posted by deanc at 2:58 PM on May 12, 2003

I like tipping! Because it will get you extra attention from harried service people. Waitresses and bartenders, especially, but also shoeshine guys, bellhops, and cabbies. A $5 or a $20, parleyed appropriately, can make what is otherwise a workaday experience genuinely enjoyable, for both you AND the person you tip.

If you have the means, lay a few extra bucks on the service people you encounter. They appreciate it, since it's helping to pay their bills, and you'll appreciate it in the attention you'll receive.

I mean, seriously, nothing impresses your colleagues more than when you take them somewhere nice and the maitre'd greets you by name and sits you at a great table. You CAN buy that kind of service - but not for the number written on the bill.

Conversely, being a shithead to your waitress impresses no one, does not make your dinner any nicer, and will almost certainly guarantee that someone will do something nasty to your food. How stupid is that?
posted by UncleFes at 3:01 PM on May 12, 2003

I think tipping is a good way of insuring that you get better-than-average service--if someone wants to earn a little more, they'll go that extra mile to earn a bigger tip. No one should be guilted into leaving a large tip, but when you go to a restaurant or get your hair cut or yes, even when some guy makes your latte, you simply figure it into the cost.

As far as "tipping" a blogger, I think that's a poor choice of words. A blogger is providing a service that is done (theoretically) to entertain others, with all expenses paid out of pocket. So when you donate to a blog, you're saying that you enjoyed yourself and want to contribute to keep it going. No guilt there, and it's definitely not tipping, because A) there was no charge for the service to begin with, and B) there's no obligation to do so. Just because you stumble upon a poorly written blog doesn't mean you have to cough up the dough.

And I don't get the I'd-rather-the-restaurant-pay-a-better-wage-and-charge-more-for-the-food argument. If you end up paying the same amount, why not leave a little wiggle room to reward excellent service and penalize poor service?
posted by turaho at 3:04 PM on May 12, 2003

The problem with a tip jar in a place like a restaurant is that it usually means that the days tips will be split between all (eligible) employees. Many employees are against this kind of policy, because they believe that they should individually be rewarded by the customers for good service. And why shouldn't they? Should a slacker have a share of the tips earned by other hard-working employees?
posted by twos at 3:08 PM on May 12, 2003

The thing I don't get is figuring the tip as a percentage of the total.

I've eaten at places where a chicken breast and a drink was roughly $8. I've eaten places where a chicken breast and a drink was roughly $24.

Did the guy at the expensive restaurant work 3 times as hard or provide 3 times the service? Not hardly. So either one is getting screwed, or one is getting over-compensated. It makes no sense.
posted by willnot at 3:32 PM on May 12, 2003

Fix the wage problem first, then bitch about the tip jar. I almost always tip unless I find the service lacking. I'm also pretty careful about separating complaints about the quality of the food v.s. the quality of the service. I hate being around people who don't tip because they didn't like the meal. Fine, you didn't like it. The waiter had zip to do with that though. Tip him, then tell the manager, chef or cook why you're not going to pay full price for the meal. I've done this before.
posted by substrate at 3:32 PM on May 12, 2003

I'm all for generous tips for decent table are all ex-waitrons/ex-busboys. Sometimes I don't do the jar, but...

The problem with traditional tipping is The Busy Restaurant. A lot of times, bad service is not the waiter's fault--they have too many tables. So, isn't it wrong to penalize him or her? Should we leave the tip but run out on the check? I'm kidding. But do any of you ever resent having to tip well even though service was subpar?

I suppose staffing mistakes would persist regardless, and managers will tend to overstaff when tips are in the mix. So maybe that's just the way it should be...
posted by micropublishery at 3:32 PM on May 12, 2003

The whole concept of a tip jar goes against the idea behind tipping, which is to reward service that has been provided above the required level. Pooling all the tips for equal distribution means that rude staff are rewarded. I would never ever contribute to a tip jar for this reason.

Tipping here in Australia is not the norm, as legislation requires employers to pay a (supposedly) liveable wage, but it is a practice that seems to be catching on, without people realising that prices here include service and tipping is generally not required. I often see people adding tips to the bill when paying by credit card, even though a tip paid this way is unlikely to go to the employee.

I am with t r a c y in finding donation requests on personal pages distasteful, although there are certainly cases where a site goes beyond being a personal one and moves into the sphere of being a community resource. I guess we all draw that line at different places.
posted by dg at 3:44 PM on May 12, 2003

UncleFes wrote: Conversely, being a shithead [tipping poorly] to your waitress impresses no one, does not make your dinner any nicer, and will almost certainly guarantee that someone will do something nasty to your food. How stupid is that?

