Wednesday, January 30, 2008

To Tip or Not To Tip



Tipping. I've come to learn that tipping is an American phenomenon, or at least have been led to believe this. Several years ago, a friend was visiting from Australia and did so much complaining about our tipping practices that I finally said "Look. This is how it works here, so just deal with it. Ok?" His position was that restaurant owners, salon owners and cab companies should simply pay people enough money rather than relying on us to supplement their income.

I agree with that to a point. I've never understood the fact that restaurants are allowed to pay servers LESS than the minimum wage. Thanks to the "beloved" Ronald Reagan, these same servers now have to pay taxes on their tips...whether they receive them or not! The tips are estimated based on the receipts for the day, assuming that every patron left 15%. Craziness. As a result, the level of service in many establishments has suffered, because there is no direct correlation between the quality of service and what your server is credited for in tips. Still, I always leave at least 20% for good service because it does send an immediate message of appreciation.

But I digress. In this country, we not only tip wait-staff but we also tip cab drivers, hairdressers, manicurists, waxers, masseuses, delivery people, doormen, red caps, and on and on.

We don't tip people who work retail, although a person working in a bookstore or The Gap is making a crap salary too. Why is that?

My problem is often not whether to tip (although sometimes it is: if I'm paying a delivery charge for my groceries, do I also have to tip the guy? If I don't, will he spit in my peanut butter next time?), but how much.

I'm having a sofa delivered today. What am I supposed to give these guys? Dilemmas about tipping cause me a great deal of anxiety. I'll probably give them too much simply because I have fear of bad karma. Help!

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A sidenote here: The Jeopardy! test was WAY hard. Fifty questions, but you had only 15 seconds to read and type your answer (thankfully NOT in the form of a question). I think I did ok, although in some cases I thought of the correct answer about 45 seconds too late. A transcript will be posted online later today so maybe I'll post it here, so you can see how well you would have done. But remember that it's a lot easier when you have a lot of time to read, think and then type. Whew!