Explosion of the New Gilded Age

It’s a wet and dreary Monday afternoon and I’m driving to the hospital where I work part time. The dark clouds hanging low in the sky have soaked up what’s left of the day’s sunlight, causing the headlights from passing cars to generate diffuse halos in the misting rain. As I drive down the street I spy a Dunkin’ Donuts on my left. I’m working the evening shift and my bloodstream’s crying out for coffee My internist told me to cut back on the stuff after I got diagnosed with gastritis. I pull into the doughnut shop’s parking lot anyway. I have to be awake and alert for several hours. My doctor doesn’t.

I walk into the shop and wait in line behind the truck drivers, landscapers, soccer moms, and teenagers ordering their late afternoon caffeine fix. Two young men are working behind the counter. As I listen to them chat with the customers, I detect an Arab accent. I’m not surprised. Many of the Dunkin’ Donut franchises near me are owned by Arabs. As I wait in line I idly wonder what part of the Middle East these young men are from. Egypt? Jordan? Saudi Arabia? Who knows? A linguist might be able discern a regional accent, but I can’t. I smile inwardly as I remember an Arab woman I dated for a few months. She introduced me to Arab cuisine and gave me a glimpse into a culture that’s always been a mystery to me. We smoked that hookah more than a few times.

“Sir?” the young man behind the counter says, interrupting my reverie. “What can I get you, sir?”

“A medium coffee, please,” I reply. “One cream. One sugar.”

“One milk and one sugar?” the young man repeats.

“One cream and sugar.”

“Okay, sir.”

As the young man prepares my coffee I look at the tip jar on the counter. The clear plastic box holds a lonely dollar and a couple of orphaned dimes. Normally I just put the change from my coffee purchases into tip jars like these, but put I detect an opportunity here. I am writing a book about tipping after all.

“Do you mind if I ask you a question?” I ask the counter man as he hands me my coffee.

“What about?” he asks, looking suspiciously at me.

I glance behind me. No one’s waiting on line. “I’m a writer,” I explain. “And I’m writing a book about tipping.”

“Really?” the young man says. “Are you pulling my leg?”

“No really,” I say. “I’m for real. I wrote a book about waiters. I was on Oprah and everything.”

“Oprah, wow!”

I’ve learned that telling people I was on Oprah gets their attention.

“Can I ask you about your tip jar?” I ask.

“Sure,” the counter man says. “Hey Amjad,” he says, waving to his coworker. “Come here.”

“What?” the other worker asks.

“This guy’s a writer and he wants to talk about our tip jar.”

Amjad looks me over. “What do you want to know?”

“How much do you make a day from the tip jar?” I ask.

“Rami and I split what’s in the jar,” Amjad says. “We walk out of here with fourteen to fifteen dollars  every day.”

“Is that a normal amount?”

“No,” Rami says. “We used to take home twenty dollars a shift.”

“So the tips have gone down?”

“Ever since things got bad,” Amjad says. “People are tipping less.”

“They still buying the same stuff?” I ask. “Coffee? Doughnuts? Sandwiches?”

“People aren’t cutting back on what they buy, mister,” Rami says. “They’re cutting back on what they tip.”

“I don’t want to ask what you make an hour,” I say carefully.  “But do you count on what you get from the tip jar? Is it a big source of income?”

“You better believe it mister.” Amjad says. “Rami and I work six days a week. We both used to take home almost five hundred bucks a month from the tip jar.”

“Wow,” I reply. “That’s a lot of money.”

“Since things got bad,” Rami says. “We’re taking home, what Amjad? One-fifty less a month?”

“That’s about right.”

“That’s a hit,” I admit. “Would you say the tips you receive are essential?”

“The boss here pays us what he pays us,” Rami says. “But we need the tip money.”

“One more question,” I say.

“What?” Rami says.

“Does the owner ever skim from the jar?”

“He’s our uncle,” Amjad says smiling. “He better not.”

“That’s all I need to know,” I say, dropping a ten spot into the tip jar. “Thanks for the information.”

“You’re welcome, sir,” Rami says.

I walk back to my car and drive to the hospital. The hospital sits on the top of a large hill. The employee parking lot, of course, is at the bottom of that hill. I slip into an empty slot, kill the engine, grab my umbrella, and begin the ascent to the main entrance. As I walk, I think about what those young men at the Dunkin’ Donuts told me. I hear about Americans tightening their belts on television everyday. Many Americans are in genuine financial distress, but let’s face it, some aren’t. I fear that some people are using the current economic situation as excuse to rationalize their new found parsimoniousness regarding tipping. If you can afford to go out to eat, order soy mocha lattes, or order a box of pastries, you can afford to leave a tip. If you can’t, you shouldn’t be buying those things.

I know some people are angry that there are tip jars in places like Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks. But as Amjad and Rami illustrate, they count on that money to help make ends meet. Don’t get angry at them or the tip jars. They’re a symptom, not a problem. Many tipped workers aren’t paid a living wage which causes the American public to basically subsidize the labor costs of both small businesses and multi-billion dollar corporations alike.  Annoying isn’t it? Over the four plus years I’ve written this blog tipping is a hot topic. The normal retort I get from the uber red meat capitalist commenters when I discuss this stuff is “You don’t like my tip? You don’t like the money you make? Get another job you bum!”

But now the tables have turned. Many of those “uber capitalists” are now working for (or used to)  enfeebled companies that are going hat in hand to the American taxpayer for over a trillion dollars worth of taxpayer (and Chinese) backed bailout funds. Yet again, the American public is subsidizing  the foolishness of private and corporate greed. Even as the average American worker suffers, CEO corporate beggars arrogantly fly into Washington on private jets. Food pantries are running out of canned goods, families won’t have a turkey on the table this Thanksgiving, and these morons are still clinging to the trappings of excessive pay and greed. Maybe those bums need to get another job.

I don’t know squat about economics. Maybe the bailouts are a good idea. Maybe we do need to rescue the auto industry. I hope the outgoing and incoming Presidential administrations can work things out. Things are bad. And they’ll get worse before they get better. But don’t stiff a tipped worker their pay. That’s not the way to go. They need to contribute to the economy too

I walk into the hospital’s main entrance. Clusters of people are sitting in the waiting room. Many of faces that look up at me as I walk in are Latino, African-American, or Arab. Most of them probably don’t have health insurance. I’m sure those bankrupt idiots flying on Gulfstream Vs have health insurance. Assholes.

I walk down to my unit. There are some people there who will never be well no matter what the economy does or who the President is. They say change is coming. It had better come fast. As they posture and debate in Washington, we’re being hit with shrapnel from the explosion of the New Gilded Age.

You’d better duck.


Comments

Explosion of the New Gilded Age — 100 Comments

  1. It really sucks that people are cutting back on tipping because of the economy. Still, nice to see you back writing regularly. All the best.

  2. Amen to that! I always tip in coffee shops or places with tip jars where workers don’t normally get tips from customers. Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. Hmmm, you put into words exactly what I would like to point out to people that used to tell me to “get a new job!!.” Yay for that!

  4. I love the ‘get a new job’ people, especially since 500,000 people lost their jobs last week. I don’t know what the solution is, but this looting of the treasury really needs to stop. Sorry about the politics, Steve. Still love the writing.

