The other night, lying in bed, trying to convince myself that 11 o’clock is a perfectly acceptable time to be in bed (I’m a night person. Going to bed before 1 a.m. doesn’t really jibe with my natural rhythms, but staying up till 1 a.m. doesn’t really jibe with this confounded “grown up” schedule, so I go to bed early and think until 1 a.m.) I got to wondering about the mysteries of tipping in this industry.
I have spent most of my life and career in an area where people seem perfectly aware that tipping food service personnel is customary and common. But tipping pretty much any other industry falls somewhere between “What? People TIP them?!” and “Why would I tip them?” With “them” including me.
I have worked in cities where 20%-25% of my income came from tips. I could live off of tips throughout the week and save my actual pay from services for things like bills.
But here in central Cali, not only am I lucky if I get 10%, but when I discuss tipping with people (in personal conversations, not with my clients), I routinely hear people insist that they only tip at restaurants because they “have” to.
So there I was, lying in bed, staring at the ceiling in the dark, thinking, “Why do they tip at restaurants if they don’t want to? Why do they feel they ‘have’ to? Why don’t they feel they ‘have’ to tip me?”
I think it’s because people are afraid not to tip their waiter/waitress. They’re scared that if they don’t tip at a restaurant, the next time they go there the staff will remember them, treat them badly, and spit in their food.
No one is worried that I’m going to spit on their nails. Even though I have the power to do far worse damage than spitting on them — I could cut them with the file or the drill — but if I did that, they wouldn’t be thinking, “Ow! If only I tipped her better, she probably wouldn’t hurt me.” Nah, they just figure I’m incompetent and stop coming.
I guess I’m glad that my clients aren’t afraid of me. I don’t really want them to tip me out of fear... I suppose.