The Importance of Tipping

I’ve never been a huge fan of Quentin Tarantino. I find his movies, while visually stunning, to be very obnoxious and generally overrated. His best film, and one of the best films of the 1990s, Jackie Brown, is the least “Tarantino” movie of the bunch (I also really like Pulp Fiction and somewhat liked Inglourious Basterds, but mainly for Christoph Waltz). He’s way too obsessed with the laziness of the revenge plot line, his movies are often unnecessarily violent, with gratuitous levels of obscene language, and overburdened with way too many pop culture references.

It must also be said that I think his worst film, and the only movie of his I’d categorize as flat-out bad (the rest are merely on a scale from “eh” to “meh”), is Reservoir Dogs. While it showed strong promise for him as a director, promise he lived up to with his next two movies, it’s just not a very good film.

If you’ve seen the movie and looked at the title of this article, you probably get where I’m going with this. If not, check out this scene.

Now it’s notable that Mr. Pink, played by Steve Buscemi in one of his first major roles, is a psychotic, amoral sociopath. Despite that, many people seem to feel he’s really onto something with his anti-tipping comments, and nodded along just like how some people thought Archie Bunker was really onto something. Just have a look at the comments section on that video if you don’t believe me.

With respect, I disagree, and I’d say to the character, and anyone else that wants to make a similar rant, that if you don’t want to tip, don’t go to a restaurant where it’s expected. Go to a place like McDonald’s where, fair or not, tipping is not expected (and having worked both fast food and as a server in a somewhat more standard restaurant, I will say that, at least mentally, being a server is far, far more work).

This is where I start bringing in terms like “social contract”, something which, unsurprisingly, a band of criminals wouldn’t have much truck with. Basically society has decided that tipping is something we should all do. Restaurants plan for it, servers plan for it, and customers should plan for it. If you can’t afford to tip, either don’t eat out, or go to a place where it isn’t expected. If you go to a place where it is expected, tip.

This isn’t just a matter of manners or a social contract, either. See, sometime in the last twenty years or so (I say that because I don’t remember it being the case when I first entered the workforce), it’s become an accepted and expected practice in the restaurant industry to “tip out” employees that don’t get tipped by the customers. This includes bussers, food runners, hosts and, at some places, bartenders. These people usually get a percentage of the server’s sales given to them as tips. When I worked for California Pizza Kitchen as a host, I got, if I remember right, 1.5% of the servers’ sales given to me as tips. It amounted to around an extra $20 a day or so, which wasn’t much, but helped a lot.

I feel that this is a good idea, but restaurant owners, being the generally “thrifty” sorts that they are, don’t pay this money out of their pockets. No, they pay it out of the servers’ tips. If I have, at my job, $1000 in sales, I might have to tip out 5% or so (I’m not sure of the exact percentage where I work), to my coworkers. That’s about $50 in that example, which was about what I tipped out on Christmas day. That comes out of my tip money, so if I earned $200 in tips, I pay them $50 and walk out with $150.

Not bad, you might think. That’s still $150 more than I walked in with, after all. That’s true, but it’s important to realize that I have to pay them that money no matter what I got in tips. If I got some very good, generous customers and earned $400 in tips, I pay my coworkers $50. But if I got a bunch of niggardly customers, and got only $60 in tips, I would still owe that $50.

Lest you think that an unlikely situation, let me point out that on Christmas Day, when I worked a fifteen hour shift, I was stiffed on two checks; one for $50 and one for $150. By that I don’t mean that the customers left without paying, I mean they left without paying me. If I had received a standard 15% tip (which, in the case of the larger check, I assure you I earned), I would have pocketed $30 off those two tables and then would have had to tip out approximately $10 to my coworkers.

But that isn’t what happened. I got paid $0.00 (which is exactly what someone took the time to write on their check, btw. If you ever want to show your face at a given restaurant more than once, don’t ever, ever do that), but still had to pay $10 to my coworkers. This means that it actually cost me money to wait on those two tables.

You can argue all you want about the fairness of this system. I do it myself. I believe that it’s good that the bussers, etc, get tips, but I feel that the company should pay those and not me. I especially believe this because it’s entirely possible to end my shift owning money instead of making money. But arguing about the fairness doesn’t change the fact that it is the system.

So when you refuse to tip, you do the following things:

1. You screw over your server, who, if they are doing their job at all right, are probably working quite hard to take care of you, and depend on your tips, especially in a state, like Arizona, where they get paid less than federal minimum wage.

2. You screw them over again because they have to pay out their coworkers, thus waiting on your cheap-ass self might cost them money.

3. You can be assured you will be remembered, especially if you stiff someone on a large check. Servers may not always remember the special of the day or what goes into your favorite drink or exactly how you like your coffee, but if you leave no tip or a very poor tip, your face will burn itself into their memory. This goes double if you’re at all famous. Memo to a certain well-known individual who came into where I work recently and didn’t tip well.