  5. I don’t necessarily depend on the tip jar money but it helps my situation substantially. I work in a bookstore that has a cafe, so when I work in the cafe, the tips go straight to my laundry budget. I’m not making a lot of money to begin with, and it costs me about 8 dollars to do laundry every week.
    The tips, just from the beginning of October, have gotten significantly worse. And I’m not expecting a lot. Just put in the extra change you have. Want to keep your quarters? Give me dimes and pennies. I can change them out for quarters at the end of my shift. Do you really need that 19 cents?

  6. I just had a history project where we were all different Philosophers and we had to interact and discuss how the world was doing (in protorevolution France). I was Adam Smith, founder of capitalism. I too know zip about economics. Actually, I’m not even taking a math class this year in high school. That being said, I know enough to know that capitalism doesn’t work. Neither does its predecessor mercantilism.

    Capitalism dictates that human greed will drive the economy. People are greedy enough to try to make money and others are greedy enough to spend money to get good products. If a product doesn’t work, than a consumer doesn’t but it and the market checks and balances itself. The problem Adam Smith didn’t see was that fear can outweigh greed. If the economy is doing poorly, people will stop spending. With less money in circulation, the economy will slow further. This downward spiral will continue until, well…we’re forced to adopt a new system.

    What most people don’t even know, however, is that America doesn’t have a pure capitalistic system. No one does. Pure capitalism is hands off from the government. That includes no taxes.

  7. We haven’t lost out jobs and aren’t in serious financial trouble, but we definitely lived beyond our means for a bit. We are taking this opportunity to cut back so that we are in better shape should hings go south for us.

    That being said, we may not go out as often, but we certainly have not cut back on tipping. I see it as part of the cost of the service, and it would be morally wrong to penalize those who rely on that to get by.

    When I was in college I worked at an ice cream stand. The tip jar typically amounted to about 3 hours of additional wage per shift. Of course, I generally used that money for drinking after my shift.

  8. I agree that, if people can afford to tip, it’s the nice thing to do. But if you’re low on cash, and can barely afford your coffee or donut, it’s better for the employees to have business and no tips than no business at all. Also, it doesn’t make long-term sense for customers to subsidize wages through tipping; it will only keep wages DOWN.

    And yes, many corporations/banks/etc have been irresponsible. But so have a HUGE amount of the American public. A really huge amount.

    I don’t have any solutions either, I just think it’s a lot more nuanced than this post suggests.

    http://www.charlotte-faulkner.blogspot.com

  9. It’s my understanding that the people that work behind counters are usually not tipped employees, but minimum-wage employees. Shouldn’t we maybe be looking at why the minimum wage is so low that a person can’t afford to live on it at 40 hours a week? Is that because the wage is too low or because everything else is so high? And if everything is so high, and the price of EVERYTHING comes down to what it costs to pay the people involved in producing it, then how can prices be high and not wages, unless the money is going into the pockets of management?

    And while management is important, and very few completely decentralized organizations ever manage to even bring a product to market, much less succeed, is the skill of seeing the bigger picture and organizing the production efforts really significant to the point of justifying such huge pay scales as today’s big CEOs receive?

    Which is more important in a car, the engine or the steering wheel?

    And then… imagine a person only has so much money to spend each month. Let’s say that the amount of money usually dedicated to petty luxuries has to go down, due to the economy. Where is that deficit best removed? Should it be at the expense of tipped workers, in staying home and then being able to have those donuts on the way to work and afford to pay a tip to an employee making the full minimum wage? Should it come at the expense of those morning confections altogether, so that the tipped employees can stay afloat? Or is it a trade-off, a compromise, of going to restaurants a bit less, and tipping the staff there the appropriate amount, while having a little less to spare for those who are making an hourly wage that is much larger than the tipped employee?

  10. My mother had to wait tables when I was a baby to help my father support my two older sisters and I. She always tips and tips very generously I may add, because as she puts it, “the person receiving those tips may be depending on those tips to buy their babies milk.”

    To this day I always tip at least 20%. The economy can only get better by starting at the foundation of this country which is the working class. The big conglomerates want it to go the other way around. Heaven forbid if they can’t buy that island they’ve had their eye on.

  11. I don’t agree that if people can’t afford the tips they were used to, should stop eating out or cut back on that afternoon/mornig coffee. Is that gonna help the employees. I’d say, no.
    There may be people using it as an excuse (perhaps mainly those which didn’t tip good or anything), but there are people who are in financial trouble. You can’t expect from them to leave a good tip.
    I’d say be thankful to those, because in better times they may come back if they really felt welcomed and perhaps leave a good tip.
    American society needs to rethink their tipping policies anyway. It causes a lot of trouble.

  12. You should tip for outstanding service. And for nothing else.
    But fair wages are far more important. That is rebuilding from bottom up.

  13. there will be no change. Obama and Mccain had the same policies. The economy is crashing because of overprinting of a fiat currency and overregulation. The media tells you exactly the opposite which is why you know i’m right. Ron Paul was the only guy with the right idea, and now we are fucked. Buy gold and silver, you idiots. And forget the socialism- it never works. Freedom and a TRULY free market are the only thngs that will work, and we haven’t had either for a long time and we’re not getting either with Barack.

  14. Financing corporate greed , sounds like my job.
    You get charged a delivery fee it goes to the store, not the driver . Speaking of delivery fee they cut our gas down but not the fee, typical. Driver rewards for no accidents…not anymore. Min. wage no , not anymore now you are a tipped employee and must claim so much whether you get a tip or not . Today , no more drinks , no matter that it gets 100 degrees in the summer and the a/c works half-time.
    Corporate Greed.

  15. Tipping–a very interesting topic. In Denver, I know of 2 different restaurants whose owners keep or have kept all of the tips. One owner has no idea why they can’t keep help.

  16. I’m all for tipping employees who don’t make at least minimum wage, but how far are we going to take this? Should we tip the clerks in the video store? The sales lady that helps you find the right pants? Your child’s teacher to ensure he gets some extra help? I think the tip jars go a little too far. And yes, I do need that 19 cents.

  17. Since I started reading your blog, I have never stiffed a server. Until last week. I’ve made the transition to using cash for my limited entertainment budget. If I know I have forty dollars to spend I’m not going to buy my friends a round. I ordered one beer for less than three dollars, because we weren’t staying long. In fact, my friends and I were supposed to be somewhere within the hour. We told the waitress we were leaving and to bring the check while the boys went out to get the car.
    When she brought the check, it was all together, though we had asked for it to be split. I put five dollars on the table and we figured out the rest between the cards the boys had left. It took her probably twenty minutes to bring us our cards back. In those twenty minutes she dropped off and picked up a tab at a neighboring table and brought out three rounds of drinks. I understand being busy and not wanting to split the check, but I felt I was justified in changing my five for three dollars, only slightly more than the cost of my drink. I felt really bad about it later, but…

  18. I recently visited Aspen, Colorado. Tip jars are everywhere. The employees, of course, cannot afford to live in Aspen, they commute from nearby Basalt. I tipped well at every jar I saw. It’s the voluntary miniscule version of Obama’s “spread the wealth” socialist idea, but without government intervention. If you see a tip jar, there’s a good reason for it…Always Tip!

