I am desperately seeking an answer - ONE answer - to the question: "How much should I tip?" Problem is, as we all know, there isn't one answer to this question, and a whole host of factors determine what and whether we choose to tip for an infinite number of services. Although some people never tip, citing everything from "can't afford it" to "don't believe in it," tipping isn't a "one size fits all" situation. And while for some, tipping is an opportunity to express gratitude for service delivery, others see it as an unreasonable expectation. In my experience, it can be - and has been - both. But here's the thing: tipping is part of our culture. What's more, it is perfectly reasonable to expect people to tip if and when the services provided have met any reasonable person's basic minimum requirements.
But who should you tip, and how much, and under what circumstances? There are quite a few resources out there that answer this question. I found this to be a good, quick, handy reference, though I am not above simply asking someone I know what the standard tip tends to be in his/her profession. What a considerate way of telling someone "I value your work." And since I zoned out during most of my ninth-grade math class, I often use the tip calculator on my cellphone to determine the right percentage (and trust me - if my low tech Verizon cell has this feature, your I-device most certainly has something at least as good).
The tipping situations I most dislike, however, are the ones in which I would like to tip but can't. Because the establishment either has a "no tip" policy, or a "tip sharing" policy, neither of which seems fair to the individual who may very well be providing the kinds of services that I, as a patron. would like to reward. Yes, I have often folded a $10 in my hand and stuffed it into the closed palm of a waiter or a dog groomer in cases like this, but always with the awareness that my measely bill could cost the receiver his/her job if management spots "the exchange." So I typically do respect the establishment's "no tipping" policies, offering much verbal praise and gratitude and very often following up with a letter to the manager stating how happy I was with the particular staff member I would have tipped if allowed. Sometimes such a gesture can be just as good as a tip, and I always hope it will result in anything from internal recognition to a much deserved financial reward in the form of a raise, a promotion, maybe a bonus. Because let's face it, we all take the time to complain when things go wrong, so we all have the time to reward hard work and quality service.
Even though there really are no hard and fast universal "rules" for tipping, it is really about the gesture of gratitude, of telling someone "you and your work are worth my money" that makes understanding this convention so necessary. And yes, very often, what is tip money to the tipper is a necessary part of the income for the professionals providing these services. They count on it. They perfect their skills and maintain their qualifications and licences and certifications and training so that our money will be well spent. Well invested. After all, everyone works harder and happier when appreciated. Everyone.
I am often thankful for the guaranteed (as much as anything is a guarantee) salary that comes with my current job. Every two weeks, regardless of my productivity, my moods, my energy level, or the mental and emotional distractions of my personal life, the same amount of money lands in my bank account and generates an email to let me know that, financially at least, nothing has changed and everything I expected to happen has happened. I did my work. I got paid. Period.
This isn't always a consolation on those weeks of twelve-hour days, where I pay to put my puppy in daycare several days a week and pay $50 a month to park a twenty-minute (uphill) walk from my office, which sits smack dab in the middle of downtown Albany, New York where there are no stores, no coffee shops, no lunch places that even come close to meeting my dietary preferences. And on days where I decide to turn all these minor details into major factors, I lament that I am not being paid what I am worth. But then there are days - we all have them, and we all deny them - where I am simply too tired, too unfocused, too overwhelmed, or simply too busy with the rest of life's demands to show up mentally for work, even though my body is present, my fingers are typing, my mouth is spewing all the right jargon and data. But my mind is elsewhere. And still, I get paid. So, I guess it all balances out somewhere. I'll let you know when I retire.
But until then, here's are a few tips from me to you: There are lots of ways to tip that don't involve any money at all. "Thank you" is always free and always allowed. Good customer service is more likely to happen to good customers. Kindness and appreciation goes both ways - if you expect to receive it, expect to give a little, too. And when it comes to the financial aspects of tipping, when in doubt ... just do it.
So, what do you think? To tip or not to tip?
Until next time,