If you don’t want to tip because of a moral problem, or a financial problem, or just because you’re a cheap bastard, that’s just fine. There’s plenty of options out there. I’d say that even places that have at tip jar, like Subway or Starbucks (both of which I’ve worked for), are ok for you to go to and not tip. But if you want to go to a nice, sit-down restaurant and have someone bring you food, bring you coffee, take care of your refills, etc, etc, then you damn well better tip. It may not be the law, but it’s certainly the expectation, and if you don’t do it, then you’re frankly a jerk.


Etiquette and Protocol

I was browsing around the web today and came across some articles on proper behavior in certain different circumstances. I’d like to talk about these and add my own modifiers.

First, how to behave on public transit. I generally agree with everything in this article, except that I don’t think you should give up your seat to a woman who looks 50 or older. Unless she’s clearly elderly or disabled, let her take her chances with the rest of us. If you won’t give up your seat to a man just because he looks 50+, don’t give it up for a woman for that reason. I’d also like to remphasize the point about removing your backpack or obnoxiously large purse in a standing-room only bus.

Next, walking on the sidewalk. No real complaints here, except that I’d add the following: don’t spit on the sidewalk and don’t throw your cigarette butts onto the ground. Especially don’t do that if you live in the hottest, driest major city in the United States. I also take umbrage with the bicycle point, but I’ll take care of that…well, right now.

In the post on bike riding, I agree with basically everything, especially the bit about locking up your bike properly. I cannot count the number of times that I’ve seen people taking up three or four slots because they don’t know how to lock up their bike correctly. It’s not that hard, people.

But I do, as mentioned, disagree with the previous post where they frowned on bike riding on the sidewalk. I live at the intersection of two really major city streets. They are both about five or six lanes wide. There are no bike lanes. I can’t begin to tell you how often I’ve nearly been hit by cars just while walking across the street in the crosswalk with the light (example: yesterday, when some douchebag in a van pulled up into the middle of the crosswalk just as I got the light and was about to go, and then kept looking the opposite direction as I was trying to cross, then was mad at me. Idiot). People very frequently don’t look next to them before they turn right, and that can lead to badness if you’re on foot and they’re in a car.

Given how dangerous it is for me to simply cross the street on foot, I can only imagine how dangerous it would be to ride in traffic with no bike lanes. Therefore, when presented with a busy street with no bike lanes, I ride on the sidewalk. Now when I come up to groups of people, I ride past very slowly, usually placing my feet on the ground and sort of pushing along. That’s just good sense and good manners. Where I live, riding on the sidewalk is legal if there are no bike lanes, but do check your local laws and don’t blame me if you get in trouble for it.

Finally we come to good manners in a restaurant. I think their comments about not using the toilets for solid waste is more than a little silly, but otherwise I take no major exception. I do find it confusing that they say you should take your cell phone out (yes), silence it (yes), place it face-up (no, but it’s up to you), on the table on your right-hand side (wait, what?). Why on the right-hand side? I’m left-handed. If I’m going to reach for the cell phone, I’ll do it with my left hand. I’m aware that there’s a right-hand bias, understandably, in the way tables are set, but that doesn’t mean I need to play along. I’ll arrange my utensils, drinking glass and cell phone in the way that’s most comfortable for me, and if other people have a problem, they can suck it.

Though, of course, they shouldn’t do so in the bathroom. That would be rude to other people who are waiting to use the facilities.

A Question of Manners

I live in a decent, if somewhat small, apartment for which I pay a small, and therefore decent, amount of rent. It’s in a good neighborhood, there’s plenty of shopping nearby, and it’s right on a couple of major bus lines. Really I haven’t too many complaints, though I do have one: we have only four washing machines for 40 apartments.

Now normally that isn’t a problem, but sometimes, like today, it very much is. I went down to do my laundry and all four machines were in use. One had finished and the clothes were just sitting in there waiting to be picked up. The other three had less than five minutes to finish. Eventually they were all done and the owner of the clothes were nowhere in sight, though he did arrive after about seven or eight more minutes.

This left me in an interesting situation. I had my laundry. I wanted to get it in there and get it going. I was going to use only one washing machine. All four of the machines were in use, but were all finished. In theory, I could have taken the clothes out of one of them, put them on top of the machine, and thrown in my laundry. Ethically I believe that to be acceptable, but only after a certain amount of time has gone past. Clearly I shouldn’t reach in and yank them out the second they’re done, but I also don’t think waiting a half hour or so is reasonable.

So I’m going to open this up to you guys. How much time should go by between the time someone’s laundry is finished and the time it’s acceptable for someone like me to remove it and put it on top of the machine?

A Blessing on Your Head has a little section, “Dear Prudence”, where they talk about things like etiquette and the like. Most of the advice in this area is of the “Dear Abby” variety.

