12/10/2010

Tipping, When Your Career Path Depends on Begging

I was in Durango, CO when I began to write this. My grandson and I were taking a Rocky Mountain motorcycle tour and we ended up here after a few days of camping. Right after parking the bike at the motel, we went for a walk downtown and stopped at an ice cream shop. An ice cream cone and a smoothie cost me about $10 and the server was obviously putout that I didn't leave a tip.

I suspect my father went his whole high school teaching life without spending much more than $10 on tips. His advice on tipping was that extraordinary service might warrant a tip, but just doing your job is what you get paid for. Today, people doing practically any sort of job that requires some sort of interaction with a customer expect a tip for the slightest nod to common courtesy.

I suppose I should be interested in the fact that most of these folks have done a pitiful job of planning their careers. I should probably care that their lack of technical knowledge or employable skills has relegated them to a life filled with the repetitive phrase, "Would you like fries with that?" or "Can I get you another beer?" I should find sympathy for the awful situation these people find themselves in after a life of screwing off in class, taking the easy path through the public education system, and grabbing an easy job at Old Navy or Payless Shoes instead of pursuing a career in manufacturing or doing something meaningful and useful. Sorry. I can't generate any sympathy for any of those decisions or the results.

A kid recently told me he had "the best job in the world." He was a guide in the Grand Canyon. So, having recently experienced the tactics guides use to weasel tips out of customers, I said, "Cool, you're a beggar." He was offended. Go figure.

When you spend at least half of the time you're with a customer telling them about how hard you've worked for all of your "outdoors degrees" and how much student loan debt you're in because of those degrees, you're begging. When you mention, every five minutes or so, that your guide has worked hard to show you a good time and that the guide deserves something extra for that effort (even if you paid $500 for a couple of days on a rubber boat), you're begging. When you make a special trip, with your hand out, around the group of tourists to be sure they have an opportunity to tip you, you're begging. There is no such thing as a "professional beggar." You're either a panhandler or you aren't one.

There are all sorts of jobs that are more critical, more entertaining, more helpful and more important than the occupations that incorporate begging. Firemen don't expect a tip after saving a home from a kitchen fire, so why tip a valet for parking a car? Teachers don't expect tips for educating children for a life free from begging and panhandling, so why tip a waitress who didn't bother to listen in school and who chose the high tech life of moving plates from a counter to tables? Not that long ago, craftsmen refused tips as a matter of pride. If we have degenerated so far that begging for handouts has become accepted practice for any act of employment we might as well walk around with "will work for food" signs on our backs.

No tipping for common courtesy and expected service isn't disrespect or cheapness, it's reasonable. You chose your career, you do your job, you know what the salary was when you accepted the job, why imagine the public is obligated to make up for your lack of foresight? If the foodies wonder why most people would rather grab a fastfood burger and go home, look at the unrealistic expectation of "food serving" beggars for your first clue.

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