A guide to gratuities

Here’s a tip for you...

Let’s start here: I have no idea – and I don’t think you do either – why we tip some people and feel fine about stiffing others.

For instance:

A hipster in a fedora hands you a cup of coffee in a coffee shop and gets a tip; a working mom in McDonald’s does the same and gets jack shit. Is it the fedora, the fern leaf the hipster put on top of your latte or the social pressure?

(And if you didn’t go with Door Number Three you’re kidding yourself.)

Question Number Two: If we’re tipping for better service, why give extra money to people who make our coffee and nothing to the people who do our prostate exams?

I know which job I want done right.

According to some brief research on the internet, tipping in America became a thing when Prohibition killed restaurant profits and restaurant owners decided to pay their servers less and make the rest of us responsible for supplementing those underpaid workers’ income.

So as with most bad ideas, it’s the fault of the people who walk around with a 2 x 4 up their ass, trying to make sure the rest of us are living lives as miserable as theirs. They tried to take booze from us and wound up sticking us with tipping.

Thanks, Carrie Nation.

(Really looks like she’d be fun on a camping trip, doesn’t she?)

How much should you tip?

15 percent used to be considered a good tip, but a recent look at the internet suggests 20 to 25 percent if you didn’t actually catch your wait person spitting in your Caesar salad because your date behaved like an asshole and sent his or her T-Bone back because it was overcooked after they specifically asked for it to be well done.

If your date treats the “help” like shit, run for your life because with their view of the world it’s only a matter of time until you’re considered part of the “help.”

In my case I almost always tip 20 percent.

I don’t do that because I’m a great human being, I do it because 20 percent is way easier to figure out than 15 percent: just divide your bill by ten, then double it.

To give 15 percent I’d have to divide my bill by ten, divide that number by two, then add those two numbers together and I’d rather give a waitress a couple extra bucks than do any extra math. Like most of my moral stances I have both feet firmly planted on the path of least resistance.

And if you’re wondering whether to tip on the restaurant bill before or after the taxes are added in, you’re spending way too much time thinking about it.

BTW: You guys who put on reading glasses, eye shades and sleeve garters, then get out a calculator to figure your tip look like anal retentive CPAs and if you’re on a date, the woman’s thinking you’re a cheap-ass and wondering how fast she can dump you even though you just bought her a plate load of Lobster Thermidor.

So if you’re trying to get lucky – and who isn’t? – you’re blowing it over the couple bucks you saved on the tip.

Wise up.

Do not let restaurants suggest a tip

As you can see I’ve developed some pretty firm views on tipping, but now the food industry – among others – has figured out a new way to get deeper into our pockets and I’m not happy about it.

These days, if you pay with a credit card, the credit card machine will suggest tips along the following guidelines:

A. Too much.

B. Way too much.

C. Financing your waitress’s college education.

The restaurant people have somehow convinced the rest of us to pay a generous portion of their employees’ salaries and now they’re saying we’re not giving enough and suggesting what we ought to be tipping if we weren’t a bunch of tightwads.

And it doesn’t stop there.  

Take-out orders

Once a week I go to a sandwich shop, get food to go and if I pay with a credit card I’m confronted with their tip machine suggesting how big a tip I should leave.

So far I’ve resisted leaving a tip for service I haven’t received.

If the people who hand me take-out food want a tip for service, I believe they should come to my house, do a half-ass job of wiping down my kitchen table, ask me if I want anything to drink and then disappear for 20 minutes so I’ll have a “chance to look over the menu.”

After that they have two options:

  1. Come back to my table way too often and time their arrival so they can interrupt the conversation just as I’m finishing a long story with a terrific punch line, or…

  2. Disappear entirely.

If you want that 20 percent tip, either hover around my table and display the general characteristics of someone who just snorted a line of coke at a party and is now looking for a conversation partner, or serve me a slab of ribs along with a single paper napkin to be used  for cleanup and then enter the Witness Protection program.

This is the kind of service I’ve come to expect and am willing to pay for.

The tip jar

True story.

I once ordered food to go at a Chipotle and when the cashier handed me my change, she did so while looking back over her shoulder, completely missed my hand and dropped a significant portion of a $20 bill into her own tip jar.

Must not have been the first time this happened because I believe there’s an episode of Seinfeld where the same thing happens to George Costanza and he makes the mistake of trying to retrieve his change from the tip jar and winds up banned from the restaurant.

I wrote off that missing change so I’m still welcome at my local Chipotle and you can’t say TV isn’t educational.

A list of people you may or may not want to tip

According more minimal internet research, here are the people you should tip:

  1. Wait staff: The article I read threw out a bunch of bullshit about minimum wage – like it’s your fault restaurant owners are cheap – but I believe that train has already left the station and any moral stand on your part is just going to make you look like a jerk. You’d pay $100 on a pair of shoes that make you look cool; don’t balk at 20 percent of a restaurant bill.

  2. Bartenders: Yes, tip them; you don’t want to piss off anybody mixing you something to drink. If you decide to stiff them, make sure you drink bottled beer and watch them pop off the cap.

  3. Sky caps: Yes, if you want your luggage to wind up in the same city as your flight. No, if there’s a dismembered body in your Samsonite and you’re hoping it finds its way to Singapore.

  4. Hairdressers: Yes, you only have two ears; no, if you’re trying to establish a DNA connection to Vincent Van Gogh.

  5. Bathroom attendants: Really depends on just how much help they give you – if you know what I mean. Personally, I find the idea of some old dude hanging out in a bathroom handing out towels creepy, but if that’s what floats your boat – go for it.

  6. Delivery drivers: What did they deliver? If it was a nice set of thermal underwear from Target you can get away without tipping; if it was that incredibly life-like Japanese sex doll, give ‘em a hundo – they’ve got your damn address. 

