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.