The reader is probably saying to himself or herself, this guy is crabby (what was your first clue, Nimrod?) and perhaps even a bit surly, and, therefore, just doesn’t like giving tips. WRONG! I have no problem with giving gratuities to waiters, barbers, and all those individuals we traditionally tip for providing good service. Furthermore, I traditionally tip 20% at restaurants because it’s easy to do the math in my head. But there are two trends that dial up my rage.
First, it seems anybody and everybody is putting out their little tip jars expecting “a little something extra” for doing nothing particularly extra for me. Cashiers now have tip jars, and I suspect we are about a year or two away from receptionists/secretaries having such jars front-and-center on their desks. (e.g. “Mr. Watson, you want me to type up a letter of gratitude to a customer for a $7 million sales contract, you know $1.4mil is the usual tip for that sort of thing.”) Admittedly, part of my chagrin here is that I put my goldfish bowl out weeks ago with a starter $100 bill, and haven’t gotten a single tip to date. All there is in the jar is the Benjamin and a dust bunny (the latter, presumably, because I failed to tip the janitor.)
Second, restaurants have increasingly become devious about hiding a 20+% tip in the bill, and then having the audacity include a tip line – implying the server should get 35 or 45%. Now, first, let me say that I understand the original impetus for adding in tips on large groups. You get a large group (increasingly defined as three or more people) and it is easy for the server to be stiffed owing to a combination of the collective action problem and the abysmal math skills of Americans. So I didn’t mind when they started putting in the “18% gratuity” line as long as I could ask to have it knocked down if the server …say… set one of my party on fire. However, I recently inspected an itemized bill for a big party (about a dozen) and found a line that added about 22% to the pre-tax subtotal labeled “Service Charge”. Now, if I had just looked at the credit card receipt, I would have only seen the subtotal that included this “Service Charge” and a line to write in a tip, and I would have added another 18-20% onto a bill that included a 22% charge for the waiter’s service already.
This all makes me want to move to a country, like China, that doesn’t do tipping, but the spectacular spread of American TV shows and movies almost guarantees that no such place will soon exist. Some poor Chinese schlub will eventual see an old “Friends” episode, and will say, “You mean I can get people to pay me for doing what the boss already pays me for? I love America.”