I woke up this morning thinking about tipping.
No apparent reason, just where my brain went upon waking.
Waking early, I might add. 6:10 a.m. finds me at the keyboard with energy, so a brief treatise on tipping is what you get today.
(My brain interrupts me here to point out that a treatise is technically a longer and more formal work than what I am attempting here, and I should probably use the term spiel instead. Okay, brain, okay. Can we get to it now?)
I strive to be a good tipper.
I have a solid floor of 20%.
That’s the bare minimum I can scribble my name to without feeling guilt.
It’s also a minimum predicated on a couple of assumptions.
Assumption the first: I tip on the whole bill, not the pre-tax amount. I do this because it is more generous, and the math is easier.
Assumption the second: I tip on alcohol. Considering my drinking tendencies, this raises the floor considerably.
Now, I’ve read tipping guides that advise you to not do those things, to which I say: Fuck off. I’m trying to be a decent human here.
So, we’ve set a floor. Is that enough?
Sometimes it isn’t. If I am, for example, eating alone at a Waffle House, the tab can be a single-digit number. In such cases, I have a $5 minimum.
As My Friend Who Likes To Punch People For Recreation once so eloquently put it, giving someone a dollar today is like your grandpa giving you a quarter when you were a kid. It’s pat-on-the-head money, not a living wage. I won’t leave the equivalent of a small pile of change on the table, and I don’t believe a diner server should get stiffed just because they didn’t get a steakhouse job instead. Start at $5 and go up from there as if that were 20%.
Having set the floor, it’s pretty easy to raise it. Decent work merits 25%, and I’ll go 30% for someone who makes me laugh.
Wait, wait, I hear.
(And I pause at the unintended pun, then realize there is no such thing as an unintended pun once you acknowledge it. So, leave it, or make a different choice, writer-person.)
Wait, wait, I hear.
What if their service was bad?
Read the room. Is the waitstaff busy as hell, working multiple tables? Is the kitchen backed up? Are there complicated orders (from your table or others)?
These are all reasons to raise your tip, not lower it.
What if they were rude?
How rude we talking? Southern rude? Did she bless your heart? Northern rude? Was the word fuck uttered as a casual adjective? Northwestern rude? Indifference?
Again, read the room. Put yourself in those shoes.
(Geez, you should have good shoes to wait tables.)
Try to think of a reason to hold steady or raise the tip, rather than look for ways to lower it.
Maybe it’s a first day/bad day/last day. Maybe their dog died. Maybe their lover is leaving. Maybe they don’t have a lover, and they are confused about love in general, filled with despair at the existential loneliness that is life, waiting tables to pay the rent on a place they don’t like but is (barely) affordable, living without parents who can afford to offer financial assistance that, even if such were possible, they would turn down on principle, and the power bill is due …
You get the point.
(I people-watch and sometimes daydream lives for the mental exercise. No, wait — that’s not the point. The point is …)
You never truly know. Err on the side of giving someone a living wage.
Which brings me to geography.
This spiel is focused on life in the States, as our (wealthy, developed) nation nonetheless has basically no laws in place to provide a living wage to members of the service class.
Tipping isn’t a nicety; it’s a necessity.
If you feel that shouldn’t be the case, fine. Vote and advocate accordingly. I’m with you. Meanwhile, tip well.
Which brings me to the assholes.
Low tip? Change on the table? Always looking for reason to lower the tip?
Then there are the very special assholes, the ones who don’t tip on principle.
Buddy, get some better principles. I get it, you saw Reservoir Dogs at an impressionable age, and Mr. Pink’s anti-tipping tirade really moved you.
a) You’re an asshole.
b) Everyone in that movie is an asshole.
c) Tarantino is an asshole.
d) Joe, while still an asshole, was correct: “Never mind what you normally would do. Just cough in your goddamned buck like everyone else.”
e) You’re an asshole.