Friday, January 11, 2013

Time To Talk Tips

Don't worry, I'm not about to launch into some speech about the proletariat versus the bourgeoisie; I'm not here to make you feel guilty about tipping or the amount you tip or who you should tip or whatever. That's all your business. You are entitled to do what you want with your own dolla-dolla bills, y'all. I'm just going to talk about my own experience with the tip jar.

My job is not dependent on tips. I am not a server or bartender; tips are not expected at my job. However, they are a super tangible perk that I can see accumulate as I steam gallons of milk each day. But why am I writing about them? Well, tips are not quite as simple as all that.

that crazy $20 tip
First of all, my tips vary WILDLY day-to-day. Sometimes, on a 5-hour weekday closing shift, I'll come home with $2 and change. Most days it's around $7-8 for one of my shifts (between 5-7 hours). Not bad right? Effectively I get to add a dollar to my hourly wage! Yay! But some days the tips are much higher--Thursday morning I made $13, Tuesday it was $15. Before Christmas someone dropped a $20 in my jar, giving me a record high tip count of $33.50!

So sometimes people give a dollar or the change from their dollar, and some days they don't. But I can't figure out what makes a person tip and what motivates them to pocket the $0.35 I hand back. (Please, let me be clear here: I do not begrudge a person keeping their change! I do that, too. Sometimes you need quarters, sometimes you feel super poor, and sometimes you just don't want to give up your damn money!) I think I am equally nice to everyone who comes in. If you know me, even a little, you know I am pretty upbeat and happy. I try to ask everyone how they are, even if there is a long line. I smile all the time, even if I just dumped cold brew on my crotch or chipped a nail. I engage in small talk, about the weather, the new semester system at OU. I humor those who think I'm 19, and I give small personal details to people who think they know me (they usually do...small town).

But the tips? It's like a completely random system. I mean sure, I know certain regulars always give a buck. They are awesome. And I know certain regulars who usually pay with card will try to dump some change in the jar at least once a week. And, of course, I know certain regulars who never tip. It's the ones I don't know that I can't predict.

My brother, who used to deliver pizzas for Papa John's, once told me that old people and young women are the worst tippers. Naturally, I took offense to this (probably his intent) and have tried my best to defy people's expectations that I am crappy tipper just by default of my age and sex. Well, I have tried to figure out a pattern of who tips and who doesn't tip at my coffee shop, but it is much more complex than old people and young women. Sometimes a random 19-year-old will give me $0.50 after buying a Gatorade, when I did literally nothing for him. And sometimes a perfectly nice person who chats me up won't drop a dime. The only pattern I can discern is that people who pay with cards don't tip often. But that just makes sense--someone who is buying a $3 coffee with a card probably doesn't have any cash on them!

I think my favorite people are the people who buy a $1.95 coffee and dump the nickel in the jar. Whenever I hear something fall into my jar, I try to chirp a "thank you!" I figure that's just common courtesy, right? Unfortunately, it tends to embarrass those nickel-droppers, and then they apologize for only giving me $0.05. I prepared a little speech after the 3rd time I got an apology response ("it's cool--if everyone gave me a nickel, that would be awesome!"). But I think it takes a pretty self-aware person to apologize for tipping--and these people are usually the broke grad students, the busy moms, the old bachelors. And they probably need their nickels as much as I do.

Anyway, I try to pay my tips forward as much as I can--to the bartenders who serve me drinks, the people who work the same long hours I do, serving food and drink behind a cash register, on their feet all day. To me, a tip jar is an opportunity to make someone's day a little better: after they have swept up all the crumbs, thrown out the trash, and dried their dishpan hands, they get to count their tips. It's a sweet moment when your $60-a-day job is suddenly $75 a day. (That's 25% more!)

If you have any insight on the world of tipping, I'd love to hear it. My mathematical brain will keep trying to figure out a pattern. And may I just say, thank you for your tips. Remember--we tipped workers will hardly ever judge you for keeping your tips to yourself, and we will continue to appreciate every nickel.

how I feel about this post...and tips

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