  19. I disagree completely that if you can’t afford to tip stay home and don’t spend at all. You want to see a recession – go right ahead and do that.
    Hannah – keep studying, you’ll learn there’s more to Smith than you realise and fear can play a legitimate part in the market.
    Lastly, tipping subsidised unrealistic wages. The economic realities are simple – wages will never improve if they don’t have to. And should all workers who feel they are under-paid demand tips? I’m a lawyer but would like more money – where should I leave my tip jar, on the receptionist’s desk or maybe a meeting room? You want good advice from me – don’t you dare stiff me!

  20. You could say people are using the economy as an excuse to intentionally tip less, but I think it’s at least as possible that the average customer picking up coffee or a donut is genuinely scared, concerned, or at least unsure. Consciously spending less so as to be better able to sock away a rainy-day fund doesn’t necessarily make someone cheap or a lousy human. I do think people are buying buck-fifty coffees when they were buying cappuccinos six months ago. If that person is now tipping their fifty cents change instead of a buck, it’s not because they’re not doing their share. It’s because they want to make sure they come through this, too.

  21. I am currently living in a country where a very generous tip would be 10% and the average German rounds his bill up to the nearest Euro. I still tip on am American system and for that I do not receive anything but contempt for my idiocy. I am moving away from a lifelong habit (inculcated by being a server/bartender myself) to realize that in this country-as it should be in the US- everyone has a living wage. The unemploed here get a living wage. That’s the way the US should be as well: everyone should have, a s a minimum, food, shelter, clothing, health care and daycare for their kids if they work as well as merit based college for their kids. Wouldn’t it be a different world? And you don’t need to have the crappy service that Germans generally provde, because there are other countries where this is true and the natural sunniness of the national character shines through.
    Btw- I make my own coffee. 4+ for a latte plus tip is too much for me.

  22. I live in London and the US tipping culture is very difficult to understand. Although this blog helps!

    If a tip is truly optional and distretionary then is should be a pleasant surprise to receive a tip.

    If you pay your staff so badly that you have to guilt your customers to offering them a handout then you are the source of the problem.

    Often in the UK places with have a 15% service charge added to the bill for just this reason. The is no ambiguity, the customer knows what they are paying, they can pay in on the credit card, the waiter is guaranteed the money and the boss knows that his customers understand that at least 15% of what they pay goes to the staff.

    However, this is taxed! I am guessing the treasury arn’t seeing a dime from the starbucks tip jar.

  23. I totally agree, if you can’t afford the donut plus tip, you can’t afford the treat. Otherwise, you are just taking advantage of the person’s service without compensating them.

    A couple of times I have been caught without a tip because I just didn’t have the money for it, and I either got a smaller item so I could still tip, or once promised to come back the following day to take care of it, which I did follow up on.

  24. I worked in retail, making the same wage as those at the donut shop, and I would have been FIRED for accepting a tip. My coworker was given a warning for accepting gum! So why is it required to tip people making the same base wage as me when I won`t get any tips? Granted, I do not work at that wage anymore but it does seem unfair. They help you for 30 seconds, but in retail you can spend half an hour or more with just one customer – and no tip. Those tip jars have not always been there either. Many people worked in places like that their whole life and never saw a tip in their lives. They are a recent addition and I will always consider them optional.

  25. I have really mixed feelings about tip jars in places like Dunkin Donuts. I tip well in restaurants and bars, places where I know the servers don’t make even minimum wage. But a tip for handing me a donut and a cup of coffee? There is usually no real service involved, that’s the entire job! Should I tip the gas meter reader? The convenience store clerk? The parking garage attendant?

    I work part-time as an airline agent. I make more than minimum wage, but the starting salary is only slightly more than that. I don’t get tips. If I check you in for a flight and tag your bags correctly, and answer your questions about what you can take through security, and which gate you’re going to go to in your connecting city, that’s what I get paid for. When I let you slide a pound or two on your overweight bag, that’s extra service and it’s saved you $50. When you are late and I not only let you check in and check your bag, I then go downstairs, get your bag after it’s cleared security, and take it out to the plane myself, *that’s* extra service and may have made the difference between your making your cruise and not. When you have a family emergency and cut your vacation short to fly home early, and I waive the change fee, *that’s* extra service and saves you LOTS of money. I don’t have to do any of those things. I do them because I think my job *is* customer service. It is very, very seldom that anyone even attempts to tip me.

    My job is not one that people associate with tips, and that’s fine. But I’m not sure that working the counter at a donut shop is, or should be, either. Tipping in those cases is a benefit mainly to the owner/manager, who can then get away with paying sub-living wages, because “…and, you get tips!”

    I still usually put my change in the tip jar, on the rare occasions that I actually buy coffee someplace that has one. But I’d be happier for Rami and Amjad if the tip jar disappeared, their uncle added a dime or so to the price of the coffee, and increased their paychecks.

  26. I don’t tip into tip jars.

    I tip (pretty well) when someone brings me food to the table, carries my bags, parks the car or something like that — but I don’t tip for counter workers.

    They may not make enough to live on — but that’s the job and the pay — I don’t see that as service that I would tip on.

    I guess what I’m saying is that I have been parsimonious from the beginning, lol — it has nothing to do with the economy!

    Having said that — I am eating out less that before, which means that waiters/waitresses are getting less in tips from me than previously, just because I’m buying less restaurant food.

  27. Both of my daughters work in restaurants and my oldest daughter told me something that i have always remembered. She said when you sit down at your table think 20% and go from there depending on the service you get. I did stiff one server years ago. My youngest daughter and I were eating at a family dining place. Usually great food & good service. The server brought the food and before I could ask her about the soft drinks we ordered she was gone. Never came back to ask how we were doing. I finally went to the hostess/manager and asked for the drinks. No tip for that server.

  28. Happy Thanksgiving, Steve! Another wonderful post and I look forward to your new book. I expect it will be very insightful.

    Like many others have said, I have become a much better tipper since reading your blog.

    I wish you and your very well.

  29. Happy Thanksgiving, Steve! Another wonderful post and I look forward to your new book. I expect it will be very insightful.

    Like many others have said, I have become a much better tipper since reading your blog.

    I wish you and yours very well.

  30. Like some others in this thread, I am dismayed at the profusion of tip jars in the USA, and I’m shaking my head in amazement that you seem to think that someone putting out a jar means I should put money into it.

    And yes, I’ve worked retail and I’ve worked in restaurants. I got tips when I waited tables, and not when I worked in retail, and I don’t see any good reason to start tipping people in retail.

    And no, I am not cheap. When I go out, I tip well at restaurants (and when I am in the US, bars — tipping at bars is not done where I live). I give a solid percentage of my income to charity, with a focus on food banks. On the political side, I support a higher minimum wage, and I’m happy to pay higher taxes for good social programs (and moved to such a country from the US). But I don’t want to propogate the ridiculous custom of tipping, so I don’t contribute to tip jars.

  31. Oh waiter! I could tell you stories about the recent tipping practices here in the Midwest!

    It is true. People are spending the same and tipping less. Before the recession hit I was making 22-25% tips on average, now I’m looking at 18-20%.

    I’ve spent six years at my current restaurant. We have good clientele, mostly neighborhood people that I now know on a first name basis. It hurts when the regular for whom you bought a drink at the bar down the street last weekend can no longer afford to tip as well as usual. I count on spending a portion of my tips buying drinks for my regulars that are now my friends. Alas, times are lean and that’s where I’m cutting back. Now I question if I am creating a vicious circle and receiving less tips because of my cut back generosity.

