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About Me, Featured, Free Style

Tipping’s Greater Virtue

I have worked as a waiter and I am regularly featured these days in the role of patron. My ex-wife is from Japan, and in Japan there is no tipping. She liked the simplicity and fairness of this model, and I can respect that. But I like — no, I love tipping. Why? It is that subversive little corner of our capitalist system that runs as a “gift economy.”

The act of giving, and the act of depending on the generosity of another person-these are both important activities required to build healthy people. In our society we have successfully taken the “guesswork” out of a lot of the giving-receiving relationships: you work for a specific wage, you pay a specific rent, a specific tax rate, you pay for food at a certain price determined by supply and demand, matters of government, and personal style. You subject yourself to the rule of law which is in turn mediated by your participation in Democracy.

We don’t live with the uncertainty of Kings, we don’t farm with the uncertainty of the weather. For those of us in the comfortable end of the middle class, the stressful uncertainties that mean more to people of lesser means mean a lot less to us: the price of milk, the price of gas, whether we are at war in Iraq . . .

It doesn’t take a lot of faith in the goodness of human nature to successfully live a life like mine. I’m insulated from a lot of the vagaries of the human condition. I’m not alone in this. And some of us, well, we forget about all that hassle: we are free to press our energies in to work, family, community, creative pursuits. I like this freedom, but . . . sometimes I open my eyes and see that the things that are stressing me out and challenging me are pointless, petty, or mundane. Especially in technology, victory becomes software shipped and larger numbers in the bank and retirement accounts.

We never go to bed hungry.

We will not wear body armor, carry M-16s and ride in Humvees through the garbage-filled streets of Baghdad, scared that we may not make it home from the cradle of civilization quite right.

We will eat until we are content, push the plate away half full. We will leave our lights on and run our dishwashers and our washing machines and stare into computer screens, trying to increase the zeros in those bank accounts. We will be constantly on the go, from climate controlled office to comfortable car to ski vacation to flights across the planet where we may dine on new foods, until we are content, and push the plate away again.

There have been a few times when I have been at the supermarket with not enough money. That kind of stress is memorable.

That kind of stress will be a part of anyone’s life. Your parents and grandparents will age and become infirm. Their hospital bills will eat up your savings accounts. You may in time return the favor of those diapers that were changed before you were too young to remember. You will be walking to your home one day and you will fall down and the doctor will explain that you have MS. Your wife will come home one day and tell you she needs to take a break, to go live with her new boyfriend.

The things that you take for granted today could change in an instant.

When I go out to eat, when I take a cab home, I have to make room in my capitalist business transaction for the tip. There are “rules” but the only enforcement is in your own character. When you give service, if you are honest with yourself, you accept that you are in an act of giving. Yeah, its your day job, and yes, chances are that the quality of your diet is a reflection of the quality of the tips you receive.

But, unlike the wage-earner, you are reminded every day that there is no guarantee, no law, nothing that says that your giving must be rewarded with anything beyond the minimum wage. So what do you do? There are no guarantees in life, you will do your best, and you will likely find that, despite some bad tipping and the occasional stiff, depending on the voluntary generosity of others actually works out okay.

You earn your income not merely with your Diligence, but with Trust and with Faith.

In my life, I have found that there are times when you have to depend on the voluntary generosity of other folks. I like that tipping remains a part of our capitalist economy. It is a reminder to those of us who are “comfortable” that we too, are subjects of fate. It is a reminder that our modern enterprise still relies a great deal in faith that the great majority of people can be relied upon to give. Voluntarily.

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Categories: About Me, Featured, Free Style

  • Dan The Man ~~~~~~~~~

    Share The Wealth!

    Charity begins at home!

    What is right and what is wrong?

    Like you, I enjoy tipping whether the waiter/server is in a classy place and may make more on tips than I do at my regular job or if he/she is a low-budget kid in a low-class taqueria. They’ll get my tip.

    Growing up, even while as young as 8-9 years old and into adulthood, for some reason I always read Ann Landers in my local paper. Ann was a stickler for tipping and suggested the 15% tip.

    After living with my wife Dana for the past 22 years I have escalated to leaving a 20% tip if the service is good simply because that is what SHE does and it kinda made sense to leave an extra tip for extra good service.

    On the other hand if the service is shitty I’ll leave a lesser tip or maybe just a buck. I have been the victim of shitty food and even shittier service but I have always left something and not just the one-cent slap in the face. Sometimes not too much more, but always something.

    So, DannyMan, you wrote a LOT about tip[ping but failed to mention your percentage or calculation. What do YOU leave????????

    Something else – if the food is WAY overpriced I’ll lower the tip because I think I am getting ripped off as it is. For instance, maybe a typical breakfast costs $7.50. Okay, that’s fair and I’ll leave a tip of $1.50 (20%.)

    But when I order a milk with that breakfast and the glass of milk comes with a $2.50 price tag I flinch. The milk I buy at Safeway costs $3.50 a gallon and I *know* the milk at Denny’s costs half that. So them basstridz are charging me $2.50 for TWENTY-CENTS worth of milk.

    Phukk Dat, bro!

    I will not leave an additional 50-cents for the tip on that milk. The same would apply to a bottle of wine at a steak house where I am charged $25 for a bottle of wine that sells for $12.00 in the store where I sometimes work.

    I like to tip but when they screw me on a milk I don’t pony up the extra.

    Izzat cool with the populous? Why should I make that 20-cent glass of milk cost me a fat $3???

    WWDD??????????

    (What Would Danny Do????????)

    I was eating at a place one evening – a diner/BBQ joint where I ate about four nights a week when I was patrolling the city in a cop car. It was cheap but good and the waitresses sometimes gave it up easy – which is often WHY cops flock to a certain restaurant in town. While eating I watched one waitress pick up the check and cash that a guy had left on the counter – she counted it, saw that it was exact change, and yelled, “That little fucker stiffed me!!!” And she charged out the door and tracked him down, yelled at him and came back in with a couple of bucks.

    I never knew if maybe the guy didn’t tip her because the food and service was crappy (probably not the case in this place) or if he forgot or maybe he just doesn’t tip but it was weird to see the waitress’s reaction and watch the scene play out.

    All the time I was thinking like you – hey, there are no guarantees or promises. I think I would have just figured the guy was not required to tip me – sometimes ya lose.

    Anyway, tips were important that night. I sure never forgot to tip in that place.

    So yes – TIP WELL when you can. Share the wealth Follow the Rules Of Dan and you will find that, like Karma, things will get back to you.

    And you won’t have some frizzy-haired blond cranker-bitch chasing you through the parking lot.

    SEE YA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    MikeyA

  • Mikey,

    What an awesome response, thanks!

    I could maybe write a whole entry as to how I tip. The basics is 20%, but I’m not rigorous about it. I figure it is about $2 per $10, with a bit of flexibility to get to a round number. One thing to consider, especially if you’re a 20% tipper, is that you’re probably looking at the after-tax total, which means you’re tipping high if you’re going by that. So, I shoot for 20%, and am happy to come down on that to get to a round number, and if sales tax is also a factor.

    In Thailand there is no formal rule about tipping, but you round up to the largest bill you’re willing to spend. By not fretting over the change, you “save face” and also give the service employees something to work with.

    At a bar, I shoot for $1/drink, even though I usually get just beer or whiskey: I know that bartenders work long late messy hours for tips, dealing with drunks and other bullsh1t. At a taqueria or a coffee shop I’ll drop my change in the bucket, or toss in a buck if I’m feeling generous.