The Tip of the Day

Who invented tipping? How did such a silly system get started, who makes the rules, and why are they in charge of my money? I’d love to know who “they” are so I can ask some questions that never seem to be answered.

Who gets tipped? Who decided who gets tipped? You tip the waitress, but not the cook. Tip your hairdresser but not if she owns the salon. Tip the paperboy, but what if you pay your bill by mail? I never see the paperboy. If he gets no tip, he won’t know if it’s because he leaves the paper in the bushes every day or if I’m just cheap. I never have a chance to tell him.

Cab drivers get tipped. Bus drivers don’t. Bus drivers have a harder job! And what if the cab driver owns his cab, is that like the hairdresser who owns the salon? How would you know if he owned the cab?

When I was a waitress, a hundred years ago, we expected a ten percent tip. We were very happy when we got fifteen percent and anything higher was like Christmas. Dinner for four might be around $20, and if we got $2 that was fine. Now, dinner for four at the same kind of place is probably $40, and a $4 tip would equal the percentage we got back then. Dinner is twice as much, the waitress gets twice the tip. But the wait staff expects $6 to $8 instead. Inflation, they say. But if food prices are inflated, tips are automatically higher at the same percentage. Why did the percentage increase?

And why do we tip based on the check anyway? I have had dinner recently with the same friend at the same restaurant several times. One evening, we had steaks and appetizers, and the meal was fairly expensive. More recently, we had sandwiches, and our bill was less than half what we’d paid before. We were in the same restaurant, in the same room, the waitress did the same amount of work waiting on us, and we stayed about the same length of time. So one evening, she earned $4 for waiting on us, while another she earned $8, and the only difference was the type of food she carried out to us. Not only is that senseless to me, it’s unfair to her! While we sat at her table in the crowded room, other diners came in and ordered expensive meals, but she missed the bigger tips because we weren’t that hungry. Why don’t we tip based on length of time at the table or how many trips the wait staff makes to refill glasses and bread and get your steak cooked correctly? (Actually, I do base my tip on these things. Why doesn’t everyone?)

I don’t want to search for the sign that says not to tip the valet, or figure out how many bags I have to know what to tip the bellman. I don’t want to decide if the doorman has done enough to merit a tip or just a thank you, and what do I do with the concierge? People, let’s rebel! There is enough anxiety in the world. We should be enjoying the strolling violinist, not thinking about whether we have to tip him. If Congress wants to pass a helpful wage law, how about one that makes businesses pay people who work for them and outlaws tipping? It’s always right to smile and thank someone for good service. It’s extra nice to send a note to management complimenting an employee who has provided excellent service. Let’s spare them the insult of not being tipped correctly by someone who couldn’t decide what tip was expected!

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