I was buying some snacks from a local convenience store today, and lo and behold, a tip jar! You want me to tip you for… what, taking my money and giving me change exceptionally well? Coincidentally, I just ran across this Christian Science Monitor article titled What’s up with all those tip jars? which ranted about the same thing:
I have yet to be shamed (if this is the right word) into casting my coin into the tip jar fountain. Perhaps it is the scientist in me, but I try to reason the situation out like this: I call in my order to the Chinese restaurant. I drive there to pick it up. I pay the menu price. Why on earth would I pay more than they are asking for their product? Doing so strikes me as positively un-American.
I used to be really annoyed by all these tip jars, silently making be feel bad for not tipping. You can’t even boycott places with tip jars anymore, because you’d die of hunger! But then I had a revelation. Unlike the quote above, I think it’s completely American! It’s simple capitalism – they have nothing to lose by putting it out there. However, customers have the same choice not to tip someone who is already being paid a full salary. Waitpeople are paid a lower wage because they are expected to make up their income on tips. Cashiers and food preparers are not. Still, I do put money in the tip jar on occasion. The same article above touches on why at the end:
As a teacher it had never occurred to me to put one of these jars on my desk. And so I decided to conduct an experiment. The next day, when I entered the classroom, I casually pulled a small jelly jar from my bag and placed it on my desk. On the front was a neat label, “Tips.” I didn’t do anything else to draw my students’ attention to it and ignored the low mumble that the act incited.
At the end of the lecture, as the students filed out, I’ll be darned if a few of them didn’t throw their loose change into the jar. I gave it all back, of course, but their quiet gestures did lend me a small thrill, a sense that my teaching efforts were worth more than my salary alone.
Well, I still don’t put money in tip jars, but I have put one of these jars in my son’s room. Sometimes, when he does something positive or helpful without being told, I throw a couple of quarters in. He appreciates this and looks for opportunities to lend a hand wherever he can. I think that as long as we can keep this under control, I will not have created unreasonable expectations. But mum’s the word.
To me, a tip jar is a voluntary thank you for something perhaps over and beyond what is expected. I usually only tip at pick-up or take-out restaurants where I am a regular. They may know how I like my favorite dish, always give me extra fries with my order, or simply always making me feel welcome. (Always being happy when you work in any customer service field is a great feat in itself.) But if you just fulfill your minimum job duties? I feel zero shame in not tipping.
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