Horrified by the cemetery of hair spread beneath my chair, I slowly followed my hair stylist to the cash register. Mindlessly, I handed over my credit card while staring into the mirrors wishing for a way to reattach the pile of hair on the ground that was only supposed to be a half-inch trim.
“What would you like to tip?”
Shaken from my gaze, I realized what my hair stylist was asking. Not if I wanted to tip (which would have been rude enough), but what I wanted to tip. I thought, “Tip?? You’re lucky to be paid in full after this disaster.” I left that day, devastated over my hair and she left with a big, fat 20% tip.
Once upon a time a tip was a compliment to a service that was above and beyond, not an expectation. Did this hair stylist go above and beyond? She cut my hair. Nothing more than what I expected going in, unless she considers cutting way more off than asked, “going the extra mile.”
Nowadays if an audience does not give a standing ovation at the end of a performance, they might as well say, “You stink!” What once was a real honor is now routine. After all, it should take a pretty stellar performance to get a crowd of people off their lazy backsides. If a gesture of that magnitude loses its meaning, how will we ever express a sincere compliment? (This sounds like a joke. It kind of is. But mostly I’m being dead serious).
Twenty percent tips used to be a good tip. Now it is simply standard. Sure, it was nice to have my water glass full throughout the meal, but I thought that was his job. It’s pouring a glass, not saving my life. Maybe if he had thrown in an extra basket of bread or hooked us up with an extra special seat, or had to deal with our difficult requests–maybe. It would make sense to tip the lawyer who saves you thousands of dollars, or the surgeon who noticed a couple other things he could fix up while he’s at it, or the plumber who fixed up the sink as an extra measure. But very few jobs get tips, I’m lucky to get a bonus once a year equal to the tips a taxi driver counts before his lunch break.
Some occupations receive less pay from their employer because tips are factored in. How did the employer swing that?! Can you just imagine him mumbling to himself over his account books with a large cigar in hand,
“Say, I know! We’ll pay these idiots way less than they deserve and then blame it on the consumer!”
We get suckered into “guilt tipping” people because somehow the responsibility of providing their salary has fallen in our hands.
We “guilt tip” all the time because we’re embarrassed. We tip jobs we could have done ourselves—lifting a bag, opening the door, parking our car. We compensate for the awkwardness of the situation, not because we’re incapable and grateful they were there to help.
Tips are simply not tips if they are obligated (by the way it’s not charity if the government mandates it either, but that’s another story). The next time I think to ask my husband if my dinner was so good, I’ll remember whatever he says next will not likely be a sincere compliment. Then I’ll probably go ahead and ask anyway.