Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Whom do you tip, and how much?

Glad to be back among you after an enjoyable visit with the in-laws in Cincinnati (which included watching, in person, a stirring victory by the Bengals over the powerhouse Kansas City Chiefs - Who Dey?). One of my in-laws (she wanted to remain anonymous - oops) suggested that I ask for opinions on the blogosphere about tipping. Whom do you tip? The mailman? Bartenders? The paper delivery person (who is, for the most part, no longer a neighborhood kid, but a guy in a pickup truck)? The person who cuts your hair? The guy who uses one of Ellipses' beloved Shamwows to wipe off your seat at a ball game? I recently had furniture delivered and gave $10 to each of the guys who lugged the stuff in. Is that typical? And once we've determined whom we tip, we have to decide how much. I think a buck is plenty for the guy with the Shamwow, but how much for waitresses and waiters, who rely most on tips? From what I understand, the old 10-percent-of-the-bill tip is so 1970s. If the service is good, I generally tip 20 percent. If it's a place like Shorty's, where the bill is smaller than, say, Angelo's or the Union Grill, I'll tip a higher percentage. Tomorrow, we'll get back to the pressing issues of the day - such as Palin's bastard grandbaby - but for now, what are your thoughts on tipping?



Blogger Ellipses said...

What an great blog post :-)

First thing's first... I am no longer a satisfied Sham-Wow customer. I was using one of our two Sham-Wows as a diaper on my son when we took him to the Campbell Wellness Center. Thinking it safe (and fun), my wife and I dunked the german-engineered-synthetic-cloth-swaddled-baby into the pool and POW! The pool went dry, we were banned from the premises, and the baby weighed approximately 74,000 lbs. The Sham-wow is like the voice of God--- too much awesome for mere mortals.

And on tipping... At restaurants, I usually go for a 15% thing... for deliveries (pizza) it's usually whatever it takes to round off the bill to a satisfiable number (3.81 on a 16.19 bill).

December 31, 2008 at 11:45 AM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

I meant "Cameron"--- wellness center... I guess that's what happens when you make stuff up

December 31, 2008 at 11:58 AM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

Ellipses, I thought you were making a veiled German-engineered reference to that Campbell family that named the kid Adolf Hitler. I'm sorry you're no longer a satisfied Sham-Wow customer. Perhaps you could tune into one of Billy Mays' eardrum-crushing commercials to find something to help you, although I doubt there's a comparable product. Beware of imitators, you know.

As for the tips, well, to me it varies tremendously. Haircut, $2.00. Sham-Wow seat wiper guy, $1.00. Pizza or Chinese delivery, at least $2.00 or I'll round up. Furniture delivery would be commensurate with the type of furniture. For instance, if it's a dining set or a couch, ten bucks is fine. For a piano, I'd go much higher.

I've tipped my newspaper guy before. I had a factory job - shift work - and I worked strange hours, sometimes getting off from work at 5 a.m. But when I got home, my paper was always there. If I had to leave the house early for work, like 4:30 a.m., my paper was always there. When it rained, he wrapped it in one of those ubiquitous yellow bags. However, he went one step further. Not only did he put the paper in the bag, he twisted it shut, folded it over, and placed the paper against the wall or step so that the weight of the paper kept everything tightly shut. He did all this in the rain, you know. That's service!

Having waited tables, I'm probably more generous than I should be. But that's only because I know how tough it is to make a living waiting tables. It's much harder than it looks. So, for mediocre service, I give 15%; for bad service, 10%; but for anything above just average service, I tip 20% or more. And I know this is sexist as hell, but if they waitress is cute, she'll get more. What can I say? I'm a red-blooded American man.

December 31, 2008 at 2:48 PM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

Oh...Welcome back, Brant!

December 31, 2008 at 2:49 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

Glad to be back. I also have to admit that the outward appearance and friendliness level of the waitress can have an impact on my tipping. Or should I say, used to have an impact. As a married man, I, of course, no longer notice whether other women are attractive or not.

December 31, 2008 at 3:17 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

I haven't left the couch since I accidentally spilled some of Billy Mays' super mend it on my Snuggie blanket and sat down... that stuff is like a welder for fabric!

December 31, 2008 at 3:19 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

MIGHTY mend it... damn, what I am I? I am fumbling over pop-cultury references like a 70 year old hermit from Tennessee... them kids and their damn innerwebs machines!

December 31, 2008 at 3:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A $50 tip to Brant or calling Palin's grandkid a bastard!

I tip the barber at least $3 for a $15 haircut, more if he or she takes their time and actually does something more than run the #2 clippers over my head quickly.

I tip waitresses at least 15% unless they are plain lousy. If they go out of their way to engage our party in conversation, make good recommendations for food or wine and go the extra mile to make us feel welcome, I'll go higher. I have never tipped a bartender, but I never go to bar these days.

I used to tip the paperboy when he was actually a boy -- I won't tip anyone for heaving the paper from a car window onto the street at the bottom of my driveway.

