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Home > Blog > The Tip Jar Rethought
Out of Our Minds
Thursday, July 22, 2004 11:03 AM
The Tip Jar Rethought
Kevin Salwen on Culture

Yesterday at Starbucks, I dutifully dropped my loose change into the tip jar as a small thank-you for decent service. But it got me thinking afterward that we're tipping many of the wrong people. Sure, the woman who made that fabulous latte should be appreciated, but why her and not others? Why do we tip the cab driver coming home from the airport and not the pilot who made that great landing?

What's the rhyme or reason to any of this? Why don't we slap a quick fiver on those people who really make our lives better: the admissions director at the private school, the therapist who helps us sort life out, the elevator mechanic who makes sure that box stays on the cable. When is the last time you tipped one of those folks. C'mon people, get out those wallets.


7 comments

steven vore - 8/16/2004 11:13:08 AM
My buddy the Delta captain says he'd gladly take the paycuts that the company wants if they were allowed to accept tips from the passengers.
fp - 7/26/2004 5:37:13 PM
I'm reminded of the time twenty or thirty years ago when I drunkenly pushed a five dollar bill across the bar at Specs' 12 Adler Place in San Francisco. Specs pushed it back and said 'You can't tip me. I own the place.' Good rule of thumb, I think.
Another Matt - 7/24/2004 2:49:21 PM
What you're saying could be taken as really pretentious.

Here I am, earning my keep providing a valuable service, and you ride in on your high horse to smugly pass me $5, insinuating that a) I need it, and b) you have more than me, and want to give me a 'lift up'?

Where tip jars exist, we're culturally aware that tipping is the right/expected thing to do. That's fine; tipping well is a nice gesture.

But I don't want to have to tip anyone and everyone I ever see just because they smile and do the job they're paid to do.

This reminds me of living in a developing country and watching capital-T Tourists ride in for their two week all-inclusive and throw down some donation out of the goodness of their hearts to the poor folk who 'actually live here'.

They never think that perhaps those folks have kids they love, family they care about, work they do their best at, and are proud of it all, and don't need some foreigner to come in and hand them some 'help' because they so OBVIOUSLY need it.

I'm not against giving, or against helping people in need -- I think that's great. But be very aware of the messages you are sending.
Matt - 7/23/2004 8:07:08 AM
By all means show your appreciaition where and when you can. But take care when tipping anyone who wouldn't ordinarily expect a cash reward. Tipping can say as much about the tipper as the 'tippee'. Take Frank Sinatra, for example. Was his legandary largess motivated by the quality of services rendered or by his self-image? For those without superstar resources (or egos), a simple thank you is a more realistic (and humble) way of giving something back. It's less likely to offend, too.

anonymous - 7/22/2004 8:20:10 PM
Americans should begin by paying Starbucks baristas and others on the low end of the totem pole a decent living wage, $5.00/hr is a mockery. I resent paying tips out of MY pocket because a freakin' corporation can't see fit to pay a decent living wage of $7.00 - $8.00/hr - yes, prices will go up as a result but, then again, I won't have to tip will I?
Mikey - 7/22/2004 6:26:06 PM
I don't think we need to express our gratitude with cash. That would feel shitty to me. 'Hey, thanks for doing an excellent job, here is 2 bucks.' Ugh, gross.
Rennie - 7/22/2004 12:00:27 PM
In my opinion, we tip the Starbucks folks because we know they make a low hourly wage and we've all 'been there.' And Starbucks allows people to set up shop for hours for work/business meetings so it's kind of a rental fee too if we need to further justify what amounts to the price of a quick lunch for a cup of coffee.

Regarding the others in more professional roles who don't rely as much on tips, if the service is outstanding or made an impact on my life I try to send a note to their manager, or call a supervisor. i.e. a great nurse when a parent is ill, or, my sister did this recently with her helpful movers (on top of the tip).
Passing along positive feedback to supervisors can help their bottom line and boost morale for the next time when they encounter a shrieking moron having a bad day.

Or, if the pilot makes a great landing, a simple Thanks can sometimes remind them that their work is appreciated. But if you've got the extra dough, and feel like Elvis that day, by all means, share the wealth!

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