Great, so I should tip so the staff won't 'do something nasty' to my food? Best argument I've heard all day.
posted by tippiedog at 3:47 PM on May 12, 2003

UncleFes - I don't know about you, but I'd prefer courteous neutrality over bought friendship any day of the week.

And as for the 'doing something nasty' to the food argument, any service person that does that should be out on their ass IMMEDIATELY. If it's some bodily fluid in the food, the owner should press assault charges and sue them for damaging my business, and the jerk-ass that did it should be permanently banned from the industry.

Reading this kind of stuff just makes me want to avoid all restaurants, all the time. I don't want to risk eating someone's spit (or worse) because someone percieved some idiotic slight to them.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:12 PM on May 12, 2003

Ya know, I'm not sure that the whole "spitting in people's food" thing is a bit of an urban myth. I've worked as a server and a bartender. (Put myself through college as a bartender in a titty joint...oh, the stories I could tell...) Anyway, in all my years in the service industry, I've never known anyone who actually did anything involving bodily fluids and a customers product. Well, nothing unwanted...but that's another story entirely...

I mean, I'm sure it happened somewhere...but almost always when you hear that story it's "friend of a friend" stuff.

As a food server, you don't know if someone is going to tip or not until after the meal is over. As a bartender, if someone didn't tip, they just became a lower priority on the service scale. In other words, the guy who just gave me a hundred dollar bill to keep the Crown flowing is going to get better service than the bozo who stiffed me on a BrandX light beer. Duh.

When eating out, I generally tip in the 20-25% range for really good service, but as a rule, I don't tip self-service counter people.
posted by dejah420 at 4:28 PM on May 12, 2003

Doesn't anybody notice that when Customer A makes sneering remarks about the potential that Foodservice Worker B has to make sneering remarks about Customer A... Customer A sounds snobby? Or paranoid? Or irony-rich and insane? How many restaurants (or weblog posts) does it take before one grows from Johnny Happyburger to Old Man Grumpus?

"I can't believe those idiots would think to pass judgement on me! I'm the customer! I'm always right and they're always spitting in my food! That's the thanks I get! NO TIP FOR YOU! What shitty worthless jackoffs! They're just the stupid idiot COMMIES, sneering and always calling me names and spitting in my food! STAY OFF MY LAWN! THE HOME FRIES ARE TELLING ME TO BURN THE TIP JARS Aarieiririeerrrghhhh...."

Spitting on the food is mostly a joke, propagated by minimum wage folk that wish they had an outlet to express their unfair treatment (or retaliate against Old Man Grumpus folk)... and it's not like long-standing reputable restaurants ever have PRO-FOODSPITTING POLICIES for rude customers.
posted by kevspace at 4:32 PM on May 12, 2003

I'd rather not tip and have wait staff get a decent wage. I think tipping is routine for most people and doesn't really mean anything. I tip 15% for decent service, 20% or more for particularly good service, and insultingly, brutally low for bad service. So I tip according to the quality of the service, but my feeling is most people just leave a tip regardless.

I used to work in a restaurant and part of my income came from tips, which helps me appreciate good service and recognize bad service. (I think everyone should work in a restaurant or in retail; I believe people would be more polite when they got to be on the other end of the transaction.)

I'm not sure why I would tip someone for pouring me a coffee when I don't tip someone at McDonald's for pouring me a Coke.

A lot of times, bad service is not the waiter's fault--they have too many tables. So, isn't it wrong to penalize him or her?

It depends on whether they acknowledge the situation and apologize for it or not. Understaffing is not their fault, but how they respond to it is.

And no discussion of tipping is complete without quoting Reservoir Dogs:
I don't tip because society says I have to. Alright, I mean I'll tip if somebody really deserves a tip, if they really put forth the effort, I'll give 'em something extra, but I mean this tipping automatically is for the birds.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:57 PM on May 12, 2003

Just yesterday my dad told me about an occasion on which he and my mother had gone out to dinner and the waiter was the worst he ever had. So he didn't leave any tip at all. Then as he and my mother walked out the waiter came charging after him snarling, "WHAT'S WRONG?!?!" It's the sense of entitlement I don't like. If you want a tip, do a good job.
posted by orange swan at 5:01 PM on May 12, 2003

Did your dad tell him what was wrong?
posted by kevspace at 5:05 PM on May 12, 2003