I was reading over it earlier today and came across an interesting question.

Atlanta: It is cold and flu season, and the sniffling and sneezing is rampant in our small office. Being in the Bible Belt, each time I sneeze, my co-workers will say, “Bless you.” I know that this is somewhat customary, and a polite thing to say, but I am not comfortable saying it myself. I am not Christian, nor am I a regular church attendee, and using the word bless just doesn’t feel right.

I know that religious speech makes some uncomfortable, and I also have genuine ethical and moral objections about using religious expressions so superficially, but I feel like it is expected from my boss, who after not hearing a “bless you” after her sneezes will respond with an exaggerated, “BLESS ME!” I don’t want to be rude by forgoing the blessings, but I also hate going against my principles just to make others happy.

I feel like it would be a terrible professional move to make my religious beliefs known, and I’ve tried saying “Gesundheit,” but it feels just as phony as “bless you” because I’m not German. What should I do when others achoo?

Believe it or not, this is something I’ve often dealt with. I’m an atheist, and I’m prone to massive sneezing attacks (like four or five sneezes in a row, several times a day. I understand there’s sneeze-fetish people out there. I’m sure they’d love me. I can even self-induce!). Sometimes I sneeze so hard and so often that my arms and lower back begin to feel pain, due to the intense, rapid constriction of the muscles.

In the beginning when I started working at my current job, people would often say “Bless you!” when I sneezed. I eventually began pulling them aside and politely explaining that I’d prefer they just ignore it, since it’s something I don’t like doing and can’t control. I’d rather the attention not be drawn to it. I also politely hinted, at least to those co-workers that I got along well with, that I was an atheist, and the “Bless” part of it wasn’t entirely welcome.

I also never understood why we say “Bless you!” to begin with. It’s always struck me as slightly stupid. The Straight Dope explained it, but I still don’t really get why we keep doing it, other than Tradition! Tradition! (arguably that’s the second Fiddler on the Roof reference I’ve made here, which is impressive, since I didn’t care for it, though I do always remember lyrics that went, “If I were a Flintstone, yabba-dabba-dabba-dabba-dabba-dabba-dabba-dabba-doo!”)

Here’s what Emily Yoffe had to say on the issue.

Emily Yoffe: This is not about religion; it’s about etiquette. Saying “Bless you” is simply a customary remark after a sneeze; it is not the equivalent of taking a communion wafer. Forget thinking you are being forced into religious speech or violating your ethical code by the silly, but expected, act of acknowledging someone else’s sneeze.

Ok, but there’s a few problems here. First, the word “bless” is inescapably religious in nature. There’s no way around it. That’s as silly as saying that having “In God we trust” on our currency is acceptable because it’s not about religion (yes, this is the argument used).

Second, she’s right: it’s customary. But it’s a stupid custom. She even admits that it’s “silly” to acknowledge someone’s sneeze. I entirely agree. It’s silly, it’s stupid, it’s pointless and in the case of “bless you!” has religious overtones.

So let’s just all stop doing it. It serves no purpose and in the case of people like me, who have chronic sneezing issues, it’s really annoying. So let’s just knock it off.

Stuck-Up Chat Room Jerks

I visit reasonably often. It’s… not great. It’s ok. But it could be better. It has an unfortunate tendency to cater to the worst in the gay community.

The gay community tends to place a great deal of status on bitchy behaviour. If you talk like Margo Channing you’ll be looked-up to. Acting like a diva is to be expected and praised, which is, frankly, idiodic, but there you are.

One of the more annoying aspects of that is the total rudeness you find in chatrooms on You get it in chatrooms anywhere, really, because some people just don’t know how to behave. But it seems worse in the gay chatrooms. Yes, most people are there looking for a hook-up and we all have our preferences for what we want in a sexual partner, but that’s no excuse for being rude to people.

There’s been times on there, more than I can count, where I send a simple little “Hello” message to someone and get a reply along the lines of “fuck off, creep”. Admitedly, this isn’t entirely different from when I hit on people in person… well, actually, it is, cause as we all know, people will say and do things online they won’t do in real life.

I actually feel quite sorry for the people who act like this. Good looks will take you only so far before there needs to be some substance. Eventually the looks will fade and people who act like this will wind up unattractive both physically and socially. It’s quite sad, really.

You know, we all get hit on from time to time by people we aren’t interested in. The best and only way to handle this is politely, with good humor and good manners. I generally say something like, “Oh, hey, thanks, but unfortunately you’re not my type. I appreciate the interest, though! Good luck to you on finding someone!” Usually a 🙂 ends up on there somewhere.

Good manners are the lubricant of our society, which is, admitedly, different from the sort of lube the gay community usually thinks about. It doesn’t cost anything to be nice to people, even if you aren’t interested in them. Being casually mean and acting like a jerk doesn’t gain anyone anything.

Basically, people, be nice! 🙂