Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Is Tipping Mandatory ? My Answer.

My friend Matthew recently wrote on his own blog asking the question of whether or not tipping is mandatory. He and his friend were insulted by a bartender's loud complaining that they had not tipped him for dispensing their drinks. This is my take on the issue he raised.

My first question is, why didn't they tip the bartender when they received their drinks ?

It is the culture and the norm in this country to give a tip to the bartender every time an alcoholic drink is dispensed and paid for. That is how it is, and how it always has been for as long as I can remember. I don't know of anyone who tips at the end of the night. Those who tip will do so at the time that the drink it paid for. So I'm not sure of the rationale behind the withholding on the night in question.

In the same vein, Danny mentioned once that he knew someone who never tipped the pizza delivery guy. He didn't know why this person refused to do this, however, it was a practice that was very unpopular among the deliverers. I ask again, why is this necessary ? Why would anyone refuse to tip them ? One rebellious person will not change a complete cultural norm, especially one that is, by nature, a kind, generous, and positive thing to do.

There are times when giving a small tip, or none at all, is understandable. Poor service, rude comments, multiple errors - all are situations where one can choose to withhold or reduce the tip amount accordingly. There is no dispute about that. However, it is my belief that deliberately withholding a tip for any other reason, especially when the person performing the service did an adequate job, is unnecessarily malicious.

I agree with Matthew there are times when the expectations of a tip are significantly out of line. It is not required or expected to shell out cash to every ice cream shop tip jar. I'll get my own towel in the club bathroom, thank you. The driver of the bus at the airport doesn't necessarily warrant a tip, but he will get one if he helps me load and unload my heavy, awkward bags. Either way, I am aware that it is a simple matter of courtesy for a fellow human being who is working hard to help me out.

Let's face it, being in public service of any kind is difficult work. It amazes me how workers in that industry can find it possible to put on a smile and give courteous and helpful service when faced with the multitude of customers taking out their misplaced frustrations and personal agendas on them. The bartender who berated the non-tipping customers out loud will likely not last in that job much longer. A much thicker skin is required for someone in that type of position. But there are many more, unlike him, who face these situations on a daily basis, and who still treat everyone with respect. They deserve to be rewarded for that.

Those who work in the service industry are just like the rest of us; working hard to put food on the table and a roof over their heads. Only a scant few do not perform their duties adequately and with respect. The vast majority are well deserving of the accepted practice of giving a tip. To choose not to do so is one's right, but is also rude, arrogant and disrespectful to that person, that human being on the other side of the counter.

So Matthew, to answer your question, yes, tipping the bartender when he's doing an acceptable job is mandatory. So please do it. If not always, at least when you're with me. Ok ?

Otherwise, feel free to stay at home and pour your own drinks.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tipping is gratitude of the service. Although many of the people you mentioned are in the service industry, they are still working. They are providing us a service... Therefore tipping is NOT mandatory.
If Matthew feels that he does not want to tip someone, then he is entitled to that. There are times when I get really bad service from a waiter/waitress. I don't leave a tip because I have been made to wait for so long while she answers her cell phone or talks to her friends... There is no way I would leave a tip if I don't see them working or have valid reason for their incompetence...

February 23, 2006 at 10:31:00 AM PST  
Blogger Andrea said...

Clarification: He was receiving perfectly fine service when he decided not to tip. That I have an issue with. If the bartender wasn't doing his job, that is one thing. But withholding a tip for absolutely no reason other than social rebellion is unfair and malicious to the poor sap just trying to make a living.

February 23, 2006 at 10:47:00 AM PST  
Blogger AJ said...

I gotta say I agree with Matthew for the most part. I was actually thinking about a blog on this lately. When a waitress gives me fantastic service, I will leave a healthy tip. In fact, on Valentine's Day, I was out to eat and received incredible service. Not only did I leave a hefty tip, I went out of my way to mention how good she was to the manager. So many times, people will hunt down a manager to complain, but rarely make a point to praise. When I'm at a bar, if I notice the bartender adding a little extra alcohol or topping of a shot, I'll recognize that with a good tip. Of course, if i can tell the drink is watered down, I'll say something and see what happens. If I get the same drink next time, the tip is going way down. I think it's just common sense. There is no way I'm tipping the guy at Starbucks, or Jamba Juice, etc... However, if the guy I ordered a pizza from brought me napkins, red pepper, and parm cheese, he'll be rewarded. With bartenders, it's speed and amount of drink. Tip accordingly.

February 23, 2006 at 11:17:00 AM PST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tend to agree with Matthew too. I think tipping has become way overrated. It is their job, that is what they are paid for. If the wages are not high enough isn't that something the restaurants should address? Why do people look bad on the customers for not tipping enough when the restaurants pay them a lousy wage? We don't tip dentists or auto mechanics and they provide a service too, right?

Don't get me wrong, I am not all against tipping, I tip all the time. But let's remember that is is gratuity and in no way mandatory.

April 17, 2008 at 8:53:00 PM PDT  

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