Tipping: Some Reasonable Guidelines

These days, tipping is more or less expected in some retail establishments. Here are some ways you can save money on the practice

If you’ve ever worked in a service environment, then you’re probably all for tipping. Nothing feels better, after all, than getting a little bit of extra money for doing a good job of making a customer happy.

But when you look at tipping from the point of view of the savvy consumer, it’s not all that rosy. Basically, things have gotten to the point where you have to bribe someone just to expect good treatment. Is that really necessary?

Strong-arm Tactics

Let me state for the record that I understand the point of tipping, and I don’t mind tipping if the circumstances warrant.

But here’s the thing. Employers have taken advantage of American largesse by incorporating tipping into their business models, and the government has institutionalized their cheapness. Legally, businesses can pay employees well below legal minimum wage if they can expect to receive tips.

The employers push the responsibility to pay their employees onto us, and justify it by claiming that tips are necessary “to insure prompt service.” Uh… right. Would you accept that in a sporting goods store or a bank? I think not.

What Are You Gonna Do?

You could consciously decide to save money instead. First of all, tips are mostly a feature of restaurants and bars; and if you’re trying to save cash, what are you doing there in the first place?

Second, it’s your right and privilege to tip generously… or not. If your server did a good job — not just the minimum expected, or an average job — then you might decide to tip them the standard 15-20%. You shouldn’t tip poor service at all, if only because it sends the wrong message.

The idea is to motivate the server to do better, not teach them that they’ll get rewarded the same no matter what they do. That’s already a big enough problem in our society.

The Bottom Dollar

Here’s one way to tip and still give someone a cool reward: use unusual money. A two-dollar bill, a golden dollar, or something similar will make someone sit up and take notice, and will be valued far beyond its pecuniary value.

I know a coin collector who gives away his less-valuable buffalo nickels, which are worth at most a few bucks each, as gratuities. Wait staff love to receive them, because they’re so rare.

The Cheapskate Argument

So what if someone thinks you’re a cheapskate because you don’t tip to expected standards? Aren’t you? Wouldn’t you rather save those extra bucks toward something that really matters, like your kid’s education, a cleansing ionic foot bath, or a cruise? Of course you would.

Why waste money tipping when you don’t need to?