The Muddled Art of Tipping

When did tipping become so confusing? I’m convinced that stupid TIP JAR ruined it for those who were providing excellent service and deserving of a tip. Now it seems like every small cafe, coffee shop, bakery, sandwich ship, and ice cream parlor puts a tip jar near the cash register. The jar is always in plain site and occasionally includes a cute but pithy quote that attempts to lessen the tackiness of the appeal.

How is one supposed to determine who deserves a tip? We’ve all heard that waiters are paid less than minimum wage and rely on tips to make up the difference. So when the service is poor am I still expected to subsidize their wage? But normally I don’t have a problem tipping 18-25% for good service when dining out. The rules are understood by both parties.

But I’m confused when it comes to other situations. Am I expected to tip the gal who scoops my ice cream? What about the guy who makes my hot chocolate? Or the man who cuts my bagel? How do I know if they are making minimum wage and also rely on tips like the those working at the restaurant? At one ice cream shop the workers would break out in song whenever someone left a tip. It was bizarre. The staff looked about as excited as a group of overworked Red Robin waiters who gather around a table to sing happy birthday for the 15th time. By about the 3rd time, they are having a hard time rounding up other waiters so you notice the hostess and short order cooks getting in on the action. Whenever my waiter/waitress gets roped into singing at another table I will leave a bigger tip because I feel sorry for them.

Starbucks has been in the news lately for sharing tips with supervisors that were meant for baristas. Which makes tipping at Starbucks even more confusing since I want my tips going to the person who provided me with excellent service. How would know if the person helping me is a supervisor or hourly employee? Maybe Starbucks can put their managers in shirts than differ from the worker bees like McDonalds does.

I enjoy tipping for excellent service. But I question whether I need to shell out a few bucks to the person who scooped my ice cream or made my sandwich. Unless they do something out of the ordinary should the cost of the goods or service cover a fair wage for them?

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One thought on “The Muddled Art of Tipping

  1. When I was in high school I worked at Baskin Robbins and one of my coworkers tried to put out a tip cup and the owner blew up. I can see why now. We did receive tips now and then and they were usually from regular customers and would be handed directly to us. They were typically quite high because they would only do it once in awhile. I think I appreciated those a lot more than I would have appreciated divvying up a cup full of change at the end of the night and not even knowing who had put the money there.

    It seems like everyone expects a tip these days even if I do most of the work by filling my own drinking, carrying my own food to the table, and cleaning up after myself.


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