I shudder to imagine how Aunt Marie (God rest her soul) would react to today’s explosion of expectations for tipping.
Even back in pre-inflationary times, Aunt Marie (who always worked hard for her money) was prone to greet hints for gratuities with a cranky, “I’ll give ‘em a dadgum tip, alright!” (With the understanding that she meant a teeth-jarring tip upside the head.)
Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you know that more and more venues and occupations are pushing for tips and that bare-minimum percentages are trending inexorably upwards.
(Heck, even if you have been living in a cave, you’ve probably encountered some stranger with his palm extended muttering, “*Ahem* I’m the essential person who told you which are stalactites and which are stalagmites. Debit, credit or cash?”)
A tip of 15 percent maintained harmony between diners and waitstaff for decades. Now the server infers, “After I leave this measly 15 percent, I’m going to drive to the cemetery in my diamond-encrusted Rolls Royce and spit on your father’s grave.”
For no discernible reason other than pandemic pressures, a range of 18-20 percent is now the starting point. One member of the etiquette god pantheon did try to explain it with “Well, the fluctuations of the euro...I mean, the emergence of systemic...aw, go ask your mother!”
We’re supposed to get with the program and accept that tipping has evolved. Fine, if it has evolved, let Bill Nye the Science Guy fork over an extra two bucks for my hoagie.
It’s supposedly a violation of the social compact if we hold a grudge against a restauranteur who just wants to live his dream. (“My dream has always been to share my grandmother’s delicious recipes with the whole world – and, oh yeah, to underpay my staff.”)
Some businesses are tacking on an automatic tip even before a delivery is made. (“Sorry I flattened your carport and your terrier on the way in. The extra five bucks should help calm my nerves.”)
Restaurants feel justified in assessing an automatic 18-percent tip for large parties because the diners might (!) be unreasonable, might (!) tie up the table too long and might (!) forget whose turn it was to tip. Next, they will add a surcharge for bribing Animal Control because monkeys might (!) fly out of the butts of the diners.
Consumers are especially riled up over self-checkout (!) touchscreens that suggest a range of tips. (“Think of it as a convenience, not a guilt trip – although the touchscreen does sometimes complain that you never visit your cousin in Topeka.”)
The business owner swears he’s going to divvy up the money with all the (unseen) employees; but if I can’t trust him to keep the bathroom clean, fix the potholes in the parking lot and keep tea urns full, I’m not getting my hopes up about redistribution of wealth.
Tipping has taken on theological implications. In Bible days, some people had the notion that Saint Peter’s shadow falling on them would cure their illness. Now gas station clerks insist, “Hey, I was in the same time zone as your bagel, so that should be good for a buck or two.”
Hang in there, inflation-battered consumers. If Aunt Marie was here, she would feel your pain.
Or ... you could feel your own dadgum pain and tip 30 percent for the privilege.
Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”