Tipping used to be unAmerican

Why do I say that? There’s a film called The Petrified Forest. It’s from 1936 and Bette Davis, Leslie Howard and Humphrey Bogart were in it.

There’s a scene in the beginning between four characters – two customers, the service station owner (called “Pops” by the customers) and his son, who does the actual work. The customers are winding Pops up by making him tell tall tales about how the west was fun and he eventually says that he helped put the first wire up heading their way and the first message ever sent over it was, “God save the republic.”

Customer Nick replies, “You’d better send that message again, Pop. The republic’s in bad need of saving. Fine excuse for a republic we got. Fine excuse for law and order. You read about that gangster massacre in Oklahoma City? Now there’s an example. Our government’s nothing but a gangster’s joke.”

The son slams the till shut and says, “There’s just one remark I wanna pass to you, brother: just be careful how you talk about the United States of America.”

Nick scoffs at the “tinhorn patriot” but goes quietly after the guy tells him to get lost. Pops and his son talk about the War after that and how the owner was only a mechanic in it as opposed to a real soldier.

As that conversation goes on, this cute little sign is evident above the shop counter:

For the grand prize, when did that change?

(tmso left a comment on my request page asking me what I thought about tipping and this is the post I promised on that topic.)

I suppose it’d be fair to assume that during the depression, tips could have been akin to charity hand outs that would offend proud people who wanted to make their own ends meet, even if they actually couldn’t. What’s changed since then for why it seems nearly everyone who works with the public expects 15% to 20% worth of tips from everyone else?

I know people like to claim that TIPS is an acronym meaning “To Insure Prompt Service” but Chowhound makes the point that there’s a big difference between “insure” and “ensure” which is getting mixed up when people say that.

1. to guarantee against loss or harm.
2. to secure indemnity to or on, in case of loss, damage, or death.
3. to issue or procure an insurance policy on or for.

1. to secure or guarantee
2. to make sure or certain

So a, big, fat, resounding, no to that one. It’s just a word that has come to mean giving additional money to people for doing work that their employers already pay them to do. If people need to augment their paycheques with tips, then they aren’t being paid enough. Plain and simple.

I’m not a big fan of tipping. I’m certainly not a big fan of the fact that waitresses flirt and flaunt their bodies around the tables filled with men in order to get the most tips and then proceed to ignore the table filled with large and loud library women who’ve come into the restaurant expecting decent service from the staff. Maybe we should be going to the restaurants where the hot guys will serve us… but yeah. That’s a beef.

If a tip is supposed to be a reflection of the patron’s experience and not just an automatic addition to the bill, then the waitress should treat everyone equally and treat them well. On the flip side, if it’s supposed to be automatic, then the waitress should be professional at all times and treat everyone equally automatically. No insane flirting, no playing favourites. She should just do the damn job she’s paid to do. Same goes for delivery guys, hair dressers, valets, and anyone else that society has determined needs an extra buck or ten per customer. It just seems obvious to me.

I have to admit that I’ve never taken a job where I’d have to go above and beyond what I feel like doing for the chance at a bit of extra cash to take home with me. I wouldn’t even know if I had to report it as income. I guess it is, though, yeah? I’d hate to have to rely on the tips I made to pay any real bills, though. That would have to add a level of stress to an already hard-done-by life, I think.

I realize the concept of a “living wage” is a pipe dream for a lot of people. I suspect a lot of employers would have to go out of business if they were forced to give their staff more hours of work and thus enough money to live on each month. In order to stay in business they’d probably increase the charge on every service they provide and thus piss off all their customers who like doing things on the cheap. Plus, if everyone were paid more then other businesses could justify raising prices, which would soon negate the benefit of the increase in pay, so more pay would be demanded. Around and around it would go.

We already notice that in terms of minimum wage increases. During my Wal-mart days, I’d get a thirty cent raise every year. But since I’d started when the minimum wage was lower, and the wage had gone up a couple times, there were people starting who, after three months, would get their first wage increase and be making the same or more than me, even though I’d been there seven or eight years by that point. There were a few people who admitted they’d quit and then gotten rehired. It was the only way to make more money.

There are far too many part time, casual kinds of jobs that offer zip for benefits, shitty hours, and shittier pay cheques. And too many people are trying to balance two or three of these kinds of jobs in order to keep their bills from sinking them. Many people are on the street because these kinds of jobs weren’t good enough to keep them afloat. Many people are unemployed but they’re overqualified for these kinds of jobs and can’t get their unemployment benefits if they aren’t hunting for jobs they are qualified for every week.

Conclusion? I guess we have to keep tipping, even though it’s become akin to panhandling while on the job. We also have to do more to push companies and businesses into providing better pay for their employees, unionized or not. There’s got to be a way to break this cycle somehow.

About 1minionsopinion

Canadian Atheist Basically ordinary Library employee Avid book lover Ditto for movies Wanna-be writer Procrastinator
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3 Responses to Tipping used to be unAmerican

  1. George W. says:

    I worked as a pizza delivery guy, a cab driver and a waiter. In each of these cases, my tips were far more than double my regular pay. I made $5 an hour as a pizza driver and that just about covered my gas. Without tipping, I would have starved.
    Tipping is admittedly a way for employers to “pass the buck”, expecting the consumer to supplement the income of their employees so that they can give poverty wages. At the same time, I am very aware of what kind of money these people make, and am a pretty big tipper. My pizza guy gets $5, my barber gets at least $4, my server at a restaurant gets 20% for good service and at least 10% unless they are epically shitty at their job. If I take a cab, I tip at least $3, maybe more for a longer trip.

    Trust me when I tell you that these people remember your generosity. I was extra diligent when working for a known “good tipper” and really took my time if I knew I was going to bust my ass for nothing. Bottom line: employers should be paying higher wages, but that also means paying more for food and services.
    Minion, I also hate the boobs-out servers who flirt with customers, so not all men necessarily tip for that. I can’t say I never flirted with a bunch of girls from the library when I was working as a waiter though, but that’s a different story….

  2. 1minionsopinion says:

    I’ve also heard of places where those who get tips have to pool them together and share with the other staff, cooks and even their employer, too. That doesn’t seem entirely fair in cases where one person’s really getting lots of tips and others barely work for any.

    I should tip more than I do, I suppose. I get what you mean about remembering good tippers. I didn’t think about that part either. I know I certainly remember the jerks I’ve dealt with from a retail perspective..I’d rather remember the nice folks.

  3. tmso says:

    Wow – didn’t know how un-American tipping used to be. I wish for the good ol’ days! Well, kind of. At least the non-tipping part.

    I here ya George W. I’ve never worked a tip-job, but I have a long time, good friend who has worked as a waitress for over 20 years. She says if you don’t like to tip or don’t have the money to tip properly, you should not go out to eat. When she told me that, I thought, honey, don’t bite the hand that feeds you! But, as Minion writes, employees expect the customers to pick up the tab so they can cut costs by paying non-living wages. Absurd.

    Even so, I don’t have too much sympathy for folks with tip-jobs because that good friend makes more money than I do. (I have a professional job with a Master’s education.) I guess I’ll have to limit my nights out to Fresh Choice and Subway. 😦

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