    What’s a girl to do?

  32. Hi Steve (Good name that) :-)

    I’m British, so my take on tipping is somewhat askew with American views on this – I have learned somewhat differently due to your site and the fact I am married to an American – but I saw something the other day which has only now come to mind and unfortunately, I didn’t make a note of it at the time, but it was a small application for websites which enables visitors to leave a tip for the author of the site – if you happen to search for it and find it, I figure that you of all people would be one who would most likely be a justified case for having it.

    The article about it would have been in issue 280 of the British computer magazine “Computeractive”

    Best Wishes

    Steve

  33. I’m a room-server at work. I usually pick up a dozen donuts one day a week and take two trips to subway to get my regular two 12″ subs for when I don’t work (I get fed dinner at work obviously). Every time I visit either place, I tip two bucks. I don’t think I have ever seen people tip at subway, although you see the food prepared right in front of you (which in my opinion is great service because the person took the time to bake the bread and get all the ingredients ready, and sidework is what most people should tip people for, getting the shit ready for starters). It’s the same policy with the donut shop. You need to do quite a bit of work to prep, and most of the time the employees help out the cooks with the donut making, not just the displaying and cleaning.

    All I’m saying is, when you think you can skimp out on someone’s tip, think of what all they do in a given shift. If it’s worth an extra buck or two to make sure you have what you need, in a clean environment and have it readily available so you’re ensured quick and reliable service, then tip them that buck or two. I know in room-service, most people don’t see all the side-work I do on a regular basis.

    I generally get 15-20% grat on top of an automatic 10-15% because I know how to sell my services, but I also genuinely put myself out there for showing the guests I can meet any of their needs. I think if a customer sees that they will be more generous with not only their wallet, but they will call back the next couple of days they’re staying there and want you to deliver room service again.

    Mind you my hotel is a business class hotel and most people get their trips paid by the company, spending money in room-service is more geared towards spending more for a luxury, which most people want to do without to have more piece of mind. But in the end, if people feel comfortable with you meeting their every demand and making their day quite a bit less stressful, they’ll give up a little extra dough to make that happen. And in the donut business you can do a lot with just that little extra dough too…

  34. ” If you can afford to go out to eat, order soy mocha lattes, or order a box of pastries, you can afford to leave a tip. If you can’t, you shouldn’t be buying those things.”

    I have been reading you since you started, don’t think I have ever noted but I have to say, that is the most arrogant thing I have EVER heard you so.

    How dare you tell someone that may have one cup of coffee a week as a treat that unless they can tip they should not go have that treat.

    Let’s be honest here, what did those guys do? They poured a cup of coffee, hardly going above and beyond is it?

    All I will say in closing is, don’t judge people.

  35. I agree that’s is important to tip. But I also do NOT think people who aren’t financially able to leave a tip, should keep themselves from having the indulgence of a coffee or a box of pastries. To say that, is ignorant in my opinion.

  36. Even though a lot restaurants actually offer deals where you get the same amount of food for a smaller price, people do indeed tip much less then they use to. Seriously, and how am I expected to pay my rent?

  37. I know some people are angry that there are tip jars in places like Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks. But as Amjad and Rami illustrate, they count on that money to help make ends meet.

    Damn right they do–that buy groceries for the week for some baristas at Starbucks.

  38. Great to see you’re back writing regularly (or at least more regularly than lately)!

    You’re damn right, people are cutting back on tipping because they do not want to cut back on their weekly cocktail sessions and their general standard of life. I guess you can see the effect of an economic crisis in the way people tip.

  39. Hey there. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now (It’s fantastic) and this is my first time commenting, but…well, let’s just say I’m moved.

    I graduated college and entered right into this recession we’re having. I managed to find a job, but it’s one that I hate and I take home about $190-$200 a week if I’m lucky…and there are no tips.
    I guess it just makes me a little angry to constantly hear that if I can’t tip, then I’m not allowed to buy anything…ever, even a cup of coffee. I haven’t gone out to eat in a long time; I understand that I shouldn’t go to an actual restaurant if I can’t tip. No problem. But lately, I’m starting to hear this mantra everywhere and, I hate to be bitter, but once these employees take home tips, even if there are fewer, they probably make more than me and I don’t like feeling like I need to go home and feel ashamed because I have financial problems.
    Just thought I’d share my opinion…I really do love your blog. Hope I don’t sound like a b****

  40. The last time I commented here, I found out that servers like the tipping system because it takes an essentially minimum wage job and makes it into a job that can be substantially more than minimum wage. That’s why the system doesn’t change. The owners like it, the workers like it. Most customers would prefer it though.

    However, to say that if you can’t afford the tip, don’t get the coffee at Starbucks or donut at Dunkin Donuts is not the way to increase the standard of living for the folks who work there. It’s a way to get them laid off. Not only will they have no tip income coming in, they won’t have any income coming in. That’s why resteraunts are offering deals for customers, to entice them to at least spend something, rather than choosing to stay home.

    What I don’t like to see is the “us and them” kind of thinking. We’re all in this together, most of us are having to scale back. Whether it’s because our income is going down or it’s because we’re afraid that times are going to get worse.

    It’s not customers trying to stiff servers. It’s customers AND servers trying to figure out how to make it in these uncertain times, TOGETHER. We’re all in this folks. Let’s just hold on and try to weather the storm, together.

  41. I’m not telling people to tip huge sums of cash when they buy coffee. If you just drop the change from that “small luxury” coffee or soy mocha latte into the tip jar, that’s cool. I’m not one to begrudge anyone a “small luxury” but remember, that “small luxury” thing is something the marketing people thought up.

    Leigh, you’re right, we’re all in this together and yes, I don’t like the “us vs them” thing either, But many of the “thems” operated their companies, banks, and hedge funds with absolutely no regard for risk and the impact their actions would have on “us.” Justice must be served.

  42. For years I’ve gone to Dunkin’ Donuts for the best coffee around. The folks behind the counter (for the most part) accurately and cheerfully got my coffee and donut if I ordered it.

    So now at my local Dunkin Donuts I see counter people who gruffly take my order. Walk over to the toaster and watch the bagel while it goes through the toaster, then put the cream cheese on it, then ask me what kind of coffee I want.

    Then I see a tip jar. Sheesh.

    The one time I’ve tossed a buck in the jar for a cup of coffee I ordered was when the ladies behind the counter were short staffed, and they were flying around multitasking like maniacs serving the people in line. That was what I called “exceptional service”.

    At the restaurant, when serving staff brings me my food, makes suggestions, makes sure the water is filled, etc., I still tip at least 15% (20% for good service).

  43. Waiter do you tip everyone in the service industry that is paid minimum wage, or only the ones that hold their hand out?

    Rich

  44. I still think that food service workers should have the same minimum wage as everybody else and tips should be an EXTRA reward for good service, like a performance bonus for white-collar workers. I think it’s great that America has a minimum wage, but it’s unfair that food service workers get less. People should not have to be dependent on whether their customers are feeling benevolent.

    (Just so nobody thinks I’m an anti-tipping troll or some kind of unwashed FOB foreigner, I do tip when I eat out. When in Rome, etc.)

