Aug 2, 2006

tip jars

A week ago my family and I spent the day sampling some local food at the "Taste Of Kalamazoo."

I don't know if you have a "Taste Of _________" (with the blank line inferring wherever it is you live), but I am a big fan of them. Especially since we're still a bit new to the area, it's nice to get some of the different places to eat in one place where you can try some of their best offerings.

You buy tickets for the event as you would for rides at a carnival. Only instead of handing them over to a guy named "Buzz" (who does not, by the way, have such a haircut but instead resembles a backup bassist who couldn't make it into Steely Dan) in order to ride something very fast and spinny that was assembled in the dark the night before, you trade them for food that has been rated at various quantities of tickets. Interestingly, someone at one booth will rate a burger at 6 tickets whereas another will choose to only ask for 4.

In any event, that is not really what I want to talk about.

Why are there tip jars in places where there shouldn't be tip jars?

You know what I mean, right?

It probably started back in the day when people would play an instrument or perform a street act and hope that they might gain a buck or two on the way to superstardom. Or maybe it was the guy in the cowboy piano bar who was playing his heart away in the midst of John Wayne punching out some other guy and figured that was worth an extra silver something. Actually, I'm not sure where it started but I'm guessing it made sense.

Not anymore, though. Now you find tip jars in places where people are getting paid full wages for what they do and yet have somehow taken on the idea that an extra buck or two or four is well earned and deserved. Maybe it is... I don't know.

But I see it at the counter of ice cream stores, beauty salons, and gas stations. This isn't to benefit the kid who scooped your ice cream, the gal who cut your hair, or the dude who pumped your gas (because I'd get it otherwise). No... these are apparently for the people who ring you up and are already making an hourly wage.

Now, before you assume me to be a bad tipper, I would like to declare that I enjoy tipping 20% versus the standard 15%. Having been a waiter and a valet parking attendant, I get how important tips can be when you don't get paid any regular wages.

However, what I am referring to involves the sales of a product or a self-service activity that traditionally required no gratuity from the purchaser.

In other words, "tip violations."

How does this work? It's a scam sometimes. You'll know it when even if you are the first customer of the day you will see the tip jar with some currency inside. Did the tip fairy visit the previous night? Of course not. Prior to placing the jar out the worker put a few bucks inside to have customers believe that tipping is acceptable at a non-customary-tip establishment.

Again... it's often a scam.

At "TIPPING ETIQUETTE," the author lists the following suggestions for tip jars:

  • Star bucks - Nothing.
  • Any fast-food restaurant - Nothing.
  • Buffet-lines or cafeterias - Nothing. If there is a person who comes around and keeps your tea glass full, tip him personally $1-2.
  • Donut, bagel or coffee shop - Nothing. (This one I disagree with because I know how hard my wife works. Then again... she does get an hourly wage, so...)
  • Sports arena concession stands - Nothing.
  • If you get the idea that tip jars are inappropriate at any food-service establishment that does not actually bring the food to your table and keep your drinks refilled, then you are correct.
  • Laundry service - Nothing.
You know who should have a tip jar? How about those occupations that do not receive enough compensation for the benefit they provide to society? Like teachers and social workers or mentors.

And the guy who invented the Smoothie.

Which brings me back full circle.

I was standing in line to get my tickets at the Taste Of Kalamazoo. The sign said each ticket was fifty cents, so I handed over my money and waited for the trade back (which took no more than 6 seconds to actually happen). I glanced down and saw a small glass jar with white paper that had been crudely Scotch taped to the outside. On it in large Sharpie marker block lettering read the word, "TIPS."

And yes... there was a single dollar inside.


By the way... feel free to let me know what you think of this article via my Paypal account. The email address you'll want to use is and I would be happy to convert your out-of-state money into Michigan cash.


thatcoffeeguy said...

Well, you certainly knew when you wrote this little post on your little blog that I would have a little something to say about Mr. James G. Lewis' webpage on tipping etiquette. As it relates to NOT tipping at Starbucks... if I take the time to know your first name, memorize your drink, know the time of day you arrive, have your drink ready when you get to the window along with your extra packet of splenda and your two ice cubes to cool it off to just the right temperature, have a fresh blueberry muffin and daily paper all ready for you with a big smile and a quick "how's your wife Katie today?" ... I BETTER GET A STINKING TIP!! [smile]

Royal said...

I tried to send you something for your time but I could not get the glass all the way in the envelope....

I actually skipped the tip at Starbucks the other day....i am a little anxious about what may be spit in my cup on my next visit.... i think i will go to another store....

David Moss said...

