Saturday, February 6, 2010

Tip Jar

More and more, I walk into establishments and am faced not only with the cash register, but a "tip jar" in which I can show my gratitude that the service for which I paid was performed.

Tip jars have become customary in most food establishments, and a few other non-food related stores.  We plunk our money in these jars seemingly without thought.  After all, tip jars are for — well, what? For whom?

Bagel shops are not the only ones with their hands out.  Now Internet Web sites such as Hulu and The New York Times are considering charging for content that once was free ("At Hulu, 'free' may soon turn into 'fee,'" Los Angeles Time, January 21, 201; "Adding Fees and Fences on Media Sites," New York Times, December 27, 2009).

The Los Angeles Times quoted Hulu founder Tim Westergren as saying, "The economic reality of any type of content is that you need people to put some money into the tip jar."

That is such an erroneous statement: one should pay a fair price for services rendered.

I have no problem paying for a service, and have long determined that I would pay for an online subscription for the newspapers I read regularly, including The Washington Post, The New York Times and Associated Press

I also am fully in support of tipping for services that customarily receive tips, and I try to tip generously.  I have worked food service and it's a hard, thankless job.  Most jobs that rely on tips to make hourly pay minimum wage are, coincidentally, "pink collar" jobs.  Other jobs populated mostly by women or in "the feminine realm" are underpaid, overworked, often thankless jobs.  Unfair? Absolutely.

I don't presume to know about how managers in industries other than my own establish their workers' salaries.  I suspect many workers are taken advantage of, both underpaid and overworked, in just about every line of work.  I can cite many office workers and others in my own industry whose time is used unfairly and whose compensation is unfair.  Perhaps a revolution is in order, or at least an overhaul requiring accountability for worker wages and conditions.  Education is a good start, and I would welcome that myself.

However, tip jars aren't even a salve on a tiny blister of the workforce.  I don't plunk change into a jar on the counter to "make it right," extortion by those who want to be tipped but who customarily are not, like cashiers.  I am not about to hand over my cash to an anonymous wide-mouth jar with a scattering of loose change.  I'd rather see a fix to the system than a jar on the counter.

1 comment:

Richard Goodman said...

I've felt that way for ages. A tip is a recognition of excellant service, not for shifting the burden of employee's wages onto the customer instead of the company they work for. If a worker isn't paid enough, they need to do one of several things- A) Work harder to get the promotion or raise they deserve, B) Bring it to the attention of the right people that the payscale is not commensurate wwith the job's responsibilities, C) Look for a better job, D) Accept your situation and whine about it to friend's and lovers.

Notice I did not mention unions because they hold a tip jar out to everyone- company management, their own members, Congress, charities.

I will tip someone if they do something extra for me. Giving me what I asked for at a bagel shop does not deserve a tip. Their job is package bagels and ring them up. If they do exactly that, they have done their job. They didn't do anything special. Now, when I was in a Dunkin Donuts and the clerk gave me 2 extra bagels, I tipped her. When a waiter is particularly attentive yet not obtrusive, I'll tip them extra. Also, I'll admit to being a typical sucker. If a server is very attractive and calls me "Honey" or "Sweetheart" during the service, I'm more inclined to tip better even though I know she's gaming me.

The one that always gets me is the maid in a hotel. I don't want them to wash myy towel every day because I'm trying to be environmental helpful yet they take the towels off the rack, they bring another plastic bottle of shampoo even though I didn't use all of the first one and they take the remote off the bedstand table and put it back on the TV. I'm supposed to tip them for doing their job. I feel bad that they are underpaid but the job they did was exactly what they were supposed to do even though it was contrary to what I wanted them to do.

My favorite tipping horror story was a time I went to H.I.Ribters with John. Our server mostly ignored us all night and when we were ready to go, we had to track her down. 20 minutes llater she haadn't returned with out credit cards even though I saw her sitting by the back wall. I went over to ask her if we could get our credit cards back and she said "Oh, I forgot to ring you up." 5 minute later she was back. John wanted to give her a 20% tip because "that's the accepted standard." I wanted to give her next to nothing, especially since she didn't apologize so we compromised at 12%. Ever since then, I've decided that you tip according to the level of service and whether the went beyond the basics of their job.