  45. I tip, and tip well, at sit-down restaurants. I think the sudden plethora of tip jars everywhere you look is ridiculous. Yes, those working behind the counter do things besides just hand you your order, but that’s their job! I work for a utility company, and I don’t expect, or receive, tips from our customers when they pay their bills, even though I do a lot of other stuff besides take their payment. Where does it end? With the auto company CEO’s with one hand out and the other on the armrest of their private jet they flew in on to ASK for that handout? We’ve become a nation of people with an entitlement complex. Enough is enough.

  46. Waiter, I know that jealousy often causes people to demonize people with more than them. If you want anybody to take you seriously,

    The auto industry has been terribly managed. I do not support the bailout. If we want the American auto industry to improve, we need new leadership and weaker unions. The bailout will only prolong the inevitable and I am against it. However, the repeated comments about “private jets” are just spiteful and uninformed. Almost all large companies’ bylaws and employment contracts require CEOs and CFOs to take private jets for security reasons. The auto execs did not have any choice but to fly to Washington on private jets.

  47. It was nice to see this post. I am currently working my second counter-service job. I work in a coffee shop in an affluent area. If people don’t want to leave a tip for their coffee, that’s fine. Same for lattes, etc., although there is more involved than pouring as one person suggested. However, the shop where I work also serves food. While customers order at the counter, if they are dining in, I take their order, cook their food, carry it out to them, check back on them at least once and bus their table when they leave. While some are generous, most leave no tip before climbing into their Hummer or Lexus. Needless to say, when I go to a place that has a tip jar, I leave what I can. Hopeful karma will kick in soon.

    As far as getting a better job goes, I have two BA’s and a Master’s. If there was a better job available, I’d be doing it.

  48. Two things sprang to mind upon reading this post.

    1. Through most of the 90s I worked at Starbucks. I usually was the one to figure out and distribute the tips. Based on the money we took in, divided by our customer count, the average tip from one customer was seven cents. On an average check (this would be whole beans/merchandise, drinks and pastries) of nearly $4 per person. Make of that what you will.

    2. WaiterSteve, I sure hope you’re going to do at least one whole chapter on tipping in Las Vegas. I don’t think there’s another place in the world where such a wide array of people earn the bulk of their income through tips. Not just talking cocktail waitresses but anyone in a hospitality situation.

  49. Steve, Thank you for replying.

    Leaving the change is a small thing that most of us can do for that coffee luxury. The good sisters did drum “social justice” into my head in school.

    I don’t think most of the “thems” got us into this fix. I think it was a handful of “thems.” I agree, justice has to be served. I have spent my career in the not-for-profit sector expressly because I wanted to contribute to making society a better place and hedge funds don’t strike me as something that has made society better.

    Honestly, we need to learn from what got us here and we need to hold the people who were reckless with the economy accountable. However, most of our energies should be spent with getting ALL of us back on track.

  50. The ones telling waiters to get another job if they don’t like how customers tip are probably the same ones whining about how their bonuses are disappearing this year. Take your own advice: You don’t like your tip, get another job.

  51. well the guys working at dunkin donuts may say the amount of people coming in are the same. .but facts are the numbers aren’t there and I guarantee they are buying less AND many of them are probably old Starbucks people.

    I must say excessive fees are killing us in this country and tips for non wait staff is just another fee. . .I would like tips too. . .but it ain’t happening.

  52. Sorry,but a tip jar is not always appropriate. There are plenty of jobs which pay so low that a person can’t make ends meet without help, yet we don’t tip them. I can’t make a living working as a receptionist; think people would approve of a tip jar in the Dr.’s office? I doubt it. But why not? The receptionist has to live too.

  53. Ugh. I hate the people who go “get a real job.” I’m not a waitress, and where I work you don’t get tipped, but the money I make is helping to put me through college. I STILL tip well.

    So fuck those self-righteous asshats. THey can make their own goddamned dinner.

  54. I see a lot of comments about people unwilling to use the tip jar. I think that if the place serves food or drink, such as Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts then why not tip. You normally tip a bartender for what, giving you a drink that took a few seconds to make? What’s the difference if the person is giving you a Donut as opposed to a screwdriver. I don’t think the point is how much you tip so long as you tip something. A quarter or fifty cents here and there adds up.
    I usually give the change and add a little on top of it regardless of where I am. If there is a tip jar there then there usually is a reason. You don’t see tip jars at hospitals or offices for one reason, they don’t need the tips their salary or wage is enough to not warrant a tip. Those working in the food service industry usually have tips figured into their wage.
    Right now I am located in the Middle East and the restaurant workers here work for tips and a small wage as well. The difference is the people here tend not to tip as well as other countries so the workers hurt. Another thing here that is different is the companies put this service tax that comes out to 10% and when I asked the waiter about it he said that would go to the company. So even though the company was taking a 10% tip I still tipped 20% because I don’t believe that the waiter should suffer because the company gets greedy (and this includes Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts or Krispy Creme). They (The companies) realized that there are alot of Westerners here who are used to tipping so why not take advantage of that fact.
    Fact is even though the economy is bad right now, that is no reason to not tip like you normally would. If you can’t afford a tip commiserate with your bill or service then perhaps you should go to the grocery store, get some coffee, fire up the coffee maker, get up a half an hour earlier and make your own coffee, then you can have your own tip jar.
    I also wanted to say that I really have enjoyed your postings over the last couple of years and that I have been a avid reader and will continue to due so.

  55. I think James Taranto made the best point about the whole demonizing of the private jets: When the very life of their companies are at risk, you think the execs should be stuck waiting for their connecting flight in order to get to the meeting of their lives? I think private jets are wasteful, ostentatious and MOSTLY unnecessary, but if there’s any occasion that calls for using one, this is it.

    That said…I hope they don’t get a cent. They need to declare bankruptcy and reorganize, not prolong the inevitable by taking our money.

  56. things are tough all over steve-o
    but, you sharing your views, and your positive, even though distinctly New York energies, through this blog and the book, and the talk show circuit adds something that cannot be measured… please, don’t ever change .. you make a larger impact then you know..
    Hope you had a great thanksgiving.. how’s the folks? The dog?
    and also know this brother, We All Love You :) :)

  57. I wait tables and last night almost all the servers at my restaurant were complaining about low tips. It’s funny because it seemed like my lowest tips came from tables who had entrees…apps…drinks and dessert. 10% for all that, and for hanging out with your coffee for 45 minutes while I could have turned the table again? Screw you. It’s not everyone – but when I have tables like this it just makes my blood boil.

  58. I’m a starbucks barista and it’s true — we live off tips. In the downtown business district of Boston, we OUGHT to get a great tips. I see these guys in thousand-dollar suits and the women in $600 shoes and think, man, I can’t afford rent on what I make. And they’ll leave nothing in the tip jar. We bag the tips and count them weekly, then divide them up based on the number of hours everyone’s worked. Tips used to be pretty good, about $2.00/hour. Now we’re lucky to get $1.15. It’s killing me, and it isn’t fair. If you order a $6 beverage daily, we KNOW you can afford to tip. They just choose not to.

  59. I thought tip jars were basically supposed to be additional income to help out those employed, but purely voluntary and not essential. There’s quite a difference, after all, between being served at the counter and served at a table. That said, I usually drop in my change at a tip jar (exception usually being if I’m heading straight for the highway… change is good for tolls).