  7. Parking attendants: Depends on how nice your car is. I drive a Toyota Matrix that looks like it came in second-place in a Demolition Derby, so my incentive to tip is minimal. A parking attendant could use my POS Toyota to do a remake of the chase scene in The French Connection and I probably wouldn’t notice.

  8. Taxi drivers: One again it depends. If they dropped you off in front of a Lutheran church you can get away with a minimal tip; if it was Lucky Lucy’s Massage Parlor, make it a nice one – and ask for Lucy.  

  9. Hotel workers: Not at the hotels I pick.

  10. Humor writers: Of course. It cost a measly $5 a month to read this stuff, but nobody ever said you couldn’t pay more. Throw something in my tip jar and I’ll try to be extra funny.

But I’m drawing the line at prostate exams.

Mail call

How a month’s worth of mail stacked up...

I recently went on vacation for an entire month and was somewhat concerned with what I’d find when I got back to Kansas City. But not to worry; my house was still standing and my family still lived there.

So far, so good.

That left a month’s worth of mail.

The real stuff

In an entire month I received three pieces of mail that actually mattered:

  1. A statement from my syndicate indicating how much my political cartoons had earned in the previous month.

  2. A pension check.

  3. A credit card bill that let me know where the first two items would be spent.

After that, nothing but bullshit and here that bullshit is.

A Chief’s schedule

The dealership I bought a used car from 11 years ago sent me a Chief’s schedule and the hope is I’ll use a magnet to attach it to my fridge and then when I’m looking up the Chief’s Bye Week – November 24th – I’ll think: “Hey, I’ve got a free weekend, maybe I should buy another car!”

They also offered me $50 under their “Fuck Your Friends” program if I send you to them and you buy a car. So if you buy a Hyundai any time soon, remember to mention my name.

After taking a look at that credit card bill, I could use the 50 bucks.

A financial planning offer

This one started out by saying the fact that I had saved $500,000 put me in a special category.

Yes, that would, wouldn’t it?

The fact that this financial planner was so wildly misinformed about how much money I have under my mattress means I’m not going to trust them with the little bit I have.

A loan offer

This one came with a check for $4,000 made out in my name that I could deposit right away which would allow me to go into debt immediately!

Talk about an offer you can’t refuse!

They suggested I could use the money to: “Make large purchases, pay unexpected bills” or make “home renovations.” In the fine print it said: “Please make sure you have the available credit before using this check.”

But no worries; according to my financial planner I’ve got a half-million bucks.

An offer of cheap auto insurance

This one said I had been “pre-approved” and assured me their rates were lower than whatever fly-by-night insurance company I was currently using. The notice was sent to me as “courtesy” and I know that because it said so right at the top of the front page.

If you made it to the back page the fine print said the offer was not guaranteed if in reality I did not meet their criteria. So when they found out I once ran over someone’s foot with a ’63 Buick LeSabre, I figured I would no longer be “pre-approved” and shitcanned their offer.

Important account information

This one wondered why I haven’t used the credit card they sent me, which I never wanted in the first place.

I bought some shirts in Dallas, Texas and the salesperson said I should sign up for some program that would give me an immediate discount, but failed to point out I would get an endless series of emails and an unrequested credit card as part of the deal.

I may have also signed away my first-born male child, so I hope my son Matt likes Texas.

A credit card offer

This one came with a postcard headlined “CASH BACK MADE SIMPLE.”

The postcard was accompanied by a sheet of paper 26 inches long – I measured – folded over six times and covered with the fine print that explained their “simple” offer. Seemed like you couldn’t trust these guys – maybe they should go to work in a Dallas, Texas clothing store.

An offer of a free trip

Turns out I had been randomly selected to receive a free trip and all I had to do was call a toll-free number to collect.

If you read the fine print it also turned out the “free” trip required attendance at a 90-minute sales seminar and “certain restrictions” would apply. I decided a guy with my financial resources – according to an expert I’ve got half a million bucks…somewhere – didn’t need to listen to a 90-minute sales pitch because somewhere around the 46th minute I’d probably jump out the closest window.

Wonder if those auto insurance guys also sell life insurance.

A rewards certificate

The Dallas, Texas shirt guys also sent me a credit card bill for the credit card I have never activated or used and while my previous balance and my current balance were both $0.00, they also informed me I had $3,400 in credit just lying around and maybe I should get on it and go further in debt.

And for being such a great customer, I got a $10 rewards certificate which I better hurry up and use or lose.

Pretty sure that free $10 would cost me more than I want to spend.

An offer to buy my heating and air conditioning system

This one had to be my favorite for its convoluted reasoning which actually got me to read the whole thing.

This company was offering to “buy” my heating and air conditioning system which made me wonder if they’d make an offer on my plumbing as well. Also, my basement leaks when it rains hard, so maybe they could also purchase the foundation under my house.

The offer to buy my heating and A/C came with an expiration date and a notice that “special” financing was available which meant all this had to happen by September 14th. Obviously this guy needs to install my heating system in his house before winter sets in and he’s only making this fabulous offer because he’s desperate.

It’s the only logical explanation.

After adding up my Trade-in and Recycle System Discount, Utility Rebates and Energy Savings I was looking at a cool $2,431 and all I had to do to get that $2,431 was buy a new Deluxe Home Comfort System.

So the offer to “buy” my heating and air conditioning system was only good if I bought one of theirs.

Do the math

So that’s 12 pieces of mail in total, three of which mattered and nine that didn’t which means 75% of what I got in the mail was bullshit, which probably makes me a typical American.

But even though we have so much in common, don’t think I’m lending you any of my $500,000.

I’ve got more shirts to buy.

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