Law School
Personal Finance

Why Tip?

Yesterday Brett posted a guide to tipping. To some it may have appeared that Brett and I like to throw our money around and hand out big tips to every Tom, Dick, and Harry. But it is important to note that most of the services listed in that post are services that, because we are frugal, we would never use. We don’t use a sky cap, we wait in line for the ticket counter; we don’t purchase tours, get massages, buy car washes, or use valet parking either. The point is, however, that if you did use those services, then you should tip. And really, if you are well off enough to afford those services, then you could most certainly afford to cough up a few bucks extra for the tip.

Some of the comments expressed negativity towards the whole idea of tipping in general. Several posters mentioned that they did not think it was necessary to pay above and beyond the actual cost of the service. For example CrazyPumpkin said: “My boss doesn’t ‘tip’ me when I finish a project ahead of time or do a task particularly well. He says thank you and I get to keep my job. He expects these things of me, it’s part of my job description.”

So I would like to discuss the point of tipping.

The difference between a regular job and the jobs that require tips is that they are service jobs, and they are called service jobs because they are serving you. They personally and intimately effect you. I agree that you do not need to always tip people like tow truck drivers or baristas, and you do not have to tip people for doing their job per se. But you might think about tipping people for the following reasons:

1) If the person went above and beyond regular service. It is just a way of showing gratitude for a job well done and going the extra mile. While many people work in professions that don’t receive tips per se, companies often offer bonuses after a project is completed successfully. And what is a bonus if not just a very large tip? When bonuses are offered, people do not generally say “There is no need to give me a bonus. I was just doing my job.”

2) To show your gratitude. Another word for tip is “gratuity.” Many people in service jobs are overworked, underpaid, and unthanked. At your job when you do something right, your supervisor says “thank you,” and “job well done!” Who says thank you to the trashmen? Many service jobs are jobs we don’t want to do, and we are grateful people are there day in and day out doing them for us. Our trash gets taken away, our mail gets delivered, our food is served to us. Their pay often does not match their effort. Who thinks that teachers’ pay is commensurate with the work they put in? Tipping is a way to say “thank you” to those who rarely hear it.

3) Tipping ensures great service. This is especially true of people who perform service for you regularly. If you tip a barista at a coffee shop you frequent, or a waiter at your favorite restaurant, they will give you even better service next time. For example, I used to work at a pizza place and when an order came in, if the pizza delivery guy recognized the name, and remembered they were a big tipper, they would bust their butt to get the order out. They would even take the tipper the order BEFORE orders that had come in earlier. If an order came up for a name they recognized as a bad tipper, they would deliver that order later. Similarly, when I worked at Jamba Juice, this one customer would tip us very heavily every time she came in. So during her visits we were practically falling over ourselves to get her order out. We would start making it even before she paid. And we would always throw in extra goodies. So in things you do regularly, tipping is certainly not essential, but can guarantee you better service.

In summation: Tipping is not always necessary. You certainly shouldn’t be throwing your money around. But it can be appropriate in some circumstances. If someone serves you in a way that makes a difference in your day, a few bucks is a nice way to show you are thankful.