Tip For a Curmudgeon

 I don’t hate tipping, I hate the institution of tipping. It seems too reminiscent of a class structure that treated workers and alms beggars in similar manner. I think workers, minimum wage workers, should be paid enough to live above the poverty level. But, we all know that isn’t the case. Many of us also know that service workers are sometimes paid below minimum wage on the expectation that they will make up for the deficiency in tips. That means a tip, or gratuity if you prefer, does not amount to rewarding good work; it means the business isn’t even paying its employees the minimum wage normally required by law. Doesn’t seem fair.

I had lunch in town, not our village, recently at a popular sandwich and salad place. The food is good, and there isn’t generally a long wait. Of course, you pick up your food order yourself, and bus you table when you finish your meal.  So, while the staff is usually friendly and processes your order quickly, no one waits on you at your table. That’s fine. What bothers me, is this particular place has become pretty aggressive in trying to get customers to tip as well. Tip for what? You serve yourself. Tip because the staff is underpaid? There are tip jars at each cash register where you stand to place your order. In addition, if you use a credit card there is a screen on the card reader that requires you say “yes” you want to leave a tip, or “no” you do not want to leave a tip before your transaction is complete. At that point, you haven’t even picked up your order. It just seems pretty pushy to me. Maybe I’m a curmudgeon. I’ve nothing against the staff. I just hate the idea of tipping, let alone tipping under coercion.

When I tip, I think I’m fairly generous. I had a friend once who didn’t like to leave much of a tip. In fact, you had to kind of watch him because he would wait for everyone else at the table to contribute their share and then cover the bill with his credit card, pocketing the cash. What you had to watch out for, was whether he left an adequate tip for the wait staff or lessened the total due as a result of the generosity of others. I’ve also been in too many situations where a group of coworkers ate together and someone didn’t even leave their fair share, let alone a tip. These are cases of people simply being cheap. Dishonest might be a better word.

I think my series protagonist, Bobby Navarro, always leaves a decent tip when tipping is expected. He’s a down-to-earth, generous guy. He would never stiff a waitress, or a coworker. That just would not be in keeping with his character. I like that about Bobby. I just hate the business of tipping though. How about you? Have you ever read of a private detective or amateur sleuth who didn’t tip well? What’s your take on the whole thing?

By the way, in case you were wondering, I just think it’s good to gripe about something other than politics once in a while. Not that minimum wage isn’t a political issue. Maybe I should be more like Bobby Navarro, just tip well and never mind the rest. But then, like I said, he’s a generous guy, and not at all a curmudgeon.


  1. I’m with you Glenn! I always leave a good tip to the person who serves my food or prepares my cocktail, the person who provides a service other than standing behind a counter and taking my order. I don’t tip the person at the counter. Their employer should be paying them for doing their job, same as my employer paid me. On a trip to Oregon recently, every single automated credit card machine (even those at convenience stores!) ‘conveniently’ instructed me how to leave 15, 20, 25% to the guy who stood there and took my order or put my chips in a bag. Not happening!

  2. KLConnelly says:

    Well, as you know, I’m in California. Yes we tip most of the time 20%, but a friend tips only on the food, not on the tax. He simply looks at the total before it was taxed. That started to make a lot of sense to me until I realized that the server was not going to look at it in the same manner. Good server, attentive, 20% regardless of the quality of the food. Self serve, no tip. P.S. a tip at the car wash makes a difference??

    • Like you, I tip on the total, although I know people who only tip on the food. I also like to round up a bit to avoid calculating small percentage amounts to be exactly at the 20% point. Sometimes I go above twenty percent when I thought the service was really good. Thanks for your comment. Good to hear from you.

  3. I haven’t seen the machine prompt in other places besides the one lunch shop. I guess I’ve been lucky and can expect to see this more often. I should have mentioned tips for the people who clean motel rooms. Sometimes there’s an envelope for a tip, and sometimes not. I suspect there are mixed feelings about tipping for maid service? Thanks for your comment and for visiting my blog. Great to hear from you.

  4. Like you I hate the institution of tipping. But I’ve learned the tip isn’t going to the server (at least not all of it). In most restaurants tips are divided, proportionately I believe, with the busboys(or busgirls), the kitchen and anyone else. The businesses aren’t just underpaying the wait staff, but everyone. If I’m really rewarding good service, I’ll leave the 20% on my card and then some cash on the table. I think that’s why the tip jar at counters has become so prevalent. I still don’t tip at counters unless I’m getting a more elaborate meal and then I do cut the amount. Sometimes, if I’m paying cash I’ll leave whatever change I get. (But if I’m honest it’s not out of generosity but because I hate lugging around coins.)

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