The Virtue of Tipping

A comment on my earlier post about frugal living had me thinking more about tipping. I had mentioned in the post that some people take frugal living to an extreme, which makes them behave in a very cheap manner. To illustrate this, I used an example of someone who might not tip a waiter. The comment mentioned above indicates that the reader doesn’t agree with me. He believes that there is a clear line between frugal and cheap. Being cheap does not mean you have taken frugal living to an extreme, but rather, it indicates that in your quest for being frugal, you have crossed the line that separates the decent from the not.

I can’t say I disagree. I’m all for saving a penny here, and a buck there. But not leaving a tip to save a wee bit more, just doesn’t sit well with me. In the hospitality industry where the wages are low, but the work is demanding, tips can go a long way in making somebody’s day. And whether you realize it or not, good service makes your day too. Wouldn’t you enjoy your dinner a tad bit more if you had a friendly waiter (or waitress) who showed interest in what you wanted, did not mess up your order and served you with a smile on the face? How about when you have heavy luggage and the cabbie or the bell hop helps you with it? Or when the hair dresser does your hair while chatting with you breezily and rattling off tips on how you could take better care of your hair? So, if they make your day go a little better, why not you make their day in return?

Remember, the tips are given in the end. The person serving you has no clue if you will be a kind soul or the jerk that takes them for granted. And yet, every now and then, you come across these people who have a great upbeat attitude to lift your spirit and who seem genuinely happy to serve you. So, why not show the appreciation and leave some tips? Suppose the service wasn’t all that great. We all have our bad days. Maybe that person is having his blues. So be the bigger person and leave a tip and make that person’s day, anyway. Tipping is one of those opportunities to spread some joy. Anyone who receives a tip will be happy. And no matter how poor you are, if you tip, it will make you feel richer. So, go ahead and make someone’s day. Leave a tip.

When I was very young, I was out with my father to run some errands (a fairly rare treat for us) and we took a rikshaw (a local form of taxi) on our way back. This was before we had metered service and so, it was a very common local practice for the rikshawala (cabbie) and the customer to bargain for the right price. So, I was surprised when my dad paid the rikshawala what he asked for without any haggling. Now, at that point we weren’t doing all that great ourselves. So I asked my dad why he paid the rikshawala what he asked for, without haggling to lower the price. And my dad told me, "When you go out and eat, do you ask the restaurant owner why he charged you whatever he did for the meal? No. But when you go grocery shopping, you will haggle with the poor woman about the cost of vegetables. When the person at the gas station charges you something for the gas, will you ask him why the price is high or refuse to pay it? No. But when it comes to the rikshawala you will try to haggle the price. Isn’t it ironic that we pay the rich people what they ask for but try to haggle with the poor?" Its some deep stuff, but it really left an impression on me. Think about it. We pay our taxes without any complaints. We probably wouldn’t notice if the restaurant increased the price of the meal by a couple of bucks. And at a gazillion other places, we just pay what we are asked to. But when it comes to tipping someone, voluntarily showing appreciation for good service, we hesitate. Are we really a society so devoid of values?

If you have never worked in the service industry it may be hard to imagine how much a tip can mean to the person offering service to you. Just imagine, after working really hard year-after-year, if your company did not pay you any bonus or any form of perks whatsoever to show any appreciation, how would you feel? So, the next time you are out and encounter good service, please consider leaving a tip.

PS: I have been noticing "tip jars" on several blogs these days, and it annoys me to no end. Another one of my pet peeves is "automatic gratuity" that some restaurants automatically tack on to the bill. The beauty of tipping comes from the fact that it is not explicitly asked for, and is essentially a voluntary token of appreciation. Explicitly asking for it or automatically including it in the bill, takes the charm out of an age-old value. None of what I say here applies to such practices! I usually stop patronizing blogs/restaurants that explicitly ask for money! Anyway, that’s just my opinion. Let me bid adieu to you for now with this short story that I read several years ago, but it had such an impact on me, that I just spent over an hour looking for it on the Net :) Enjoy!

In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10-year old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him. "How much is an ice cream sundae?" "Fifty cents," replied the waitress. The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied a number of coins in it. "How much is a dish of plain ice cream?" he inquired. Some people were now waiting for a table and the waitress was a bit impatient. "Thirty-five cents," she said brusquely. The little boy again counted the coins. "I'll have the plain ice cream," he said. The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table, and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and departed. When the waitress came back, she began wiping down the table and then swallowed hard at what she saw. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies - her tip.

