Monday, June 30, 2008
The UbiquitousTip Jar
I recall a time when it was common practice that certain service workers would receive tips from grateful customers to augment their low wages. Thus, waiters and baggage handlers, cab drivers, shoe shiners and others have become dependent upon and expectant of the tips proffered by their patrons. Ideally the amount of the tip has been commensurate with the quality of service received. With most of these types of jobs this tipping has been going on for decades, if not centuries. It is tradition. I have no problem with that. However, times have changed. Now we have something known as the "tip jar." This jar is placed on the counter next to the cash registers of ten million newly deserving service workers. Now the kid who hands you the mustard packet or rings up your purchase of breath mints is eligible for a tip. Why? Because there is a jar in front of him that has the word "tips"scrawled on it. I don't like this. What makes the ice cream scoopist or the latte pourista suddenly worthy of the tip where once they were not? Somebody just decides to place a "tip jar" in front of them one day and we must now tip them? No matter what they do?
It's not that I'm cheap (I am), it's just that it seems to me that this is not an organic process here. This is not a tradition forming by the common practice of grateful customers. No, it's a contrived, forced, coerced practice foisted on us by copycats who see a good thing and want a part of it. "They're asking for tips at the Starbuckles across the street, so I'm going to put a tip jar here at my locksmithery." And lo and behold, our locksmith makes a key, and the well-trained customer, seeing the tip jar on the counter, gives him a dollar. Voila, a fake custom is born.
Now, I have nothing against a happy customer giving the locksmith a tip, but I am against the locksmith having a jar there, silently badgering his hapless customers into giving him extra money. If this customer wanted to give the locksmith extra money, he can simply say, "keep the change." That's a real tip. That's how the customer expresses his gratitude at a job well done. Being guilted into throwing money into big fat "tip jar" is not the way to do it. And I happen to know that the workers put seed money into the jar to make it look like everybody else is leaving tips for them, so we will feel obliged to leave ours.
It seems to me that if all one has to do to receive tips is to place a one of these jars in front of himself, then we will start seeing tip jars in places heretofore undreamed of. For instance, I can imagine tip jars being placed in doctors' offices, or in front of bank tellers; held out by umpires at home plate; hanging from cockpit doors; a black-beribboned jar on top of the casket at the funeral home; a jar on the desk of the IRS agent auditing you. Why not have a tip jar for every person you come in contact with throughout the day? Then, when Mildred in Accounting hands you the Hoopnagel file, you put a buck in her tip jar. Of course, you would have your own jar, so maybe you would come out ahead in the end.
But why not forestall this kind of insanity ever coming into vogue by stopping this proliferation of tip jars now, while there is still time. I think next time I come across one of these jars, I am going reach into the jar and grab a few bucks as a reward for taking the trouble to patronize the establishment. That way, the service person won't have to say thank you after taking my order.