Thursday, September 15, 2005

Tipping Point

I love my tall ‘chai tea lattes’ at our local Starbucks and their oversized, comfy, deep sofa chairs. So every time I head over to my nearby ‘vice-den’, coffee place for my caffeine fix, my soul is deeply anguished over the now customary ‘To tip or not’. They have tip jars, strategically placed, near the cash register, for you to drop your change, after you’ve paid for your beverage. To make matters worse, its always three-fourth filled, making you wonder if you are the only cheapskate around, unwilling to tip. Starbucks were the first ones, in my opinion, to start this ridiculous tipping business, at coffee shops. And thus my moral predicament.

What’s basically the tip for? What exactly is the luxuriant service that I am bestowed with, that a generous handout of my hard earned money is expected to be doled out for some over-priced beverage? I go to the coffee shop, stand in line, pay for my latte, pick up my drink, and walk out. Am I expected to tip, just for someone to do their jobs?

Never can I figure out the rules for tipping these days. At airports, with the drivers for the rental bus, with those towellette boys at fancy restaurants, coffees shops, ice cream parlors (or shoppes as they call em, in some places!) , bartenders, baggage handlers, cabbies, haircuts, restaurants, doormen, tour guides, strip clubs, massage parlors, shoe shine kiosks and also the benign looking Santa at the mall who gets pictured every Christmas, with our two year. Everyone looking for some instant ka-ching, on the side, fast money. Its getting out of control, I tell ya.

It’s like in most of these places the employees have come to expect the tipping, and bad judgment forbidding, if you don’t tip, you then get subjected to the evil eye. That single look of contempt saying ‘You little cheapskate, I spit in your latte’. Ugh. People standing in line behind you size you contemptuously as if to say, “If you really are on welfare, then you shouldn’t be drinking lattes anyway. Order your coffee from McDonalds instead. Maybe you’ll get lucky and spill some on your crotch to win some nefarious lawsuit. Come back to civilization then!!!”. That’s what, they are thinking, I’m sure.

For exceptional services, I agree, that tipping, should be the norm. At restaurants, when the waiter brings you’re the food without dipping their fingers in it, or its really fast service, shell out 20%. Or the cabbie, who drives like a bat outta hell to get you to the airport, just in time, to make that return flight home, deserves your munificence. Even for the strip club dancers, anyone under 350 lbs, with halfway decent contortions, tip away. For those gals over 350 lbs, three quarters, placed strategically, in the crevices of their ample body fat, should suffice.

But tips for people to do their primary jobs function, forget it. The thing is that kids today are expecting to get paid for rendering services that is a part of their job anyway. What is the message that we are really giving out? Mediocrity will be tolerated, no in fact rewarded. Not in my books. Those giving me the evil eye, I just stare back unfazed at them. ‘No tip for you, Thank You’.


Blogger The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

Finally someone has spoken out! I only tip when someone deserves it, and receive a lot of flak for it. Nice to see I'm not alone.

ps am reminded of the opening scenes in resevoir dogs where everyone comes down on that guy who refuses to tip the waitress at the diner :D

5:03 AM  
Blogger balihai said...

completely in agreement. never understood why would anyone want to tip in a self service joint. the most embarrasing i must admit are the bell boys at the hotel----another species that i never understood why they need to tipped on your way in or out. i can carry my own bags, thank you (dude, its a job. do it, i say)
the only civilized country i have come across on 'tipping' is japan. it just does not happen. they take pride in their jobs.

5:05 AM  
Blogger TTG said...

What is even more important is that viewed from a purely economic standpoint, a bribe and a tip are equivalent - they are additonal "transaction costs". You could say you had to "tip" a few government officials to provide you with better service.

2:01 PM  
Blogger Sakshi said...

I am confused here...i use to work at an Indian Restaurant in Sydney...and use to hate it when the guest wud'nt tip...especially when it use to be rush hour and we were only 2 waitresses doing the job..with our best and sincerest effort.

I remember a time...on christmas day..when i was catering to this aged couple..after the dinner was done..the old man came and held my hand..for a second i was zapped..thinking WTF is this man upto..but then i realised he actually gave me $20 bucks as a TIP. He was not sure if i wud get it..if he had placed the tip in the bill folder.

Anywaz..i guess it wud be right to say...TIP THE ONES YOU FIND EXCEPTIONAL IN THEIR SERVICE.

8:57 PM  
Anonymous Anirudh said...

A thought-provoking post.

5:36 AM  
Blogger Kaps said...

I haven't seen such tipping boxes in Starbucks S'pore. They think that u guys are more generous.

2:38 PM  
Blogger Michael Higgins said...

Hi Sourin
I agree 100%. The jar of tips is just a sly con: they put most of those coins themselves in the hope that other suckers would think that everyone was doing it. Think about it, have you ever seen it less than half-full?

Kaps: hopefully you never will.

11:35 PM  
Anonymous rajeshwari said...

I do not understand this whole notion about tipping. How many times this question has been asked and debated. Probably there is no perfect answer for it, I guess.But I totally agree with you on the "tip jar". Lately I have noticed a tip jar at my local pizza hut place where you just carry out your pizza. I feel it is ridiculous.

2:38 PM  
Blogger Sujatha said...


A comment with a somewhat contrarian view - most of the waiters at Starbucks or the restaurants are in those jobs because they are putting themselves through school. I'm not saying all of them are, but most are. We know of a few people who've waited tables while going to school. Waiters make minimum wage and needless to say, tips are very precious to them. Moreover, they work very hard. They may not have a lot to do with serving individual customers, especially at coffee shops or at the pizza joints, but they are on their feet all day. Plus, in many restaurants, wages for waiters are set on the assumption that the customers at their tables will tip 15%. So if they don't receive that 15% tip....

Rajeshwari, my dear, I think it is time you seriously thought about starting a blog.:))

3:10 PM  
Blogger chappan said...

Thanks for seconding me on this. I need to take a stand and glad to have you on my side.

Welcome. Yeah bell boys, but I conceed if the bags they carry for me are heavy and oversized.

Yes indeed. Tipping is a form of bribery, which is sad indeed. I remember waiting at the haiir salon for my appointment. After a haircut there was this guy who didnt tip adequately. Oh the misery of the stylist and the ranting she unleashed. Sad indeed.

In Melbourne we were not expected to tip. In fact we had one pleasant experience when a cabbie refused to take the tip amount from me. But I understand students and restaurants. Indeed if the service is good, I wouldnt mind a generous tip.

Thanks for visiting

Just hang on for a few years, it will catch on in S'pore as well.

Good to have you'll in our corner.

Ah, one dissenter. Well I see the student point that you make, but not at Starbucks. These are middle aged housewives and not just students. Besides I fault the establishment to encourage this practise. Do they go out of their way to provide you with any special service? If they are students then might as well stand on freeway with placards waiting for handouts. As I mentioned earlier, in restaurants I dont mind tipping. But pizza carry out, coffee shops, ice cream parlours. Oh please. I beg to differ on this point.


7:24 PM  
Blogger Sujatha said...


Apparently tipping in the US in restaurants (not including hotels, bell boys, valet parking guys, etc.) amounts to 27 billion Dollars a year!!!!

6:47 AM  

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