    I always tip 15-20% at a full sit-down restaurant, and as I said, usually drop my change at places with tip jars as well. However, I really think employers should charge what they need to in order to pay their employees a proper wage, then we can leave tips for exceptional service rather than be expected to leave one no matter what.

    I think part of the tip issue is that employers expect everyone to deliver exceptional service. By definition though, not everyone can be exceptional. That’s just how it is. A business should be lucky to have one or two exceptional servers with the rest being capable. In which case, the exceptional servers would get more tips, and everyone would earn a good wage under a system in which employers paid said good wage.

  60. If you can afford to go out to eat, order soy mocha lattes, or order a box of pastries, you can afford to leave a tip. If you can’t, you shouldn’t be buying those things.

    That is a bit of a high handed approach to tipping/not tipping.

  61. People will always use something as an excuse to be cheap, Waiter. You know this. I know people that have gone out of their way to shortchange a waiter on their tip, claiming they were horrible, when they were anything but (naturally, having waited tables myself, I no longer associate with these bums). Some people are just societal degenerates who will never see the world for anything more than it revolving around them. GM, Chrysler, and Ford CEO’s included. I’m sorry, but the government needs to tell them to sell their jets before they give them any cash. And drop their paychecks down to single-digit millions. Then let’s see how thier buisness does.

    I entirely agree with your portion of your post saying that if people can’t tip, then they don’t need to be buying all those luxuries. It’s equivalent to seeing people come into my current place of employment with a couple hundred dollars worth of jewelry on their 2 year old, and they pay for groceries with food stamps. Meanwhile, my hours are getting cut back, and people I know are jobless. The priorities of this country really need to be put back in order, before things get too bad to fix.

    Another great post, and glad to see you still chugging right along. Congrats again on the book, and hope to be reading your new one soon!

  62. I waited tables a long time ago. I tip well…waiters, cabdrivers, bartenders, valets, doormen, hotel housekeepers, porters, etc. I consider it part of the social contract. It’s non-negotiable.

    I don’t do tip jars, though.

    I’m sorry, but it’s insane. I first noticed the jars in Starbucks, years ago. They have spread of course, to all the indie coffeshops…and now they’re everywhere. I have even seen them in convenience stores. Are you kidding me? I’m going to tip the cashier at a convenience store?

    No, it has to stop.

    A couple of commenters have said that if I can afford a soy latte I can afford to tip the counter help. By extension of that logic, if I can afford to buy expensive bottled water at the supermarket, I should tip the cashier. Sorry…it just doesn’t make sense.

  63. Folks… yes, we should tip folks, but to tell people “if you can’t afford the tip, then don’t by the coffee or donut” is a sure ticket to an unemployment line for the folks that rely on tips. Lose *some* tip income or lose the job…. not a tough choice if you ask me.

    One of the things that I like about Waiter Rant is the edgy, New York, urban twist to life. It is so different from my own experience in rural America. Who the hell would go buy a coffee everyday? Where they hell would a person even buy a coffee drink from? The closest Starbucks is an hour away from me.

    Honestly, for me, Starbucks is a couple of times a year treat. Ditto for going out. We have great mom and pop breakfast places around here where breakfast for two isn’t even 10 bucks and I always leave 2 bucks because leaving anything less seems wrong. However, definately no Bistro type of places here. Going out is definately not a substitute for cooking, it’s something for special occassions.

    I used to live in an urban area, so I know that life is not like it is where I’m living now.

    We’re in this together, if yuppies don’t buy their coffee drink every day, Starbucks will close and people will lose their jobs. So we need to figure out a way to get through this without making it us versus them.

  64. Steve Yasses wrote:

    “You don’t see tip jars at hospitals or offices for one reason, they don’t need the tips their salary or wage is enough to not warrant a tip.”

    I already said that I work in a Dr.’s office, and my pay isn’t enough to get by on my own. So can I put up a tip jar in my office? And if you’re a patient, will you tip 10% of your $85 bill? If everyone did that, it would help buy my groceries.

  65. Thanks for this article. I don’t think I was tipping less, but now I will be self conscious about it and be sure I don’t. In fact, maybe I will begin tipping more…

  66. I don’t agree with the notion that if you can’t afford to tip you shouldn’t buy things – the idea that tipping should be a regular occurrence baffles me, but maybe that’s a cultural thing. I agree that you should tip in restaurants, but if you suffered bad service, or even below average service, you shouldn’t feel bad about not doing.

    Here in the UK they’ve started doing it, adding a service charge to the receipt without asking. The thing is, the waitress still expects tips on top of that, and I’ve heard of some places refusing to remove the service charge from the receipt. If I’m in a restaurant district, and I’m torn between two places, if one doesn’t have a service charge then I will go to that one.

    On a side note, your comment layout is ugly – the lines under the grey boxes make it look like the white gaps between the three boxes are boxes themselves. Just a suggestion.

  67. look at all u crybabies crying about getting tips, its pathetic, if u arent happy with how much your making, you should get a new job or go back to school to get a job that requires a brain. Face it people that work at mcdonalds, starbucks, dunkin donuts, these are all grunt jobs, jobs that require alot of grunt labor but not alot of brains, thas why even mcdonalds hires retarded people. I heard people that work at starbucks get paid 11 bucks an hour, plus tips, i think thas crazy, all they do is pour coffee and make frappuchinos, working at mcdonalds seems much harder and laborious, so yeah, thas not fair, like how alot of things in life isnt fair, id rather tip someone at mcdonalds rather then someone at starbucks, i think tips should go to workers that have the hardest jobs to do, not easy jobs like starbucks, where all they do is pour coffee, I also dont think bartenders should expect tips, i ordered a beer before, and the bartender expected me to tip her for just handing me a beer, i thought it was bull shiet, but when u order drinks, the bartenders expect a tip, like its required, so lame.

  68. Talk about skimming from the tip jar…

    Back in about ’92, the spousal unit and I left the Big City for a Small Town. One of the first jobs I could find once there was the rather menial task of washing dogs. It was for a pool supply company, outdoors at the storefront. Big trough, lots of big dogs (some cats), and very wet and dirty work.

    Most of the dog owners would tip me after the job, and rather nicely. $5 on average, more for big dogs–a Great Pyreneese got me $15.

    The owner found out via the store manager that I was getting tips, so decided to adjust my hourly pay downwards based on my tips. So if I made $5/hr in tips, he’d get to pay me that much less out of his pocket.

    Ignoring the fact that was in clear violation of Federal wage laws, it was clearly ass-hatted of the cheap bastard. Wouldn’t ya know, as luck would have it I suddenly stopped getting tips. Darn. I finished out the day and never went back.

    You know that scenario still plays itself out today. Empty tip jars frequently have help getting that way. If the boss is skimming, damn sure thing there’s not going to be much take at the end of the day.

    Most mendicants use this tactic to get more: they keep only a bit of change in the cup, enough to rattle around. How much is the average person going to give when they see a full jar compared to a mostly-empty one?

  69. Tipping is part of our society, deal with it.

    I drive big trucks for a dealership. The cheap bosses decided I was spending too much money on food (I tip very generously) and stopped giving me work. So when they were desperate I started working again. I still tipped everyone who worked with me, including the people that stock the breakfast bars at the hotels where I stay. I just no longer report the tips on my expense reports – I just pay them out of my pocket.

