Philadelphia Metropolis


The Tipping Point

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By Roz Warren Thumbnail image for tipping.jpg

Yesterday morning my car wouldn't start, so I phoned Triple A. Ten minutes later, an affable guy in a truck turned up to give my car a jump. As he worked on my battery, we chatted about the Phillies, Cory Booker, and the weather. When my car was running again, I thanked him.

"Can I give you a little extra?" I asked, handing him a five.

His face lit up. "Thanks!" he said. "I appreciate it."

The jump was free. My membership dues covered it. He didn't expect a tip. But I got a kick out of giving him one.

I like to tip. I'm not rich. I work in a public library. I drive a 10-year-old car. I'm frugal by nature. But giving somebody a generous tip always makes me feel like a million bucks.

I was a waitress for years. People who have waited on others usually tip well, although I do know one ex waitress who doesn't tip unless the service is exceptional. "I'm not going to tip somebody just for doing his job," she says. If the service is poor, she doesn't leave a cent. When it comes to tipping, everyone has his own rules.

I know folks who barely have a dime themselves who leave generous tips, and at least one millionaire who never leaves more than 10 percent, even when the service is outstanding. (His wife usually slips some extra cash onto the table when he isn't looking.) I know one business traveler who generously tips everyone but the maid who cleans his hotel room. Why? "It's not as if I trash the room like a rock star," he says. "I never leave a mess. I don't yank the flat screen off the wall and throw it out the window. I don't even drop my used towels on the floor. All she really has to do is replace the soap and change the sheets."

I always tip. In fact, I usually over-tip. It's fun to give folks more money than they expect. It doesn't cost much to make someone's day. I'm a happy person. I like to spread the joy around.

Even if the service is ordinary, I'll tip at least 20 percent. If the service is abysmal, I might only tip 15. As an ex-waitress who was "stiffed" a few times myself, I'm reluctant to leave the devastating "You are worthless" message that withholding a tip sends. "Maybe there's a reason she forgot to bring my appetizer, served me a sirloin burger instead a veggie burger and then spilled hot coffee all over my handbag," I'll think to myself. "Maybe she's distracted because she's going through an acrimonious divorce. Maybe she has a terminal illness."

I don't want to increase the poor woman's suffering by failing to leave her a tip.

I recently asked my new haircutter for a blunt cut.

"Please, whatever you do, don't feather it," I asked.

Of course, she feathered it. When she was done and I put my glasses back on and saw myself in the mirror, I was appalled.

Vowing never to return to her salon, I tipped her anyway.

It's not her fault she's an idiot.

What about the argument that denying her a tip would motivate her to improve? When I was a waitress, I never saw much connection between tipping and quality of service. Some people excelled at waiting tables. Others were awful at it. Tipping didn't seem to change that. All I know is that nobody wanted to wait on the customers who were known to be bad tippers. They always ended up with the newest, most incompetent servers. They didn't appreciate exceptional service, so why waste it on them?

When in doubt, I tip. It may not be expected, but it's always appreciated. Nobody ever says "No thanks," and hands the money back. I tip waiters, haircutters, the gas station attendant who fills my tank, and the muscular dudes who move my piano. I leave money on the nightstand for the maid who cleans my hotel room, even though I'm very tidy. I always tip cab drivers, even when they drive too fast and I disagree with the political views blaring from the radio.

Try it yourself. If you afford to, why not tip generously? You'll be creating a little extra happiness, and this world needs all the happiness it can get.

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