I am puzzled all year long by one American tradition. But this time of year I find it especially challenging. Who to tip and how much?
Yes, I know that should be “Whom to tip…” but we’re friends so we don’t have be so formal, right?
Recently we had dinner with friends at a popular Ames restaurant. And as always we gave a nice tip to our waitress. Well, I think it was a nice gratuity. But how do I know anymore. It’s difficult to tell from the expressions on the faces of employees.
But my real question is this. Why do we give some folks extra money for service but not others?
I always let the worker at one of my favorite coffee shops or restaurant keep a few coins or a dollar or two from my change to show my appreciation for good service. But why don’t we give that money to the cook or chef working away in the kitchen? I don’t know if the folk out front share their gratuities with the staff laboring to make sure that the food is worth the price.
My barber usually deserves a little extra cash—at least for trimming my beard. But the few strands of hair remaining atop my head take little time and effort to cut and therefore don’t merit additional remuneration.
But why don’t we tip other folks who provide good service? I don’t think to extend monetary thanks to my auto mechanic for making sure my car is operating well for the winter ahead. But I’m grateful he took care of it.
When we had some electrical work, furnace inspection and plumbing repairs recently, it never occurred to me to part with my money in addition to the bills they presented to us. All those tasks were necessary but should have I volunteered a few extra coins in appreciation?
Yes, we thank the postal carrier with a card and some money tucked inside for delivering our mail reliably throughout the year. But that’s a one time offering; we certainly don’t make it a daily habit.
Our homeowners association contracts for snow removal and lawn care. Although I see the workers frequently and chat with them occasionally, I never consider handing them a dollar or two in addition to letting them know we appreciate their work.
I often ask the staff at the grocery store for suggestions on selecting the best cut of meat (ok, the truth is my wife does that), but still when I can’t find something and they assist me. I don’t automatically reach for my wallet in response.
Lots of people I see help me through the day. But only a few get any monetary thank yous for their help. Why not?
They certainly are as worthy of a tip as our waiters, barbers, mechanics and grocery workers. However, we don’t extend that type of thank you to everyone.
In fact, no student ever came up to after a class and said, “Wow, professor Coon! That was a really good lecture. Here’s two dollars for expanding my knowledge and helping me plan my future!”
There may be a reason why that never happened.
Still I wonder why our reward system differs depending on the type of service or product they provide? I don’t think I’ll solve this question, but it’s one of several thoughts to occupy my mind during the coming Iowa winter.