He didn't say. But knowing the man, he probably had a caustic one liner at the ready.
posted by orange swan at 5:06 PM on May 12, 2003

If the waiter had been afforded the luxury of correcting his mistakes as he'd made them, as opposed to chasing after your dad to find out what they were, I guess your dad wouldn't have as many opportunities for "caustic one-liners." Being a fan of one-liners, I can see how that would make for a good story, but, all respect to your father, that seems kinda... crappy. As many others have said, the waiter is only the last in the chain of forces that are between your order and your eating. There are lousy waiters out there, but at least you can't accuse that particular waiter of being lazy. (Charging and snarling? Yikes!)
posted by kevspace at 5:16 PM on May 12, 2003

Now, while I don't actually mind the idea of tipping, I can't help but resent any custom that requires me to do math on a full stomach.
posted by catfood at 5:18 PM on May 12, 2003

actually, I do know someone who works for a subway and leaves massive loogies for customers that, say, can't get off their cell phones long enough to order.

anyways, I like tipping!
posted by mcsweetie at 5:29 PM on May 12, 2003

tip jars are completely unrelated to the etiquette system of tipping waitrons and bag carriers. the main reason everyone tips every single time they eat out is because they are quite aware that if they don't tip, they stand a pretty good chance of not even escaping the restaurant without being called a rude name by the server, as above.

this in itself is not so bad; if that was the only fear, then not tipping would be quite common from those who never eat at the same restaurant twice. but it is a pervasive superstition that has everyone by the throat: if you don't tip regularly, you are a bad person. it's inscribed in our brains. not tipping is quite simply in the same moral scumverse as kicking animals or insulting the pregnant.

the tip jar, meanwhile, is exactly the same deal as the beggar on the street. its main functions are twofold: sometimes people can't be bothered, for whatever reason, to accept a noisy pile of change - so they dump it in the tip jar or the nearest beggar. in the process they get a tiny charge of dogooderness. secondly, sometimes you see a beggar who is very odd or intriguing looking, or extremely pathetic, and you're in an odd mood, and you want to exchange a few words with that person: so you tip, and say hello, knowing there is a chance the beggar may say something interesting.

the tip jar analog of this is when you want to flirt with the counter person in a completely harmless, detached way: you tip them. if you know how to do your body language well, you won't have to get their eye contact to make them sense the flirtation.

sometimes, of course, you might be flirting with the counter person during the whole transaction, then you notice the tip jar, and decide to pay them a little extra for the nice flirting they've engaged in with you.

as to why anybody is upset about either normal, expected tipping, or the tip jar, it's rather beyond me. with the former, you know you're going to tip when you go to the restaurant. so it's part of the cost, just like sales tax, or handling fees when you mail-order, or whatever. and let's face it, everyone rates restaurants by how the service is, that's not as important as the food and location for most but it's up there. the service is crucial to many a great eating-out experience. seriously though, tipping is a superstitious thing.

but the tip jar's pretty much a somewhat sophisticated form of give a penny take a penny, designed to foster a community spirit out of an inherently demeaning capitalist exchange.
posted by mitchel at 5:38 PM on May 12, 2003

I'm with kevspace on the original post...why get so upset about it when you have the option to ignore the tip jar? I've always viewed tip jars as purely optional.

I've never had a problem being generous with tipping, even if I don't make a fortune; I just factor it in as part of the cost of whatever I'm getting. Sometimes it simply comes down to gratitude that someone is providing service in a job that I would not want to do myself.

I've known people who are stingy about tips, with the same excuses thrown about here, but in all cases it has come across to me as reflecting somebody's silly ego trip; some people just get off on judging others, and the louder they can express it, the happier they are. I imagine they're the same people who can't sleep at night thinking about how the homeless and the welfare queens are cheating us all out of our well-deserved fortunes.

For the generous-minded, keep the following in mind: when you tip on the credit-card receipt, that amount is used to pro-rate the amount of tips received for cash transactions. Unfortunately, people who pay with cards tend to tip more than those who pay cash, so there's a factor of unfair taxation there. If you really like the person serving you, the best thing to do is pay with the credit/debit card and tip in cash.
posted by troybob at 5:45 PM on May 12, 2003

why aren't we tossing our coin to police officers, teachers, or flight attendants?

I don't know, why aren't you?
posted by fried at 5:47 PM on May 12, 2003

We have gone tip-crazy in this country.

I tip at sit-down restaurants where a waiter/waitress has to attend to my every need. I tip pretty generously, often as high as 25% if they've made me happy.

I will manage $1 or $2 if I'm at a buffet or similar where the waitress only has to manage refilling drinks.

