Monday, April 06, 2009

Tipping Part II

Last week, I wrote a blog entry on tipping. It was basically about tipping of coffee baristas. I thought it was a really good blog entry, but not a lot of people commented on it. Perhaps not a lot of people enjoyed or saw it. Who knows.

Well, since not a lot of people enjoyed/liked it, I thought I would continue writing about tipping.

First, I am not sure I understand the point of tipping in restaurants. I mean, I understand it is to reward good service, and perhaps encourage the service in the future, but I doubt it really does that. I mean, people generally tip in a certain range, no matter how good or poor the service is. If I have crappy service, I tip 15%. If I have good service, I tip 20%. So the difference between crappy and wonderful service is only about a third more. Plus, let's say I want tipping to benefit me. I have already received the service I will receive, and unless I have that person as a server again (and they remember I tipped well), the odds of me affecting how they treat me are almost nil. This seems terribly inefficient to me. There is no real effort/reward connection, and it doesn't affect how I get my service.

So I really think tipping in this context just shifts costs from the restaurant owner to the patron.

Then there is tipping of my hairdresser. I tip her extremely well. The percentage is higher than tipping in restaurants, and I am fine with the percentage I tip. I actually derive some sort of benefit from the tip. I see the same person each time, and she should know I tip generously. She also has squeezed me in with an appointment time when she really did not have time, and I like to think she spends a bit more time on my hair. Also, I get the impression I am charged a bit less than they can charge. Not all costs are publicly posted, and my costs have not increased in four years. While this may be a coincidence, I think she has discretion on what she charges her customers.

Then there is tipping of the sky caps. I have heard $1 or $2 per bag, but if you think of it, that is a wide range. Also, my tip may vary, as my perception of time saved with normal check-in varies. I don't give this a lot of thought, and I hope that over or under tipping does not flag people to search me before the flight. Oh, and I hope sky caps don't handle bags differently because of the tip given, but I have to admit, I am a bit more generous because I suspect this is the case.

I also don't know about tipping when you drop off a car for a medical appointment. I was escorting my mother a few years ago, to and from some appointments in a hospital, and I could not tell if the valet parking was discouraged from taking tips.

Then there is picking up food from a restaurant. Do you tip when you order take-out and pick it up yourself? I have no idea, so I tip sporadically. I know sporadic tipping is definitely wrong, but I do this because I am confused.

Tip jars are popping up in all sorts of locations. I know they want tips when I see the jar, but in some cases, I just feel like it is extortion if it is in a place where tipping is not customary.

Tipping should not be difficult, but it is to me. I just wish there was a definitive guide.


Under the Influence said...

We had a party for my son at a facililty that provides a hostess to serve cake, get drinks, clean up, etc. and I tipped HER!

I am a massage therapist and get a lot of my income from tips, so tip your massage therapists well if the massage is good! Kind of like the hairstylist.

I don't tip at coffee houses or similar places unless I get a couple of coins back and I don't feel like wrangling them back into my little wallet.

Skycaps, valets, etc. - it really just depends, I guess.

The definitive guide is tip everyone, I think. At least that's what it feels like. I even read, around the holidays, about how much to tip your garbage men, postal worker, UPS/Fed Ex, etc. etc. Hello? I wouldn't have any money left for gifts for my family if I tipped everyone they suggested plus the amounts were insane!

Deb said...

I always tip well at restaurants if the wait staff acts like a human. If they're "too busy" for you or display that attitude, I reflect that in my tip.

Hairdressers I tip more, like yourself, because they're actually working on you with their hands and creating a style, cutting, chopping, blow drying---for sometimes hours. Not to say that the wait staff doesn't work hard- but hairdressers are on a personal level. I care about my hair coming out better than my food.

The tip jars at these coffee joints and other delis, etc., ----I'm guilty of throwing in a dollar or two because if the kid is really nice or especially if he or she is new, a buck or two is thrown in. But I do agree that there should not be a tip jar there. It's basically throwing in the guilt factor for the customers after they pay $5 bucks for a cup of java you can basically make at home.



Xmichra said...