I can remember when my family tipped the mailman at Christmas, but fat chance I'll do that.

I figure that most service folks -- other than waiters and hairdressers -- have a decent enough salary and that good service should be part of the job description.

December 31, 2008 at 4:59 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

40 minutes left in EST 08... I am supremely happy to have been able to discourse with you fine people this year... Good luck in '09!

December 31, 2008 at 11:20 PM  
Blogger Roger said...

... hesitant to chime in, but can't keep myself from saying something.

The tipping scheme has never set well with me, and probably never will. I suppose it stems from my ideas of "do what you are paid to do, do it well, and be satisfied with the payment scheme agreed upon beforehand." Tipping implies that somebody is worth getting paid because they do a good job.

A couple of other comments here speak about "only" 10% if the service was lousy. To me, that practice just reinforces more bad work. If somebody didn't do their job, then why should they get paid? I go to get a haircut, I expect to get a haircut that I want -- there is no ambiguity in what I want, what the provider offers. Things like delivering newspapers, delivering pizza (never have done had this done), hauling in furniture, and other like tasks, the provider should be getting paid to do the job. Either the newspaper is there, the pizza is at the door, and the furniture is in the house -- or NOT. If NOT, then the person didn't do their job. [BTW, I've never heard, ever thought about, giving the furniture delivery person a tip. In hindsight, I've always hauled my own, never had anybody deliver anything.]

The topic hearkens back to the baggage handlers at US Airways. Please don't turn this into a rant against US Airways, thanks. The handlers were being paid to do their job. But, the results were not satisfactory to management (or the customers). Management decided to offer incentives to get the work done more quickly. Wa-la, ... with an incentive, the work was done better, and quicker. Why? The handlers were being paid to do their jobs, and be the best they could be. But, since a change was noted with a "tip" the work practices changed. This is just plain crazy, and speaks volumes about the work ethic, or lack thereof.

The same is true for school districts wanting to pay students $0.25 for every day they came to school. What a stupid idea, giving an incentive to do what is to be done in the first place.

The same is true with the tipping thing. The workers are paid to do the job, the best they can do -- or, that is how it should be done. The food service industry has allowed themselves to be snookered into paying a very low wage, with the expectation of the worker making up a reasonable income through tips. Yes, I have left $0.00 tip on occasion, when the person did not do their job. My message is clear: Do your job, and you will be paid; don't do your job, and you won't be paid.

Why would I pay anybody to wipe my seat off at the stadium? Why isn't the seat clean when the patrons arrive? Why would I pay somebody to carry my bags at the hotel, if that is their job to do so? ... the list goes on.

As somebody who has owned my own business for years, and have provided services to typical neighborhood residents, I have a different perspective. I have said so often, "... everybody needs to be a small business owner for about three years, we would have a much different attitude from consumers." Six months, just long enough to slip by isn't enough. The time period needs to be long enough to see the impact of work ethic, and how it effects income. I propose to do work for a customer, agree upon a price, do the work the best I can, and expect to be paid exactly what I agreed (on time, I might add). I don't expect anything else. Why should I expect something else?

If people want to be paid for their work, how well they do their work, make as much as they can because of superior service, then why don't they start their own business? Or, why don't they post themselves as independent contractors? All they need to risk is the investment and long-range stability. The tipping scheme is merely taking one half of the picture, the up-side.

January 1, 2009 at 7:26 AM  
Blogger miss bess said...

Having delivered pizza for several summers and one icey winter break in college, I always tip at least $3 for pizza delivery - rarely less, and always more on particularly nasty days. I recall stumbling over poorly-lit walkways on snowy evenings while balancing a hot pizza in hand. And then there were really fun deliveries when trying to find houses with weird, 1/2-numbered addresses in the dark while the owner's pit bull was running wild, smelling for extra cheese. You think I jest? Take a hot hoagie into West End at midnight...see how many dogs you befriend! Regardless, I tip generously.

I also try and be fair to wait staff - I've learned from my waitress best friend that it's generally not the fault of the server if the cook is a twit and whips up a rare steak instead of that veggie burger you ordered. Oops!

And I like to leave a treat, like cookies or chocolates, for my mailman at Xmas. My mail arrives at the same time everyday, and I know I forget to salt the walk sometimes (sorry Paul).

My 2 cents.

January 1, 2009 at 9:57 PM  
Blogger donnab1lew said...

roger, how could you compare school children with wait staff (who by the way make 2.85 an hour)?

January 1, 2009 at 11:53 PM  
Blogger Roger said...

donnab1lew: I'm sorry that I was not clear in my post about school children and waitstaff. The overarching idea in my post was people taking responsibility to do what they need to do, do it well, and do it because it is the right thing to do.