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English Major said...

I agree with your commenter: tipping is part of dining out, and if I can't afford to tip at a restaurant, I can't afford to eat there. That is, if I have $15 to spend on a meal out, that means I have $12 to spend on food and $3 to spend on the tip.

I'm going to disagree with you (rare, but it happens!) on the issue of blog tip jars. I'd rather see a tip jar than ads. Personally, I'd never put lots of text ads I didn't negotiate myself on my sidebar, but I would (and, occasionally, do) consider adding a tip jar. I'd rather my users occasionally drop me a buck or two for providing content they enjoy than scrape a few dollars out of AdSense by providing yet another medium in which ads overwhelm people's day-to-day lives. That is, I'd rather be paid for providing good content for my readers than for providing a market for some company I knew nothing about.

ispf said...

>>> I'm going to disagree with you

I like it when someone disagrees with me (unless they are doing it for the heck of it). Usually that means I will get to see a new perspective.

>>> I'd rather see a tip jar than ads.

See, I think the exact opposite.

To me, ads are just the "business part" of blogging. Eventually, I want to move away from the silly addy. On principle though, I will do it ONLY if my blog can support itself. That means that my blog has to raise some money. By offering to advertise on my site, I am offering a service to some other business. ie, I will give you a spot on my site, and if it generates traffic for you, you will pay me money. The hope is that some day I can afford to be choosy and will have to display only those ads that I approve. Until then, I will have to swallow my revulsion and take what I get. And I try to keep the ads in a separate section so readers can know that its an ad before clicking on it.

With a tip jar though, I have to ask for money directly. For that, I have to swallow my pride. Somehow, I find it harder to swallow my pride than my revulsion to ads. Connotations of cyber begging attached to the whole tip jar / donations thingie, makes it so much more worse.(

English Major said...

I understand where you're coming from.

But what about, say, a local magazine that accepts donations so that it can remain ad-free? Or NPR? Is that okay? If it is, why would we differentiate between those scenarios and a blog with a tip jar?

ispf said...

Wow, you've got me there. I went "hmmmm..." for a few minutes after reading that one!

Ok, here's my take. The three medium we are talking about - radio, print and the Net - are very different.

First lets take the radio. It's the easiest one to justify seeking donations for being ad-free. Because ads actually interrupt the listener. Getting rid of ads will significantly improve the listeners' experience. So, you really want to get rid of ads, but you need to support the station, so asking for a donations seems OK to me.

Next the online medium. Here things are not so black and white. If ads are cordoned off properly, say by giving them their own corner and not included within posts etc., they do not really interfere with the readers experience. So the justification of seeking money to stay ad-free to me is like saying, "I dont want to put the effort to find a means to support this site, so I am asking you for money". Doesn't quite work for me. That said, here's the caveat. For a huge project like wikipedia where they provide tonnes of information to a lot of users, and using ads can spark off questions about the legitimacy of the information ("was the accuracy influenced by the advertisers?"), then I feel its perfectly fine to seek donations. But on personal blog, where most bloggers have disclaimers that "this is just my opinion, I am no expert, dont hold me accountable" etc, its hard to justify asking for money.

As for the magazines, I'm still "hmmm...."-ing :)

ispf said...

(I really enjoyed having this discussion with the English Major about adsense Vs. tip jars. I guess there might be more to this than what we have discussed here, and so the discussion is moved to

Please do stop by that post and let us know what your opinions are about blog monetization.)

Jenn said...

I've frequenly wished we did tipping here in the states like they do in Europe-Give waiters and waitresses a regular wage, similar to what you pay a shop clerk or other staff, and then ONLY tip for exceptional service. I hate feeling like I got mediocre service but that I need to tip anyway because they are only making $4.75 an hour or something. It has gone from a reward for good service to a necessity. I hate that.

ispf said...

Jenn: You raise a good point. The custom/expectations of tipping is so different in different places! When I went back home (India) last holidays, and left a tip as I usually do here, my aunt was really mad at me. She said, we bring in the "american money" and tip the wait staff and get them used to such luxuries, and now not only do the wait staff expect "tips" from everyone, they even offer differential service to the locals vs those from abroad :(

gagan said...

nice thoughts about tipping. it does makes someone's day and yours too to see a smiling and friendly face .