I picked up dinner at a SaladWorks tonight and was annoyed by an obnoxious tip jar on the counter. I don’t mind tipping for good service, even mediocre service actually. It’s always been a standard at restaurants, barbers, bars and other establishments that have for decades relied on a model whereby the employees are paid at below-market rates and they are compensated for their service with additional tips from customers. If they’re bad at their job, they make less than they could elsewhere, perhaps even less than minimum wage. If they’re great at their job, they can make well more than their peers or a typical straight pay job commensurate with their skills elsewhere.
What annoys me is the expectation to tip when no such expectation should exist. I am continually confronted with situations where people are now expecting a tip when there was never such an expectation just a few years ago, or I’m not quite sure what to tip if perhaps they do deserve something. Some examples:
- Salad Works – OK, so I reeled off two salad combos, she whipped together some stuff, threw in a dressing container and asked what type of bread I’d want with that. She wasn’t very friendly either. Yet, there’s a large tip jar, which surely contained some “starter funds” that the employees throw in there at the beginning of a shift to shame you into tipping. Well, this was a no-brainer for me. No tip. She’s getting paid the going rate for a restaurant employee and I don’t understand what she could do to earn a tip frankly. She didn’t bring the food to me after all, she didn’t give me great service, didn’t give me anything “extra”, and we interacted for probably 75 seconds. Why would I tip her? And why does the establishment even allow (or encourage) a tip jar on their counter?
- Restaurant Where I Cook My Own Food – This was a first. We went to a place where they have various foods on shish kabobs and some guy explains to you what’s on each one and you pick the one you like. You then take it yourself over to a series of giant open grills and grill it yourself. This was a surprise birthday party (that I had to pay for haha, my wife threw it for me), so I wasn’t prepared for additional expenses. But I wasn’t really sure what to do here. If our total meal was say, $50, how much to tip the guy who reels off the foods? I mean, he did come over to show us where the sauces were, he gave us our sides, but it certainly wasn’t a full service waiter – and I cooked the food myself! I think I gave him 5 bucks, I don’t recall specifically, but how much would you tip there? This was uncharted territory for me.
- Gas Station Attendant – I am continually annoyed when I travel to New Jersey and need to sit in my car and watch some guy strut car to car pumping the gas for 6 waiting cars when we could just do it ourselves like 48 or the other 49 states in the Union. Aside from the fact that it’s an epic waste of time, I’m basically paying this guy’s salary for a completely unnecessary service. I know, people in New Jersey will argue that they have the lowest gas prices. That’s apples and oranges. New Jersey levies very low gas taxes on their residents – and then hits them with the highest real estate taxes in the country! But that’s not the point. I typically give the guy my card and off I go. However, sometimes I’m with a friend that ALWAYS asks the attendant to check his oil for him. I don’t know, that just seems kind of elitist to me. I mean, checking your oil is so easy and there’s no reason it needs to be checked twice a week. But if he’s going to make the guy check his oil, should he tip him a buck? I probably would, it’s above and beyond the simple pumping exercise I so despise.
- Ice Cream Shop – I wrote about this once before for Cold Stone Creamery (where they at least sign for you if you leave a tip!), but now I’m seeing tip jars at ALL ice cream places. We went to a local ice cream shop the other night and there’s a tip jar right on top of the register – can’t miss it! Am I supposed to tip the kid for scooping my ice cream? I don’t know, this wasn’t expected 10 years ago, but now it seems to be everywhere.
I don’t know if it’s a sign of the times, or I’m an old far or what, but it seems as though tipping expectations have changed quite a bit. Some will say, “Oh, it’s the economy”. I don’t know, are teenage kids having trouble paying the mortgage? I don’t think so. Also, if the economy’s so bad, that means us – the patrons, are struggling too and establishments should be happy we’re even frequenting their establishment. Why are you shaming your customer into tipping?
Have You Had It With New Tip Jars?