Fear, Justice, or Cheapness?

My father tried to teach me well, explaining that every doorman, porter, cabbie, waitress, and mail carrier deserved a tip for their services and that the bulk of their earnings depended on tips–a precarious situation since one’s paycheck is thus determined by the often inconsistent kindness of patrons.

I continually wrestle with tipping. Emotionally I understand that it’s a good way to put positive energy out into the world, in accordance with the Threefold Law, because money is nothing but congealed energy. Intellectually, I find myself demanding that people “earn” the tip that they get.

I go out of my way to treat anyone that traditionally expects a tip kindly; this includes waitstaff, hairdressers and the like. I have been in the service industry and understand quite well that they are ofttimes abused needlessly. When it comes time to tip, however, my sense of justice demands that the tip be commensurate with the service, since I made a special effort to make them feel at ease. I’m completely willing to leave two pennies in a upside-down glass of water if the service warrants it.

Then there’s the other tippable professions, like garbage collectors, postal carriers, and yes, even baristas. Despite what Donna Freitas says in her essay in tipping, these people don’t depend on tips to survive, and if they are getting a large percentage of their income from their holiday tips, they are doing much, much better than I. The intimation that your service will be improved by a generous tip smacks of extortion to me, so I avoid it.

But then we get to the crux of the matter: giving is good. Tipping is giving, and so tipping is good. What we put out into the world comes back to us three times. I don’t think I would be classified as a bad tipper, but my excuses, borne of fear of poverty, prevent me from being a good tipper. I don’t have faith enough in my own beliefs, and that’s something that needs to change.

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