I give the pizza guy $1 if it's sunny, $2 if it's raining.

I will sometimes drop $0.32 or whatever my change is into a tip jar at a coffee shop. And I only do this because I know they are all college students. $0.50 = 1 more Ramen.

I tip my hairdresser, but I really don't understand why. Why do they not just charge an extra $3??? This case I truly do not get it, at all.

On preview: "out of an inherently demeaning capitalist exchange."

Exchanging goods and services for currency is "inherently demeaning"? Would you consider barter to be any less so?

I'm intrigued by that statement. I'm not sure I disagree or agree, but I am intrigued. Do expand.
posted by Ynoxas at 5:47 PM on May 12, 2003

I'm generally anti-tip jar especially in places like Subway or Starbucks.

I don't mind as much when they are at local shops -- like thundercloud and amy's ice cream. The guys working at these shop often have very clever signs on the tip jars.
posted by birdherder at 5:54 PM on May 12, 2003

There is a critical mass of expectation when it comes to tipping, and this is a cultural norm that ebbs and flows. When you travel through Europe, for example, the first thing you need to look up, country to country, is who to tip and how much.

This guy has taken it into his hands to try to dial down those expectations in his culture. That's fine.
posted by scarabic at 6:04 PM on May 12, 2003

On a side note, the question of why we don't tip police officers is totally obvious to anyone who has any brain matter at all. 2 obvious reason -

1. They aren 't allowed to accept it.

2. If they were allowed to accept it, I give it one, maybe two hours before it turns into a giant extortion scheme.
posted by Mitrovarr at 6:12 PM on May 12, 2003

I mean, I'm sure it happened somewhere...but almost always when you hear that story it's "friend of a friend" stuff.

I'll cop to doing it, although not with bodily fluids. I worked at a pizza joint for two years in high school and was relatively well-behaved for the most part. But when one customer was just being a complete asshole and called the counter girl a "stupid bitch" while demanding that his pizza be remade, we slipped some mineral oil onto about a fifth of his pizza. That way it wouldn't be too obvious.

Mineral Oil....odorless, tasteless, colorless, and a great laxative. Bastard deserved it, and while I'll admit it was juvenile and immature, I don't regret it.
posted by Ufez Jones at 6:19 PM on May 12, 2003

I'm with dg here, also coming from Australia. I think I've tipped maybe three times in my life, all of them when the meal / service was truly exceptional. I used to be a pizza guy, and tips were cool when they came, but never expected; usually just the product "keep the change" after someone hands you a $20 bill for a meal that cost $18.

I think this system is easier - I will have some fear of what to do should I visit the US or Europe, not knowing who I'm supposed to tip, and how much is expected. That's the problem. It seems to be expected overseas, whereas I come from a culture where tipping is extraordinary, I think because people in the hospitality industries are actually quite generously paid.
posted by Jimbob at 6:26 PM on May 12, 2003

metafilter is not a personal website, so using the donation page as an example of a reasonable tip jar doesn't go far with me. if you have a hobby website and are asking for tips you're... sorta bordering on some kind of navel gazing self importance, ick. i won't truly complain and contact you about it, but i will surely never revisit your site and i will mention it when someone brings up the subject of unreasonable tip requests.

if you provide free software you developed, fonts you created, free original graphics and layouts, or run a huge community out of pocket you should definitely have a donations page. i have no issues with that whatsoever as your site goes well beyond being just a personal site/blog.

i give away all kinds of free things on my various domains, including free webspace and subdomains. i wouldn't dream of asking for a tip, it's a personal site and therefore my expense.
posted by t r a c y at 6:28 PM on May 12, 2003

willnot: Did the guy at the expensive restaurant work 3 times as hard or provide 3 times the service? Not hardly. So either one is getting screwed, or one is getting over-compensated. It makes no sense.

Well, actually....there is a difference between the amount of work done by the waitstaff in those two restaurants.

My last restaurant job was at a upscale italian restaurant. Dinner came in at about $40-$50 per person. The waitstaff there came in 3-4 hours before dinner and spent 4 hours working without tip to setup the restaurant and attend the daily "these are the specials and these are our good wines" meeting.

Part of their job is to understand a complex foreign menu, which you don't need when you go to Dennys. When it came time to serve the customers, they had far fewer customer than someone at a cheap restaurant, because you can give better service if you're only serving a section of 4 tables. Further - when you only serve maybe 8 or 10 customers a night, you need a bigger per-customer tip than you do when you're serving 30.

