No Tipping Point

Boyleing Points

I hope you had a nice summer and didn’t ask for separate checks at a busy restaurant.

Which brings me to tipping. Which, it turns out, is not a subject for a column but a book.  Or at least a three-part column.

There’s a whole iceberg under the subject of tipping. It’s cultural, it’s optional, it’s expected, it’s becoming obsolete and more widespread.

Widespread, as in the proliferation of tip jars. I’m waiting for one to show up at my doctor’s office. You sign in and there’ll be a jar with a little sign: Malpractice insurance is killing me, please help.

As you know, I’m an expert on back pain, foot cramps, and bidets, but tipping is some byzantine shite that no bidet can handle. It’s an art that needs to be a science.

To start, there’s pre-tipping. That’s pro-active, semi-professional tipping. You give the waiter or bartender a few dollars right away to ensure top service all night and then you tip again at the end of the evening. This is not fool-proof and deserves a few paragraphs but I can’t expound because I’m already aggravated about places that automatically add the tip.

Nothing bugs me more than a tip that’s pre-added to a bill. The first time I came across this outrage was in the Bahamas, a million years ago. The service was god-awful. I know there’s island time but you shouldn’t be made to feel like Tom Hanks in Cast Away.

I followed the waitress at one point to see if she was actually climbing trees to fetch coconuts for that piña colada that was ordered an hour earlier. She wasn’t. She was having a good laugh with kitchen help and other staff. And in between she was probably badmouthing the cheapskate tourists.

I couldn’t wait to show my fury when it came to the tip. That’s when I discovered the 15 percent was already tacked on. The lesson was clear to me: the waiter didn’t have to hustle if the tip was guaranteed. I guess the add-on tip was a defense against cheapskate British or French tourists who are notorious for stiffing the staff. But that doesn’t make it right for the rest of us.

And what if service is excellent even though the tip has been built in?  Do you add another five percent?  I don’t know. But don’t ask a waiter, they’ll all say yes.

I get it, waiters need good tippers to make up for the tightwads. Not that I’m pure in all this.

As a very young man, a despicable teenager, in fact, I traveled across country with a buddy. We were often broke but sometimes had enough money for all the beer you could drink at a Steak N Brew or some such place. It was the bargain of the land. Man, just $4.95 for a burger and all the pitchers of pissy beer you could handle.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, tipping. My buddy and I knew a tip was customary and only fair, but that hardly mattered. We’d consider the service with a damning eye. We made up our own game, Tip or Top?  They’d get a tip if everything was flawless. They’d get a Top – which is a tip with a zero (0) in the middle— if anything was off.

We’d always find something wrong. The waiter’s hair. His or her name. Whatever would justify the Top not a Tip. Of this, I am not proud.

I like to think some penance has been paid since I now often over-tip. But I’m not so generous that I don’t want some acknowledgment that the healthy gratuity was appreciated. If the tip is above and beyond, I hope the waitperson puts a little emphasis on the “thank you.”

If they don’t, I just die a little.

Anyway, this tipping thing is a minefield. There’s the 15 or 20 percent guideline that assumes 15 percent for so-so service and 20 for good. Some people double the sales tax and that seems okay. But what if you’re in a diner and you and a friend each get a coffee and a muffin. The bill comes to, I don’t know, $6.40. Twenty percent is $1.28. Twenty percent tip sounds good until you realize it’s a dollar freakin’ twenty-eight.  And if you’ve got singles, it’s one thing. What if you only have a ten? You’re not gonna wait for change, are you?

It’s a minefield, I tell ya. For those who came here hoping for a tip about how and who to tip, I have no idea.  I know, that’s not a tip, that’s a top.

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