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.