You're not just paying for the difficulty of the work, you're paying for the amount of attention you're being paid. Go to a cheap restaurant and your drink might never get refilled. Go to an expensive one and, if they're doing their job, your glass will never be empty - unless you ask for it to be so.
posted by jaded at 6:30 PM on May 12, 2003

Tipping is great!

Tipping is the underground economy. It is subversive. It by-passes taxes and wasteful government spending. If you disagree with how the Govt spends your tax dollars, then spend your money with tips. It keeps the money in the grassroots economy and out of the dead space of the world financial banks and corporations and governments the money flow stays local and has more power and enriches and empowers everyone.

Tip tip tip. And no, I don't work for tips.
posted by stbalbach at 6:39 PM on May 12, 2003

Late to the party, but:

The best job I ever had as a student was as a pizza guy. Paid minimum wage, but drove a company vehicle around all night and could expect to make at least my days' wage in tips if I was motivated.

Beware, the next time you send out for pizza, that this is rarely the case. Most pizza guys drive their own cars and pay for their own gas. Distance and time of day should be as big a factor in tipping for delivery as the amount of food you order.

I worked for a restaurant delivery service for a couple of summers. At times I would be sent to various fancy restaurants and delivering filet mignons, so a 15% tip was a nice treat on top of a large bill. But there were a lot of dreaded $15 pizza orders during rush hour to be delivered three towns away, and a $2 tip didn't even come close to covering the gas. It's all hit or miss in the delivery world. Which makes it all the more important for the customer to consider other factors than price when tipping.
posted by PrinceValium at 6:56 PM on May 12, 2003

Exchanging goods and services for currency is "inherently demeaning"? Would you consider barter to be any less so?

ah, i wasn't going that far. it's not the exchange of goods, services, and money itself that's the problem, it's the social ramifications of being a cashier - that's what i was talking about with that phrase.

it's sort of like, no tip jar = not a service job = cashier is a robot.

are you a glorified robot, taking money and handing back change? of course that's the primary function - even today robots can't do it, pop machines are notoriously crappy at service, so we need people to do it - but every manager knows what kind of people make good cashiers - you want the last human contact with the business to be some cute smiling helpless person who deserves your money, enjoys your company, is competent and clean and so forth.

in the restaurant exchange, or the barbershop or something like that, you really do develop a relationship of a sort: after a few responses and interactions, you read them, they read you. they do something for you, you pay them. you lord it over them, or they over you, or you reach a happy medium. then you pay them a tip, because you know they expect it, and you want to fulfill your responsibilities, and after all you want some control over the service, and you vote with your wallet. you like the food, so you want to go back; but you get the same waiter, you might also be happy or unhappy about that. glorious human contact meaning of life.

at the register, by contrast, a parody of this exchange occurs. you sort of pretend-read each other. you give the cashier money but they did nothing to earn it, they truly are doing a robot's job. the tip jar is a step towards a more respectable, less demeaning relationship with the customer. in effect, the presence of a tip jar says, "hey look, i may be a miserable cashier but i want to take responsibility for your service as much as i can." you know, in a place with a tip jar, there's a real expectation that the cashier put it there, gets some of the money from it, wants to work with the customer, wants to listen to them if they actually have something to say. that's not to say you should always tip your cashier, of course. instead, you should treat them like people not robots. it's a demeaning job...
posted by mitchel at 7:09 PM on May 12, 2003

1. If it is appropriate for everyone who performs any kind of public service to be entitled to a tip, why aren't we tossing our coin to police officers, teachers, or flight attendants? You are perfectly welcome to give a tip to any of these people. Many of them do receive "tips" in the form of small gifts -- free coffee/donuts for the cops, end-of-year presents from schoolkids & parents, etc.

2. The great thing about tipping is that it is VOLUNTARY. Nobody holds a gun to your head and holds you hostage unless you fork over the cash. If you don't want to tip - then don't.

3. I worked as a waiter for four years back in the 80s...great fun, mostly, and a wonderful way to meet people. For the most part, people are usually appropriately "generous" and I made some decent cash...very nice tippers were accorded even "better" service the next time around.

