Friday, August 21, 2009

Beyond The Tipping Point

The other day my daughter and I stopped by her favorite new yogurt saloon on State Street, Yogurtland.

If you've never been there before, here's how it works. You walk in, you grab a cup, you fill it with your choice of flavors of yogurt from the serve yourself dispensers. You then garnish it yourself with the as many toppings from their vast selection as you like. You then take it to the cash register and set it down on a scale and weigh it. You pay the cashier. The price of your yogurt is determined by the weight of the desert dessert cup that you just filled.

I'd never seen anything like it before. There was one other thing that I saw that was quite unexpected. A tip jar sitting next to the cash register. And there was money in it! "What's that doing there?" I thought to myself. After all, this is a self serve restaurant!

It's official, this tip jar business has gotten out of hand.

A tip jar next to the cash register of a self-serve restaurant is like having a tip jar at the checkout stand of the grocery store. How can they possibly justify it?

There's no tip jar at the ice cream counter at the Rite-Aid a few blocks up State Street. Yet Pinkberry across the street has one.

There's no tip jar at McDonalds or In-N-Out. But there is one at The Habit. Go figure.

If you've been around here as long as I have, you'll remember the old Copper Coffee Pot, located where Aldo's is now. That was a cafeteria style restaurant. No tip jar there.

My rule of thumb is that I don't tip in any eating establishment that has a trash receptacle in the dining area. If I'm expected to clear my own dishes, why should I tip?

The rules and customs of when and when not to tip are oftentimes blurry and vague. To steal a phrase from Justice Potter Stewart, "I can't describe it but I know it when I see it."

After constantly encountering the tip jar next to the register, I've come up with my own list of who and what deserves a tip.

Deserving of a tip: Wait staff at restaurants, cab drivers, bell hops who handle your bags and show you to your room, lap dancers, the shoe shine guy, sky caps, the barber, the bartender, (don't expect a stiff drink if you stiff the bartender) the pizza delivery person, the tattoo artist, the barista (if I'm ordering an espresso drink), the hotel maid.

I don't tip; door openers, people who hail taxis for me, the tattoo artist (if they screwed up the tattoo) the dry cleaner, the barista, (if I'm just ordering coffee), the airport shuttle bus driver (unless they help me with my bags).

One thing I don't like about the east coast; going into a public restroom and finding some attendant sitting there and expecting to be tightened up for keeping the washroom tidy. Isn't keeping a restroom clean good for business?

That's my list. And I'm sure there will be lots of varying opinions. Got any tips for me?
© 2009 by Craig Smith and