In the case of waitstaff, the system has migrated to nearly a "customer pay for service" model. I realize the wage is very little (don't know the actual amount, but I will assume you are right). If, and that is the caveat, IF the pay system was a model of employer pays the employee like most other employment situations, the tipping scheme would not exist. But that is not the model we have. It would not surprise me to see the wage system eliminated entirely, with the waitstaff earning their income entirely on tips. It could even go the other way -- a person pays a company to have a position to provide a service, and get their income from tips. This would be the independent contractor model.

Personally, I think the model should be one of employer/employee, with an hourly rate, with the employee doing the job expected of them for an agreed-upon salary. But, apparently this model does not work because employees need an incentive to do what is already expected of them.

In the case of school students, the model with the incentive includes a payment for doing what is already expected. What message does this send to students? It says quite clearly that "I need some bonus, some special incentive, to do what is right." This thinking soon gets propagated to other areas in life.

Consider the bonus system in many companies, including the ones on Wall St. A recent O-R story spoke about municipal workers south of Washington (Waynesburg?) getting a bonus at the end of the year.

A bonus used to be excess profits from a privately held company, or if somebody was an exceptional employee. If the company did well over the year, employees reaped a benefit in the form of a bonus. Or, if somebody went far beyond the call of expected responsibility, perhaps management would give them a bonus reward. Now, we have come to the point of "everybody deserves a bonus," ala the school student getting paid just to go to school.

If somebody believes they deserve a bonus for doing what is expected, the best thing for them is to start and own a business. As owner, they can deliver a bonus to themselves when the company thrives and make exceptional money. This is the life of an successful entrepreneur. They are in full control with regard to profits, and after navigating a company to success deserve every penny of excess profits. This is the path to a bonus, and determining how much income flows into the pocket. American capitalism provides the path for making good money. For me, this is more acceptable than merely expecting a bonus when merely doing the expected job as an employee.

What path of thinking does paying school students $0.25 per day for just showing up at school?

I hope this helps make clear why the waitstaff and school student are in the same post.

January 3, 2009 at 8:47 PM  
Anonymous Joe Tuscano said...

I think tips depend on the service. If you blindly give 20 percent to your waitress or waiter, what motivates them to do a good job? A good job by my standards is pretty standard: refill my drink, be a bit more cheery than someone on death row, get the order correct, and check on our table once in a while.

It also wouldn't hurt if you engaged in some small chit-chat but it's not necessary.

You would be surprised how many times that does not happen. I know waitressing can be very stressful and it's hard work. But I also know good waitresses or waiters can clear hundreds of dollars a week at a place no more elegant than Eat-N-Park.

Delivery is always 20 percent as long as he or she can find my place within an hour and the food is not cold.

BTW, Shorty's is the hardest place for me to determine a tip. I'm in there for 15 minutes, spend about $10, and the waitresses don't seem particularly happy in their work.

Second hardest is my, ahem, stylist. I usually tip $2 for my $12 hair cuts because I normally spend no more than three minutes in the chair as I am follickly challenged. A no. 2 head on the trimmer, a few passes over the head and I'm out. The strange part is that the stylists fight to get me in their chair.

Easy money.

January 4, 2009 at 11:29 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

Have I got a deal for you, Joe. Give me $5, no tip, and I'll give you a haircut with the same clippers I use to buzz the hair clumps off my cat's backside. It's win-win.

January 4, 2009 at 12:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brant it is illegal to cut hair for money without a license... (silly isn't it). Takes 6-9 months to cut hair legally in State of Pa. 12 hours to write a mortgage. Now wonder why we had a mortgage crisis?

January 5, 2009 at 8:59 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

That does seem a bit out of whack. One can only imagine the thinking that led to the requirement of licensing for hair-cutting. That kind of over-regulation is probably what drove Perry Como out of the business. ;-)

January 5, 2009 at 9:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Joe -- it's not strange that the hair stylists fight to get you in the chair. They make more money from your three minutes than on someone who takes 15. But ya know what, my hairline is the same as yours, and as hard as it is to believe, it's possible to get a bad haircut from someone using #2 clippers if they don't take their time. I've had stylists do it casually and come home with random hairs sticking out. I've had some stylists take 15 minutes to make sure everything is correct -- to the point of measuring to make sure my sideburns are the same length and that the bottoms of my sideburns are parallel to the temple piece on my glasses. That's excessive, but there is such a thing as a great $12 haircut.

January 5, 2009 at 11:45 AM  
Anonymous Joe said...

Brant, That is a tempting deal, but I have to admit I enjoy their fringe benefits. One certain stylist is, how should I say, amply endowed. And she occasionally bumps her endowedness into the back of my head.

The simple pleasures in life are sometimes the best, and worth $12. :)

January 6, 2009 at 12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joe, if you're married and your wife reads that last comment, you won't be for long. Or all your haircuts will be done at home from now on.

January 6, 2009 at 3:48 PM  
Anonymous Joe said...

Sheesh, it was a joke.

January 9, 2009 at 11:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't pick on Joe....let the guy have a good time. It's more than likely the only bump he gets.

January 13, 2009 at 11:13 PM  

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