Ahh...tipping. Sometimes, tipping isn't about the person providing the service. I think that sometimes it is about the person doing the tipping. It is another opportunity to say to the world, "I am generous and giving and good." (Regardless if it is true) Maybe it is to help us remove the guilt of buying a $5 cup of coffee....or $6 ice cream cone. It is another opportunity to put up a mask that says "I'm better than your other customers, I left more money in the tip jar." Maybe it helps us to continue to ignore the other tip jars we walk front of that homeless guy on the street, playing his harmonica poorly.

Crissi said...

I have no problem tipping the Starbucks guy, as I do love my coffee. That is, when they actually make me a drink (like on the machine). But what if all I asked for was a regular cup of joe? They pour coffee into my cup, still don't leave me room for cream so I have to dump out half the coffee I paid for, slap a lid on it, and they get a tip for that? Oh, alright. Their prices allow for change (convenient, huh?) that I always promptly put in the tip jar. But still....

I do hate that tip jars are showing up everywhere where their not warranted. My tip for anyone as far as Starbucks goes? Go to the ones inside supermarkets if you really can't tip them. They aren't allowed to have a tip jar. Then you'll have change left over for a newspaper and parking. Unless you put your money in the metermaid's tip jar....

Danubis The Concise said...

A particularly sick and cynical individual would write on a folded up piece of paper something like "get a better job" or "buy low, sell high"...

Tony Myles said...

Hilarious... funny how we've gotten so used to the guilt that we give anyway (even when we're not really into it).

Kind of like that offering deal in church. :)

Jay/thatcoffeeguy... I'd agree with you if it depends on your wage. Katie works at Panera Bread and often gets a tip from this older guy (without a tip jar). She tells him no, but he insists. So she says, "Well then I'll put it in the little box here to help kids in need of medical attention." He'll often say, "If that's what you'd like to do with it."

The other day she found out another co-worker keeps it when the same guy tips her. :)

Thurman8er said...

To paraphrase Dwight Schrute of "The Office":

"I don't tip for any service that I can perform myself. I can bag my own groceries. I can drive a cab. I can, and do, cut my own hair.

I do however tip my urologist because I can not remove my own kidney stones."

Milton Stanley said...

I agree with you here, Tony.

Friar Tuck said...

I dont have any problem with people asking for a tip...but there are some times where people just jump in and do something expecting a tip when you have not even asked for a washing windows or porting luggage. And if I did not have a choice in the service than it makes me angry.

I think there are some places where standard wages are not enough and a tip is helpful. For instance carhops at sonic, or laundry service.

And then there are a lot of tip optional things that I think should stay that way. Like housekeepers at hotels.

Dakotaranger said...

What has always boggled my mind is why we are supposed to tip someone who brings the food, but when it comes to the rancher that has a year invested doesn't always get his investment back and the salesbarn never tips the rancher for their effort, instead charges them to sell their livestock.

Even worse than that, a cop that puts his life on the line for you can't tip him or buy him a gift otherwise it's corruption, but someone who spends at most five minutes with you bringing you food, and barely fills your glass your supposed to tip when they aggreed to get paid x amount expects to receive money from me for doing a job their already getting paid for, not only is bad stewardship but is just flat out immoral that they get a tip when there are others in this world that work harder don't/or aren't allowed to get tipped

David Moss said...

What about "cow tipping"?

(Sorry, I'm just in a completely random mood this morning and I couldn't resist!)

thatcoffeeguy said...

I like what the coffehouse across from the university does. Each week they put a little sign on the tip bowl that explains where that week's tips are being donated. It might be Catholic Social Services, or a home for battered women, an orphanage, homeless shelter or maybe a drug rehab place. That's a nice idea.

To be completely honest, I only work at Starbucks one day a week. In those 8 hours I bring in more tips than anyone ($40+ average). But I only get about $18 in tips every two weeks. And I get a high wage, so really, I don't need the tip (although it's nice). I'm more sympathetic for waiters/waitresses. They usually make only $3/hr and work for tips.

So my motto: tip WHERE you like and IF you like, just do it with a glad heart and not begrudgingly. I promise, nobody at Starbucks is going to spit in your drink or provide you less than exceptional customer service even if you don't tip.

INSIDE TIP FOR CRISSI: pay for a grande size cup of coffee, but ask them to put it in a venti cup. that way you pay for a full cup of wonderful coffee and still have room for cream and you never have to waste a drop. ;-)

Carolanne said...

YOu could always come to Australia - tipping is not so common as in the States. In fact, appart from restaurants (classy) tipping is non-existant. Or maybe I don't patronize the right places.
Anyway, I like your idea of giving tips to teachers - chcoolate works - as I told my stduents yesterday!