4. Any of the three or four complete SOBs who "tipped" me back in the 80s with "Jesus Loves You" business cards stuff said cards up their butts.
posted by davidmsc at 7:10 PM on May 12, 2003

Let's hear it for cow tipping!
posted by smrtsch at 7:24 PM on May 12, 2003

jaded, re: waiters at expensive restaurants, it's not just expertise; it's the class identifiers of the waiters that's equally important if not more so. or, to look at it another way, those class identifiers are the same thing as knowing about the classier menu.

rich people at nice restaurants want their servers to act like good, classy servants. they want them to look the part, play the part, think the part, be paid the part. they would be disgusted if they the wait staff looked and acted working class, and would wonder if the cook has clean fingernails and went to cooking school. it's not so much about their command of haute cuisine lingo and what wines go well with the fish as it is about creating an atmosphere [nice haircuts, speaking voice, attitude, etc]. it often happens at a nice restaurant that you're listening to a server reel off their wine spiel and you realize that their spiel won't help you any because they have different preferences than you, or they don't even know what they're talking about, but you don't mind. what you like and pay for is this whole schmoozing about wines.
posted by mitchel at 7:27 PM on May 12, 2003

stbalbach wrote Tipping is the underground economy. It is subversive. It by-passes taxes and wasteful government spending...

If you tip at your local mom-and-pop establishment, that's likely to be the case, but just last week I heard a long report (on NPR or the like, can't find it now) about the lengths to which the (U.S.) federal government now goes in order to ensure that service industry workers pay taxes on gratuity income. The latest is to hold the employer responsible in different ways for making sure that their employees report what seems to be an appropriate amount of gratuities. Though the report didn't say it directly, my impression was that it's easier for the IRS to enforce these measures with big corporations than with local businesses--or that the IRS gets more bang for its buck (or buck for its bang?) with corporate-run restaurants.

In my book, it's yet one more reason to choose a local restaurant over a national chain.
posted by tippiedog at 7:45 PM on May 12, 2003

Tipping is a personal thing for me as I have worked in the restaurant business for several years and am currently in college so there doesn't seem to be an end in sight. The tip jars at Starbucks or at the Take-out counter are mostly for the "make that a half-caf, half decaf with a splash of Vanilla syrup and only an inch and a half of foam and could you make sure it's non-fat milk and oh, it's always so hot, could drop a couple of ice cubes in there for me." or the "Okay I have 12 orders and I need them all rung up and bagged separately and could you write the names on all of the bags too." kind of people. You know who you are!

I understand if you don't want to tip and there are plenty of restaurants out there for you to go to, McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, etc... But if you go to a sit down restaurant and have a person come to the table and bring you everything you ask for in a timely manner and even laugh at your stupid jokes or just merely not slap you across the face because of the rude sexual innuendo that you do, stop bitching about tipping and just do it!
posted by bas67 at 7:56 PM on May 12, 2003

Tipping is not customary in Japan but small gifts go a long way.

When I first came to Japan, I tried to tip a taxi driver and his adamant refusal bordered on anger.

Whenever I tried to leave a tip in a restaurant (even those with a western atmosphere), the Japanese friends I was with always told me that it was not necessary.

Recently, even the housekeeping staff at the Mira Costa Hotel in the Tokyo Disney Resort (obviously American owned) would not accept a tip. Every morning I would leave a tip under the pillow and every night it would still be there in our suite.

In Japan, if the service is especially good or you have a good relationship with the owner/staff, I have found that it is much more appropriate to give small gifts.

Small but considerately chosen gifts are far more personal than monetary tips and they are generally well received.

Side note regarding gifts: Most of the very successful* people I know in Japan don't go anywhere empty handed. They always have something for the people/establishments they visit and never let a guest leave empty handed. It is a good habit to have. In the long run, I think it is the stingy man that spends (or loses) the most.

*By successful I don't just mean monetary success - I have met a few people who were very rich in a monetary sense yet unbelievably stingy. Not surprisingly, they didn't seem very happy, either. By successful I mean people who are respected, loved, enjoy life and have the financial means to not only support themselves and loved ones in comfort but return a little to the community in which they thrive.

Final Note (Sorry for the long post!): Living space is limited in Tokyo so gifts that disappear quickly (food, etc.) are probably better than those that don't.
posted by cup at 8:20 PM on May 12, 2003

Like Dejah, I worked restaurants and bars the whole time I was getting through college, and maybe you all didn't work in the joints I had to, but the crap some of the people I worked with did to the food would curl your hair. Example: Pizza joint I worked in, there as a busboy that pissed in every pickle bucket that came in the store. Every. Pickle. Bucket. I worked there on and off for three years, and I never saw him miss one. He'd line 'em up in the walk-in after they came off the truck, pop the lids out on the floor, whip it out and drench 'em.