    I agree with the people who observe that these people can’t make ends meet on those lousy jobs. And, I suspect, many of them had better jobs that were sent overseas or to Mexico.

    The bankers (who made this mess of the economy) would like nothing better than to kill Detroit by killing the unions. Putting another several million middle class out of work will promote their ultimate wet dream: a nation of only rich and poor.

  70. Actually, I haven’t changed my tipping habits, but I’m one of the lucky ones who has a stable job and no prospect of losing it. I still tip about 20%, more if the services is really good.

    I’ve always left money in the tip jar. My son works summers at a place that only has counter service. They split the tips in the jar between the counter folks and some of the help in the back. Since I know that those folks can use the money, I always leave a fairly good tip in the jar and since they know that my kid works there, I always get a little extra in my order.

  71. Maybe because these kids worked for their Uncle, they got their tips. The last time I was in a Dunkin’ Donuts, one of the workers put out a tip jar and several people in front of me put their change in it. By the time I got the the top of the line, the manager came along – took the tip jar off of the counter and put the tip money in the register! She “scolded” the workers and said they should know that the owner does NOT allow them to accept tips. So, all those people who thought they gave these kids a little extra, actually just fattened up the owners piggy bank. How do ya like that one!?!?!?!

  72. Normally, I’m all about the tipping, but this new rage of everyone having a tip jar is just wrong to me. I don’t consider the person at Dunkin Donuts as having “waited” on me anymore than I do the cashier at a convenience store or the sandwich maker at Subway. At some point, you need to consider the “service” you receive as the base level expectation of someone’s employment. It is after all, the job they accepted and what they’re being paid for, and if it’s minimum wage, perhaps that’s because it’s the extent of their skill-set. The icing on the cake for me was, seeing a tip jar at a McDonald’s…it’s getting totally out-of-hand.

    Sorry if this puts me in an unfavorable minority, but I do still tip the hell out of my servers/bartenders/stylists.

  73. Do the people saying that we should put money in any jar put on any counter have any limits? Are there any jobs they *don’t* think should be tipped?

    The argument of “that money is useful to me!” is not compelling because it would be useful to me as well — duh. I don’t wear flashy clothes or drive a car. I live on a budget that includes significant charitable giving. I could afford to dribble bits of money into tip jars, but I track my money closely and would much rather give more to charity. I benefit from the labors of lots of people who work just as hard as counter workers, and for wages just as low. I want the money I give to go to them too.

    Wages are falling, and this is a bad thing and makes life much more difficult for many people. Trying to pressure people into using tip jars will not solve that problem; it will just help create more jobs where employers can argue that their employees are primarily compensated in tips and don’t need to be paid even the minimum wage.

    Let’s put a stop to this ridiculous idea that tip jars are obligations. (what’s next? Tipping the person who rang up the pair of jeans I bought last month?)

    (sorry, my web browser won’t let me enter my name — it’s Jill)

  74. My son works in the food / coffee service industry. He taught me to tip on to-go orders. It makes sense- someone has to pack it up and bring it to you. The workers always seem so surprised when I do- which leads me to believe that they don’t typically receive to-go tips.
    Always a lot to learn! I’ve always been a 20% plus tipper inside but am now the same for to-go orders.

  75. Having “done it all” so to speak…from serving in the Marine Corps, waiting tables, working at the Gap on Newbury St in Boston…guess what…I tip. I tip 25% for great service or the 75 cents from my change from the mocha I just bought at church the other day. I’m of the mindset that when you treat people how you would like to be treated, you will get great service. I’m a work from home mom these days…pay isn’t great, but when my family and I DO go out to eat, it’s usually a meal that is very much worth every penny we are going to spend and our tips are figured into what we plan on spending. We have the oppurtunity to bless others as we have been blessed…why not do it?

  76. This has actually been the topic of discussion at the restaurant I work at throughout the last week or so. We noticed we have been doing the same covers ringing the same numbers yet most of us on average are making less. We always joked that the restuarant industry was the last to feel a recession but now we are feeling that the restaurant industry may be among the last businesses to feel it but the tipped workers are the first ones to feel it within the industry. Washington state (where I live) pays servers $8/hr which is well more than the average across the country. This would almost be a god send if it weren’t for the high cost of living. However with people cutting back on tipping I now find myself stalling to milk the clock!

  77. sorry I refuse to put tips where people bluntly ask for them. I am giving the place my business and if they want to work for a cheap relative that is their business. What next? Tip jars for the girl at the drugstore counter, or at the perfume counter at Macy’s? I tip heavily at restaurants when the waiter has taken care of my meal needs during my dining time. But to tip someone who throws a couple of donuts in a bag? No! Quit and find a better paying job. That would force the owner to up the pay.

  78. “If you can afford to go out to eat, order soy mocha lattes, or order a box of pastries, you can afford to leave a tip. If you can’t, you shouldn’t be buying those things.”

    Well, that’s spoken like someone who hasn’t been broke in awhile. I agree that tipping is part of going out to a sit-down dinner, which is why I very rarely go out to eat, but coffee? I’m on student budget, and sometimes I honestly can’t afford that extra dollar. By your reasoning, not only do I not deserve to buy a cup of coffee because I’m poor, but the store that makes the coffee would do better without my business at all.

  79. My tipping habbits Changed after I started reading this blog. I admit there are cases In which I still leave lousy tips. (Such as the Case of the waiter leaning over me to set things down, and then moveing around the table after I’ve moved to give him more room to do it again……) But I have stopped going out to eat at places where I know I can’t afford the tip. I also try to tip in cash as much as possible. If you can’t afford the Tip go to a gas station or McDonalds for your Coffee.

  80. Someone has to explain a little more to me about tipping counter service. To me, it’s a whole different ballgame than a sit-down restaurant. There, I’m happy to tip big if I’ve had a good experience. I just don’t see it at the deli or the donut shop. They make more there per hour than the waiters do and I was always told some story about having to declare it and the shop could get in trouble blah blah blah.

    Anyone else have some more information for me?

  81. “If you can afford to go out to eat, order soy mocha lattes, or order a box of pastries, you can afford to leave a tip. If you can’t, you shouldn’t be buying those things.”

    Bullshit. The customer not only has to pay for their own food but also has to pay someone else’s wages?

    Here’s a novel idea. Instead of blaming the customer, why not get pissy with the boss w2ho doesn’t pay their staff enough to live on?

  82. I’ve been working in jobs that aquire tips for the last 5 years. I delivered pizza and served at a restaurant. I only expected tips when delivering pizza when I had to go out of my way to get pizza to people or make extra trips to their house. I once had to go about 30 yards thru two feet of snow to get to someones front door, they stiffed me. When I was a server I made a lot more but was still stiffed on occasion. I only get mad when I go above and beyond for someone and get a slap in the face for my trouble. Restaurants do not make very much profit for the most part. So if they paid their staff accordingly they would have to raise their prices and then no one go to the restaurant. Starbucks on the other hand makes rediculous profit and should pay their employees more, same with McDonalds. I think its sad that people make hundreds of thousands of dollars and pay the people that make them that money the least amount (by law) possible. Maybe someone should start taking out those greedy fucks, I bet the wealth would start spreading then. If you can afford to go to starbucks everyday and spend several dollars on coffee you can afford a few cents tip. If you can’t afford to tip change you should probably rethink how you spend the bulk of income on that delicious beverage. Don’t be mad at “the little guy”, be mad at “The Man”. Oh and AIM you obviously never had to work in at a min wage job.

