Alas, modern men no longer have servants; few of us can afford a valet, or butler, or even a chauffeur. But we all deal with a vast variety of people who, in one way or the other, wait on us. There are of course, waiters, and given how often the modern man eats in restaurants dealing with waiters, waitresses, and assorted restaurant personnel is a subject unto itself. But we also deal with the guy at the deli counter who takes our order, the woman at the dry cleaners, the checkout woman at the grocery store, and the countless other people whose small services make our lives so much more convenient and do the drudgery that we have escaped, to a large degree, by climbing higher on the economic social food chain.
Make no mistake; you are the customer, rather than the service provider, by dint of divine grace. Sure, you’ve worked hard, but so have they. And in terms of burning calories and physical exertion, they probably burn a lot more than you. Perhaps you have an expensive education; did they have the chance for that same education? Perhaps, but probably not. Many of the service workers are people born outside the US, who came here with little and are working hard to make more of their lives and opportunities. Or perhaps the guy behind the counter is guilty of nothing more than youth, serving his dues as he goes to school or climbs the job ladder. In any event, think carefully before you assume any superiority that leads you to speak or act disrespectfully.
Perhaps the Ritz Carlton hotel chain has the best slogan for its employees; ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen. Unless you have evidence to the contrary, such as surly service, you should assume that your waiter or other service provider is due the same courtesies as you display to those you consider your professional equals. This doesn’t mean that you become your waiter’s best friend – or that he has any interest in becoming yours. It means that you exercise a reasonable amount of patience, realizing that in busy periods businesses have many customers, all of whom are expecting prompt service. If you have a complaint, you voice it in a civil manner. If the waiter or other service provider asks you how you are, you respond, with a simple, “Fine, thank you,” before launching into your order.
What’s the difference between a man who orders something by saying: “Cheeseburger, no tomato” and one who says “I’d like a cheeseburger, with no tomato, please”? The difference between a brute who doesn’t respect himself or others, and a gentleman.
One of Cindy Kienow’s regular customers left the Applebee’s bartender a $10,000 tip on a $26 meal. The customer comes in several times a week and usually tips well – $15 on a $30 tab, but recently had left a $100 tip. “I’ve been waiting on him for about three years” Kienow said. “We’d just talk across the bar because he’s a really nice guy.” Kienow said she usually talks to the customer about current events or the weather, but can’t think of anything that would have prompted the big tip. “I hope he comes back in so I can tell him thank you, because the other day I was kind of dumbfounded.”
(August 31, 2006, Hutchinson, KS)
The objectives of tipping are as follows:
- To pay people for service, in cases in which such payment is at the discretion of the customer
- To reward people for exceptional service, when merited
- To encourage good service in the future
Tipping is a fine art, and is mastered only by the experienced gentleman. He is generous in his tipping, mainly because such payments are discretionary, and a gentleman will prefer to err on the side of generosity than on the side of stinginess. However, a gentleman is not a pushover, and, when service is rude or poor, through the fault of the service provider, he will not hesitate to show his displeasure by providing little or no tip.
Being generous does not mean being ostentatious; one does not leave a tip to impress his other guests, or the service providers, with his wealth or generosity. In fact, the more discreetly this payment is made, the better, particularly if you are leaving a particularly large tip. However, if it so large that the recipient may believe you have made a mistake, perhaps one zero too many, as in the case of the Applebee’s bartender above, it is fine, in an understated and brief way, to explain that you are providing a special reward for special service.
Dealing with waiters and waitresses is such a frequent encounter that we handle that subject in its own section. Here are some other occasions when tipping may be appropriate. It’s always important to note that you only tip when a service provider has not already charged for the service, or when you are purposely providing an extra payment in addition to that charge. In many cases, it is not easy to tell when tipping is appropriate at all; for instance, some restaurants, both in the U.S. and around the world, include the “tip” as a service charge, and then bring you a credit card receipt that still has a space to add a tip. When it is not clear that a service charge has already been made, this is a deceitful practice that often leads people to pay twice for the same service.
Cab Drivers – In many cases, the driving may be so bad that you feel delighted to simply survive, but survival, in and of itself, is not a reason to tip. On the other hand, loading heavy luggage deserves about a dollar a bag, more for really big or difficult luggage. In some cases, I have been tempted to provide a bribe for drivers that are willing to turn off the radio.