< rant >

The following irritated the service industry employees I polled before writing this. It surprised me, actually.

Here goes.

I have a cynical view of tipping.
But before I launch into this full-force, you should know that I worked in the food service industry for quite some time. I worked my ass off. Sacrificing weekends, holidays, a social life (ok, maybe the now nonexistent marriage killed the social life, but I digress…), but before I launch into my diatribe here, you needed to know…I paid my dues.

Jump to present day…the catalyst for this whole affair.

A friend of mine and I had decided to stagger into Cupcake Royale after many rounds at the nearby dive bar. For some reason pastel-colored overly-decorated delicacies sounded like a fine idea. So, we went.

We made our selections (after a brief cringe at the “Bacon whiskey something-or-other” cupcake – I kid you not), the clerk places them gingerly in the box, then hands them to the girl at the register. To whom I hand my debit card, at which point I notice a tip jar. A tip jar. Curious. Now…just what was gratuity-worthy? Following me home and asking me how everything was?
She hands me the receipt to sign, and as I do, I notice the presumptuous little “Tip line” below the total.

Are you fucking kidding me?

What the hell am I supposed to be tipping them for? Putting them in the box? Ringing up my order? And it’s not even like there was one person handling this laborious task, there were two of them. It was a bloody cupcake-packing assembly line.

I ignored the arrogance of the tip line and left, clutching my box (which I’m I’m assuming they printed by hand until their fingers bled, hence the tip jar…) and walked to the car in the rain. Maybe if they’d escorted me with an umbrella, I’d have slipped them a twenty.

This incident got me thinking. How many places now have these annoying little vessels of “alms” at the register? Aside from cafes, we have them at the deli, pizza shops, Dunkin Donuts, Ice Cream parlors. Now, these employees get an hourly wage. Usually higher than the national average. Which is another reason why this “tip jar” phenomenon confuses me. I remember a time when servers in restaurants made below minimum wage so the rest of their income was could be supplemented by the gratuities they received from their tables.

When I was a server, the sum of the tips I accrued at the end of the day I did not get to keep. I was required to tip out the bartender, my server assistant, the busboy, the hostess ($0.50 per person she sat; I’m still bitter about that; if she sat 300 people, I had to give her $150 of my tips.) I was left with about 40%. I did not completely resent this, they were providing continued service to guests in our restaurant and helped me make money. That’s the magic word. Continued service. We just didn’t drop food off and leave. We checked on the quality of the meal, refilled beverages, replaced napkins, cleared plates.

When you order a chicken sandwich at McDonald’s, you don’t tip the people who make them. You don’t tip the people at the drive-thru. What puzzles me is, what makes baristas so entitled? And now we have cupcakes and ice cream and Subway sandwiches? It’s getting out of hand. Are we going to be tipping bus drivers and teachers and the receptionist at the doctor’s office?

It could be entirely possible that it’s not tipping per se that I have issue with; maybe I just don’t appreciate how I am personally regarded when I don’t tip. People think that I’m cheap, an asshole, insensitive, from France. I’m not cheap, nor an asshole. Maybe I could pull off being French. I tip, and I tip well. I just tip appropriately. I don’t tip people who put cupcakes in a box so that I have the cash to tip the server at 13 Coins 40%. And why? Because she went the extra mile, brought extra lemons when I didn’t even ask because she remembered me from the last time, and has a genuine smile, a great laugh and loves showing pictures of her family.

There’s also Duncan, at my favorite bar who usually gets 50%, but he gets his own blog entry. After I ask his permission first. =)


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