  83. I’m sorry, but I never tip at a coffee store. Don’t get me wrong, I do completely agree with tipping in a restaurant. Unless the service was completely awful, it is just cheep not to leave at least %15. But a coffee store, especially somewhere like Dunkin’ Donuts, is not the same thing.
    The people behind that counter are not providing you with the same level of service as a waiter. I have worked in numerous coffee stores. And let me tell you, if you don’t feel like leaving me anything extra on top of the $3.00 you paid for your drink, I harbour no resentment. Trust me, it really isn’t that hard at pour a cup of coffee.

  84. Kelli@11;
    95+% of the time, somebody earning minimum wage is living at home and/or otherwise receiving support. Minimum wages are one of the major causes of unemployment. There is no point to hiring somebody to do work that isn’t worth as much as minimum wage + employer FICA & Medicaid contributions + unemployment insurance + EEO compliance costs + OSHA compliance costs + liability insurance premiums + etc. ad nauseum.

    As for CEO compensation, I agree that it’s often excessive. The problem is that boards of directors court these guys like they’re sports stars, often with little or no consideration of their actual ability.

    @Damian & Charlotte (13-15),
    I’ve written about the benefits of the current system before, and regularly refer back to that when commenting here.

    G@24 said “The unemploed here get a living wage. That’s the way the US should be as well: everyone should have, a s a minimum, food, shelter, clothing, health care and daycare for their kids if they work as well as merit based college for their kids.”

    Sorry, no. What you’re suggesting is that I have the right to demand these things from you. Why do I have the right to demand food from the farmers, shelter from the builders, clothing from the textile workers, health care from the doctors, and daycare from the providers, even when I do not do ANYTHING in return?

    What’s more, when you pay people not to work, you get a lot more people who are willing to do it.

    One of the things I liked about working for tips was that I was paid exactly what my patrons thought I deserved.

    Informed@52,
    I also don’t like the auto bailout. I remember when Lee Iacocca first went to DC with his hand out, and thinking at the time, “giving him money he hasn’t earned is bad policy. If Chrysler can’t make it, it should fail.” But nooooo, the UAW wasn’t going to tolerate that, so neither would their Democrat friends in Congress and the White House. Lo and behold, we again have the Democrats in charge of both the legislature and the executive, so the UAW’s meal ticket(s) will have their losses covered by the taxpayer.

  85. I am a server! Yes the economy and the tips have gona massively downhill! But there is another tip offender that is just as bad as the bad tippers…. the dumb people who sign one credit card receipt and take it, leaving the blank one behind!!!! At my work it has become very prevalent! Granted through the computer the bill has been paid, but whether they meant to or not, they have inevitably stiffed me! To those people: GET A BRAIN CHECK YOUR EYES AND PICK UP THE RIGHT RECEIPT!

  86. A few questions to further spawn an exchange of ideas. Questions I am certain many of us have had.

    ** What determines a job as tip-worthy? {Two sub questions implied, below)

    Part 1.) What sort of employment makes it socially acceptable / expected that patrons tip?

    Part 2.) What level of staff service determines a tip, i.e. is a tip ever simply an automatic – an obligation as ‘Waiter’ suggests?

    - – - – - – - – -

    For the better part of my young ’30-something’ life I have been in the broad umbrella of the ‘service industry.’ Perhaps better stated, the ‘hospitality industry.’

    Working the range from small franchise hotels to large corporate run resort properties, to my currently employed position as an independent contractor who is more IT centered than guest service oriented – I often think about tipping as a larger social practice.

    Do we tip out of appreciation? Out of joy? Out of obligation? Out of guilt?

    I eagerly await the day when I too can pick up my very own copy of Steve’s book (as many bloggers have,) but even then – what do ‘the rest of us’ (yes, want to know what Steve’s thoughts are as well – of course – I mean, he’s been on Oprah after all – he, he) think about tipping and why tipping a restaurant server and a coffee barista are expected and acceptable – but not the friendly front desk staff at a hotel who decided not to charge you RACK, and ‘throw you a bone.’ The front desk staff are stressed by Joe and Jane Public – they are equally poorly paid (okay, perhaps not quite ‘equally’ – not as paltry a sum as some wait staff) as some others in the service industry.

    My wife has a point, why do I sometimes automatically tip? Why do I sometimes extend a tip to an obviously poor service performance? Also, she too wonders why I try and tip those atypical labor posts – such as front desk staff at hotels? I ask myself, and now ask you. Thoughts?

  87. Tips are gratuity, I tip when I recieve great service, be it at a restaurant, donut shop, or retail store. If employees are not allowed to recieve tips I call corporate and tell them what an outstanding employee they have. Sorry but tips are not require they are earned. If you don’t earn it you don’t get it. Waiters see you more and do more for you so they have a greater chance to earn that 15-20% than the guy working at the coffee shop. I’m not your employer I’m a customer. It’s your bossesjob to pay you not mine, so in absolutely no industry do you just get a tip regardless of service. That being said I have rarely ever gotten poor enough service not to tip

  88. I used to work retail and we were not ALLOWED to accept tips. Nowadays everyone is asking for tips, and it’s simply a coattail-riding phenomenon. A few coffee shops saw that they were getting tips for good service to regular customers, they require a certain amount of expertise to make coffee drinks, they put out tip jars, suddenly everyone who handles food puts out tip jars. This can be taken to extremes. I certainly hope you tipped your doctor for removing your gall bladder! After all, I’m sure that he (literally!) has a half a million dollars in debt from medical school that he has to pay off, and the rates that doctors can charge you are often set by the government and insurers. Didn’t do that, huh? Why? Because you didn’t put two and two together. In reality, it’s a two-fold problem. First, jobs like working at the counter at Dunkin’ Donuts are not SUPPOSED to be living wage jobs. These jobs are often taken by kids in college to supplement loans and high school students for a reason, because you’re just starting out and getting experience in a work environment. Living wage jobs used to be in factories and the like. So the problem is really in large part the disappearance of blue collar jobs. You’re deluded if you expect people to fix this with a tip over their morning donut. Look. I’m under 30. If a job is one that I wasn’t expected to tip when I was a teenager, I sure as hell am not going to tip now, because that signals that it’s not an “American tradition,” it’s bullshit economics. That leads me to: Second, you haven’t thought about the economics of this at all. As a waiter restaurants were able to get away with not paying you a salary or a decent hourly wage because you got tips on top of that. You justified it by saying that if we changed the system service would suffer because waiters wouldn’t have a incentive. I disagree with that, but that’s another debate. In the case of mixed retail/food service, such as here, service is standardized because the clerk has to pay attention to the person at the front of the line. All that happens when you allow tipping is you change the economics to an informal economy, one where you hopefully can avoid taxes because it’s in cash (you shouldn’t have to pay if you’re minimum wage anyway!), your wages are variable, you’re vulnerable to management theft, and costs are hidden to the customer. If you’ve ever taken an economics course, hidden costs don’t tend to be accounted for. Seriously, why would you try to informalize a formalized economy when the real answer should be to fix it instead?

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