Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tip of the day

Americans have gone tip crazy.

I recently walked into a Tutti-Frutti frozen yoghurt store close to my apartment in North Hollywood.  At these stores, you serve yourself.  After picking up a container, you pull one of the many handles (each one serving a different flavor) and dispense as much yoghurt as you want.  Then you walk yourself over to a selection of toppings (most of which are decidedly NOT fat-free) and add as many calories as you can handle.  Then you place your container on a weigh scale and the person behind the counter tells you how much you have to pay.  Then you take the money (or debit card or credit card) out of your wallet and hand it over.  For all the work that YOU do, is it really appropriate to put a jar next to the register with a little sign that says, “Tips appreciated!”? 

For what?  Good looks and a smile because a lot of times I don’t even get that when I get my yoghurt. 

The last time I was there, my total came out to $4.99.  I paid cash and the high school student handed me back a penny.  At that point, I had a mini-meltdown.  Do I take the penny and look like a cheap-ass bastard who can’t even make the effort to throw a penny in the tip jar or do I look like a cheap-ass bastard who is just throwing a penny into the tip jar?  I chose to take the damn penny and muttered, “have a good day” which I thought was at least an attempt at being polite and appreciative.   

And if you think that they deserve to have a tip jar at a Tutti-Fruttis, then why don’t they have a tip jar at McDonalds?  Wendy’s?  Burger King?  Subway? 

Oh wait, they DO have a tip jar at Subway.  For making a sandwich.  Now if they were able to read my mind and know which type of sandwich I wanted and brought it to my table and wished me a great day, there is no question that I would sweeten the pot with a buck or two.   

The same beef goes for Starbucks.  I realize that they make my coffee with the utmost care and I do appreciate that most of the time the employees are very nice but I don’t think they deserve to be compensated for making a cup of coffee which they don’t even bring to the table.  For those people who say that the tips help their income, I say, “Why is it up to me to help your income?”  Talk to your boss about that kinda stuff and if your boss doesn’t want to listen, then maybe it’s time to find another job. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I do tip at Starbucks but I do it mainly out of fear.  You see, I have this irrational idea that if I don’t tip, then there is a secret word that is passed onto the barrista indicating that I’m a non-tipper and they will secretly poison my coffee or worse, spit in it.  There is another place where I tip out of fear:  The McCarran Las Vegas airport.  If you have ever been to this airport, you know that you can check your baggage in at the curbside with some handlers.  Yes, they are very nice and very efficient and they can make your trip a lot easier IF YOU TIP THEM.  But one time, I didn’t have any money for a tip and suddenly the nice smile turned into a look that said, “your luggage is fucked”.  During the whole trip, I was sure that my bags had been raped in the security screening room and were ticketed for a trip to Bangalore.  As it turned out, my luggage was quite fine when I arrived at my destination but I realized that travelling without $2 for the Las Vegas baggage handlers was just not worth the added stress.   

There are plenty of situations where a generous tip is appropriate.  For example, fine dining or any kind of dining for that matter.  There is no question that the wait staff deserve to be compensated for their hospitality but only if they are good.  I refuse to tip 20% if the service was mediocre or less.  And I will tip 20% when it is deserved which is better than my father who will still tip 10% on the subtotal even if the waitress has been serving him beer and chicken wings continuously for 6 hours. 

I like the way tipping is done in Cambodia.  It isn’t expected and when you give a couple of bucks, the wait staff are sincerely thankful.  In the states, tipping is expected and there are many times when a couple of bucks doesn’t even get me a “thank you”.

Isn't it time we lay some ground rules here?  Okay, here they are.  You have to work for your tip.  And you have to provide a service which deserves a tip.  And the better service you provide, the better tip you will get.

Doesn’t that make sense? 

And if it does, tips are always appreciated.  

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