Tipping Is A Privilege, Not A Right

Last week i was standing in line at the coffee shop, waiting for the woman in front of me to pay. She signed her credit card slip, slid it across the counter to the cashier, and turned to walk away. The surly young cashier called after her: “Thanks for taking care of us.”

Astonished, the woman turned back to the cashier. “What do you mean? I always take care of you guys.”

The cashier became defensive. “I didn’t mean it that way. I always say that to everybody.” She glanced at me and added, “I’ve said the same thing to her twice today, haven’t I?”

This young woman has never even bothered to smile at me and almost always makes me feel that I am imposing on her time. I would have remained silent, except for the fact that she pressed the point. Looking directly at me, she demanded, “Don’t I say that to you all the time?”

I was forced to reply that she had never said that to me. By this time, the whole incident had become uncomfortable for everyone concerned.

The issue at hand was the woman’s failure to drop some money in the tip jar sitting on the counter. Tip jars have begun appearing in the most ridiculous places. First it was at the cash registers of buffet restaurants. Then it was fast food places. And now they occupy counter space in most coffee shops as well.

I understand that tipping is expected in this country, but until recently I thought the point of tipping was to reward a waitperson for service provided. Now it seems we are expected to reward people for just being there and doing their job. Frankly, I’ve always wondered why I am expected to leave a tip in a buffet restaurant. I get my own food, stand in line to pay, pour my own drinks, and seat myself. Ditto for fast food places. And coffee shops aren’t much different, in my view.

The bottom line here is that tipping is a privilege, not a right. I’m a fairly generous tipper; I am always willing to leave 20 percent. But if you do nothing to earn it, you do not get it. And until this young woman learns the meaning of service with a smile, she gets bupkus from me.

Yesterday I was back in that same coffee shop and noticed a change. The tip jar now carries a sign: “God Knows When You Don’t Tip” I suspect God would remind her that He helps those who help themselves.

3 thoughts on “Tipping Is A Privilege, Not A Right”

  1. Most foreigners travelling in the US have problems with tipping. Generally, here in the Canary Islands it is still greatly appreciated, but I did see a tip jar in a small supermarket the other day!!! Not only that but I swore more than onece never to go into the supermarket again because the staff were so surly!!

  2. In Australia, a tip is typically offered for exceptional service. Normal service is part of the cost. That is, on buying a coffee, part of the service is that the coffee is made promptly and that the person is pleasant. I have never felt in visiting the USA that tipping is seen as a privilege and more that it is a standard “hidden” cost in virtually every interaction with someone in the service industry. Going further, I thought that is why the US still has $1 bills while every other western country has a coin representing an amount similar to a US$1 (such as coins for one Euro, 100 Yen, A$1, NZ$1, a pound etc etc).

  3. I cannot begin to tell you what this post has provoked in me! I’m a gracious tipper, as well. I am also big on giving feedback when the service makes me want to tip less. I will pull someone aside and gently offer feedback. Don’t let me catch someone acting indignant about poor service that results in a less than stellar tip.

    I’m glad you told the truth and ashamed that the result was a guilt trip for every customer that checks out. I’d write a letter & call the owner.


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