I tip everyone the same way. I take 10% of the value of the item being purchased, then tip higher or not at all based on service & friendliness. My haiedresser always gets a huge tip because she does so well. I went to a resteraunt the other day and left not a dime because the girl was unattentive and rude.

I do not feel comfortable with *required* tipping, you know like the 2 dollar delivery fee (sometimes that goes to the driver, sometimes it goes to the company. you don't know) or the automatic fifteen percent at a resteraunt (and then you get poor service). that pisses me off.

It is difficult for a person in the service industry to not receiv a ip from me, I had worked in it for so long i really understand that is your bread & butter in most jobs. But I wouldn't have expected a tip for being an asshat.

LarryLilly said...

My wife was the "front" person at an upscale San Fran restaurant for many years,and before that started out as a waitress when she was younger. When we eat out she is very critical of wait staff. She knows that tips is what they live on, their basic pay is not even minimum wage. She will ask me what tip did I plan on giving and I will tell her. Then she will instruct me that its not the wait staff who gets dinged if the steak is medium when you asked for rare. But if she has to keep peering out to get attention to drink refills, or the wait staff doesnt come back after the servers deliver the food, then they get dinged. Her pet peeve is we will tell them, this is our appetizer, we will order AFTER we eat it. If they keep coming back asking if we are ready to order, repeatedly, they get dinged. We generally leave 20%, we have tipped as low as 5% once. A note added to the charge slip explains why. They get read, she knows this. We also tip the full amount for discount meals, like buy one entree, get the second for half off, The tip is based on two full price entrees. The owner needs business, he lowers his price, but the wait staff still have to earn a living.

Ian Lidster said...

In some respects I prefer Europe where service is included in the charge for the meal. On the other hand, there is no incentive there to give good service.

In the Cook Islands there is no tipping at all. But, when we went out for dinner it left me feeling guilty to give nothing, but they're quite insistent about the tipping thing. But, we are so conditioned to leave something.

Gary Baker said...

If you generally tip well regardless of service, I believe you are encouraging mediocre service. Not everyone is a rocket scientist, but most people are trainable. So if they see there is no reward for outstanding effort and results, they will cut back on effort. (For another example of this phenomenon, consider how it has played out in the public education system). So, while you may feel like you are being a nice person by giving everyone the same tip (and it is certainly your right to do so), you are encouraging generally mediocre service for everyone. I have no problem tipping little or nothing for very poor service or very well (25% or more) for service "above and beyond."

As for the tips comprising the bulk of a person's income, I would think that would be a great motivator. One of my sisters was wait staff for most of her adult life and she did very well for herself, working her way into better and better restaurants. I salute that kind of industry. For the kind of wait staff that feels they deserve 20% for showing up, they can eat kitchen scraps.

Malach the Merciless said...

I only tip waiters they make less than minimum wage.

btsea said...

Sometimes I tip the barrista, somtimes not. I'm more likely to if it's an independent coffee house. I've done some restaurant work in the past bussing tables and room service. The waitress paid my tips to me, and were always very fair about it I thought. Oddly, the brunch, where you worked the hardest, garnered the least tips (and you worked like a dog). Bussing for dinner was less work and more tips. what about motels? I usually leave a tip on the table when I leavae.

Leesa said...

Under the Influence: I tip my garbage collecter each year. $20 Christmas money.

Deb: Tipping is really complicated.

Xmichra: Your tipping strategy sounds reasonable.

Larry: I don't undertip for food quality. I do undertip for poor service.

Ian: I have offended by tipping in Europe. Really.

Gary: It doesn't matter how much I tip; it matters how much average people tip. But I agree with your analysis.

Malach: People who cut grass don't make much either.

btsea: I tip people who clean rooms as well.

Sheen V said...

Yep, I have the same questions about tipping. I regularly tip my barber about 25% as its easier just to let them keep the change. I don't tip the hotel maid when I travel on business. I sometimes tip when I order carryout if the cashier girl is cute. I should leave a tip of some kind out for the garbage men, the postal carrier, and paper deliverer once a year, but I don't.

Leesa said...

Sheen: It is a real complicated thing.