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Columns

The take on 'tip jars' tips toward no handout

By SHARON TUBBS
Published June 29, 2007


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Only one person called me a moron last week, so things went much better than expected.

My June 22 column questioned takeout joints that expect us to leave our well-earned cash in "tip jars." My basic argument was that tips are for services beyond the preparation of food. In most takeout situations, no such service is given. There is no waiter suggesting entrees or refilling a glass of tea, just a cashier ringing up the order. So why tip?

I readied myself for a barrage of name-calling from generous free-love types.

What I got was quite the opposite. Readers were snarkily opposed to Mr. Tip Jar's not-too-subtle suggestion that they leave change and stray dollar bills for takeout. Several said employers should simply pay workers more, rather than expect customers to supplement employee wages.

When it comes to tip jars, it appears that many people are just as confused and stingy - ahem, principled - on the matter as I am.

Here's what a few people had to say on our Web site, tampabay.com:

Jen: I ignore "begging jars." Sorry, but you are not getting a tip for pouring a cup of coffee, or plopping a scoop of ice cream into a cone. I do tip wait staff in restaurants, and tip based on quality of service.

Crystal: I've worked in a restaurant and still don't tip at counters in restaurants. Counter servers get paid as much as people at grocery stores. Should we tip them as well? Just pay your employees more. Tip jars are tacky.

Georg: One thing that bothers me is when I get a bottled beer at a bar, I'm supposed to leave a tip for the person who takes the cap off the beer. I could get a beer from a vending machine, so why should I tip for that???

Sue: I valeted my car yesterday at Centro Ybor and was told the drivers "work for tips." I don't think I'm cheap for saying I think it's tacky to beg for tips. If you have class you're going to tip a valet guy. But it seems everyone has a hand out.

Mike: The tip jar is a reason for the cheap owners not to pay more than minimum wage, that's all. Now they will say I'm a redneck or whatever. I have been down here for 10 years from Boston and love it here.

Part of an e-mail from Tom Berlinger of Tallahassee echoes thoughts from several people who noted that patrons in other countries don't feel obligated to tip nearly as much as we do:

I just came back from an eight-day trip to Iceland and was floored by what happened to us the very first day we arrived there. My wife and I sat down in a midlevel restaurant, ordered dinner, then received our bill. Not knowing the local custom, I leaned over to a nearby table and asked a native Icelander about the usual expectations on tipping. "No tipping is the usual practice, and no tipping is expected in Iceland, " was his reply. "The custom here is that everybody here makes a living wage, " he went on. "We don't tip in restaurants, hotels or taxicabs."

And this e-mail from R. Barlow said people who prepare takeout orders are doing the jobs they are paid for:

If you want to own a restaurant and you want to get a profit doing so, it is YOUR responsibility to provide adequate compensation for your workers. Offer more than minimum wage. You have already made money on the order and shouldn't expect everyone else to compensate your server for a job he is doing for YOU.

But a few Web site responses showed love for tip jars:

Rockie: At a place I go for takeout often, the man taking orders refers to me as "My Friend." I know he does this to others. If it weren't for customers, he wouldn't have a job. I know he remembers me, knows my order and makes it my way. That's special service = Tips!

Donna: My 77-year-old mom works part time at the local dog track in a food stand. She prepares hot dogs, ice cream, coffee, burgers, popcorn on her feet all day. She can take in $1, 000 on a given day; if she's lucky she makes 5-10 percent in her tip jar, not much for hard work.

And finally, this from "Otis, " who quoted a line from my original column: "Why in the world should I leave a tip for buying takeout food?" Because somebody cooked your food for you, moron.

To read the original column on tipping, go to opinion.tampabay.com/tubbs.

[Last modified June 28, 2007, 08:05:12]


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