You can't avoid that, but jeez, avoid the stuff you can!
posted by UncleFes at 9:24 PM on May 12, 2003

The world is at it's apex if all you can gripe about is a bunch of tip jars. It's all downhill from here.
posted by HTuttle at 9:48 PM on May 12, 2003

To answer a question in the post, when I lived in Mexico, people did tip the cops (and I don't mean bribes, though that was also the case). They came around once a week or so and rang your doorbell, and you gave 'em 5 pesos or whatever.

So if the service industry would stop paying 3rd-world wages...
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 9:49 PM on May 12, 2003

Um, I always like to say, "You'll never go to hell for over-tipping."
posted by PigAlien at 10:24 PM on May 12, 2003

$0.50 = 1 more Ramen.
Where do you buy your Ramen from? Tiffany's? You can pick up 10 for a buck at Wallyworld. And thats a fact, jack!
posted by pemulis at 10:38 PM on May 12, 2003

UncleFes - Why the bloody hell didn't you do anything about that situation? No offence if you liked the guy, but I think that busboy should be shot in the face. Of course, in your situation, it would have been more expedient and safer to just have him fired and/or arrested. But still, you should have done SOMETHING.

Hopefully, Karma will have you drinking someone else's piss someday.

Every single time I read a thread like this, all it makes me want to do is avoid all food I don't personally prefer. People in the service industry should realize that this kind of thing is a terrible idea for business.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:20 PM on May 12, 2003

People in the service industry should realize that this kind of thing is a terrible idea for business.

It's not their business, so why should they care? The owner doesn't care enough to pay them a living wage...
posted by wrench at 12:15 AM on May 13, 2003

I'm rarely stingy with a tip. However, there is one circumstance regarding tipping that I fail to comprehend. When I am at a bar and there is no waitress and it is not busy and I politely ask the bartender for a few beers and it takes him no more than 15 seconds to assemble the order for me to carry back to the table - why should I be expected to tip more than a buck? I did this at a bar one time and the bartender actually came back to the table I was sitting to return my dollar. The experience left me rather bitter. Can someone please lend me some perspective on this so I can correct any unthoughtful behavior, or conversely, keep thinking that bartender was a real dick.
posted by quadog at 12:55 AM on May 13, 2003

the part i hate about tipping is when i go to a restaurant that i like a lot and visit often but i get a horrible waitress who screws up my order and has a shitty attitude(and singlehandedly ruins my meal and the experience of dining out).

at the end of the meal do i give that waitress a good tip knowing that i'll be back at the restaurant in a week or two and she may recognize me next time or do i feel really uncomfortable having to tell the manager that i was unhappy w/the service and knowing word may get back to her so next time i'm there my food gets spit in? maybe i just don't go back so now that restaurant loses my regular business b/c they had one bad person working for them and tipping caused an uncomfortable situation. that's the kind of situation that makes me uncomfortable about tipping.

for a good waitperson i'll give them an average tip and for a very good waitperson i'll give them a very good tip. i absoultey refuse to tip shitty service b/c i feel pressured or owe it to them b/c they aren't being paid minimum wage.
posted by suprfli at 1:54 AM on May 13, 2003

quadog, people like you are really really irritating to bartenders. If you came up, order 2 PBRs & leave a buck tip that's one thing. If you came up, ordered a Chardonnay, a Sierra, a draft Golden Monkey, and a Stoli O + Soda... oh yeah, and 2 bloody marys, then you're a the complete dick leaving $1.

I wasn't there when your situation happened, so I could be way off, that's just a gripe that us service people have. Especially if it's slow. That mean's we're earning $2 an hour to stand around & smile at you & get you those "few beers".

The general rule should be $1 a beer/drink tip - 50 cents for swill beer. It just really pisses off bartenders when people come up & get an entire round, could be $20 worth of booze, and they leave a buck.
posted by password at 2:22 AM on May 13, 2003

UncleFes - Why the bloody hell didn't you do anything about that situation?

He was older than me, bigger than me, and he knew where I lived. I had lied about my age to get a job there at 15 (this was in high school). It wasn't right, but...? *shrugs* And it was, you know, tradition. It would have been like trying to put a stop to Arbor Day or something. In the end? I kept my trap shut, avoiding getting a beating and losing my job, and eschewed the pickles.

Hopefully, Karma will have you drinking someone else's piss someday.

I'm pretty much certain Karma has bigger plans for me than that. If I get to the next life having only to drink a little busboy piss, I'll consider myself incredibly fortunate.
posted by UncleFes at 7:03 AM on May 13, 2003

I don't know, password. Quadog got a few beers and said that it took the bartender fifteen seconds to get them. Why should Quadog be expected to compensate the bartender for the lack of business?
posted by orange swan at 8:19 AM on May 13, 2003

UncleFes: pathetic.
posted by troybob at 8:35 AM on May 13, 2003

Troybob: my only hope is that the 15-year-old busboys of the world learn my pathetic lesson, and go forth and protect the pickle-eating public from the depradations of urinary miscreants, as I failed so miserably to do :D
posted by UncleFes at 9:10 AM on May 13, 2003

Why it is legal in America to pay people less than minimum wage just because they work with food?

It by-passes taxes and wasteful government spending.

Texas, 2.13$ if you take a tip exemption. Also the law states if the hourly paid and tip do not equal minimum wage the employer is to compensate the difference. How many know that?

protect the pickle-eating public from the depradations of urinary miscreants
Ah, the special customer/the special pickle jar.

tossing our coin to police officers, teachers, or flight attendants? Been told by the industry it is not proper to tip them because they are not a server, your attendant.
posted by thomcatspike at 9:48 AM on May 13, 2003

My problem with tip jars is that the counter staff rarely acknowledges when I put a tip in. They usually completely ignore it it and give me bad service anyway. Sometimes I'll put a tip in right away just to see if it improves service, and if not, no more tips.

I don't like the tipping concept in general, because it lets the restaurant off the hook for the staff salaray, but it does improve service in the U.S. In France, tips are automatically included in most bills - including bar tabs - and it is not easy to get a waiter to come to your table, while in the US their generally at your table more often than you need them.
posted by trigfunctions at 10:38 AM on May 13, 2003

Man, just hate the phrase "tip jar", let alone the concept. Tip jars on blogs are nothing more then pretentious delusions that people like your stuff enough to pay for it...
posted by Orange Goblin at 11:37 AM on May 13, 2003

Tipping is the underground economy. It is subversive. It by-passes taxes and wasteful government spending. If you disagree with how the Govt spends your tax dollars, then spend your money with tips. It keeps the money in the grassroots economy and out of the dead space of the world financial banks and corporations and governments the money flow stays local and has more power and enriches and empowers everyone

It's been over a decade since I waited tables, but this is how they got taxes at that time:
The restaurant was required to report each days' receipts to the IRS. The way we were taxed was the establishment reported the days' total, then they reported the days "average" tips, by adding up the days' total credit card receipts tips and figuring what the "average" tip was based on that - and then divided it by the number of servers working that shift.
The number usually came out to something around 12%. So, say your tables spent $300 total - they assumed you earned $36 in tips for that shift, and that was what was reported to the IRS for tax purposes. Thus, tips were not tax-free income. In fact, some servers that had a lot of traffic actually ended up "owing" money on payday. The paychecks, after taxes were subtracted, were really nothing at all. Servers really do "live on" their tips.
We always thought this system was pretty unfair. People tend to tip more on credit cards than when paying cash, so the whole formula of figuring an "average tip" from the credit card receipts was flawed. Plus, there was no way to deduct the amount of tips we paid out to buspeople, kitchen staff, etc. - which is the custom most places when they work their tails off for you.
Waiting tables can beat minimum wage - but it is a tough and stressful job - and Uncle Sam does have his hands in your pockets.
posted by sixdifferentways at 1:31 PM on May 13, 2003

UncleFes: pathetic.

Yeah, that's an understatement, since that fine fellow (or what anyone with a noggin on his shoulders would call a "clinical psychopath") has no doubt long since progressed to beating his wife/girlfriend and torturing small animals. Fes, you suck ass. Wotta humanitarian you are. You didn't have to actually confront him physically (and don't give me the I was 15 crap- that's old enough to know what he was doing was disgusting and wrong)- go to manager, the health inspector, or even the police or something, what he did was and remains highly fucking illegal. Highly.
Geez, what if instead of pissing, he put anthrax in the food- hey, still not your responsibility, it's "tradition"?!? I suppose if the pickle pee-er had staged puff football games and forced pig intestines and human feces down customer's throats, that would have been okay too? Could you actually be a bigger coward, you hopeless fuckwad?
posted by hincandenza at 2:21 PM on May 13, 2003

dude, are you trying to hurt my feelings?

I hope we can still be friends.
posted by UncleFes at 2:35 PM on May 13, 2003

Password: Thanks for giving me some perspective on tipping etiquette for bartenders. I stand corrected. If I had things my way I would just raise the price of drinks to include the tip in the order. That way no one loses.
posted by quadog at 4:29 PM on May 13, 2003

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