Why Don’t We Tip Everyone?

by Kevin on December 16, 2010

Earlier this week I asked my readers why they tip at the holidays. I was afraid a lot of you would read that, scoff, and say “Of course I tip my coffee barista! Every day!”. Of the few people that commented it seemed that everyone thought there was an appropriate time to tip (I agree) and sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to tip.

But as I considered holiday tipping another thought crossed my mind. Why do only certain professions warrant the expectation of tips?

Everyone is Deserving, Right?

Is the hairdresser more deserving of a tip than the bank teller?ย What about the taxi driver? Does he deserve it more than the fast food worker?

If someone is giving you a great service shouldn’t they receive a tip even if their profession is outside the norm of tipping?

I think I do a great job at my place of employment every day. No one tips me. I bet many of you think you do a great job at your work, too, but don’t get tipped. Why?

Tipping Expectations

It comes down to tipping expectations. It’s widely known that waiters and waitresses get paid a ridiculously low wage. Tipping is a huge source of income for them, and as a society we’re all good with chipping in for their income.

I guess I’m just curious how society developed the specific expectations around who deserves and who doesn’t deserve tipping.

As in, it’s okay to tip…

  • your waitress
  • your valet attendant
  • your hairdresser

…but it isn’t normal to tip

  • your kid’s elementary teacher
  • a firefighter
  • the plumber that comes to your house

Think Outside the Tipping Box

As much as I hate holiday tipping I definitely think there is room for more generosity at the holidays. That’s why I wrote about Advent Conspiracy 2010.

Christmas has been deformed into this multi-month seasonal event to fill the coffers of corporations everywhere. It’s about wrapping gifts for people we only see once per year… and did I mention we had to call their significant other to find out what they wanted rather than developing a true relationship and spending time to find them something we think they would want.

Don’t let societal norms tell you what to do. If you are feeling extra generous and can afford to give small gifts, financial or otherwise, to those whose services you love… do so. Just don’t do it because you feel you’re supposed to. That’s artificial and a waste.

Unexpected Tip Targets

Give to your kid’s teacher, principal, and bus driver. Seriously. These folks are nurturing and building up the next generation. You trust your child’s life with them five days per week.

Give to the janitor at your office. No one wants to walk into the break room to the smell of used coffee grounds that have been sitting for a couple of days. Your janitor is likely hardly paid anything at all and deals with trash all day. Show he or she some love.

Give to your trusted mechanic. There is nothing like a mechanic you know and trust. What many of you may not know is that a lot of mechanics working inside shops are really 1099 independent contractors. They may or may not have benefits provided to them, and if they’re not provided they may not be able to afford them. So while you paid the $85/hour labor rate, only a small chunk of that goes to the person who is actually maintaining your vehicle. Show him some love this holiday season.

Give to your unemployed neighbors, friends, and non-profit organizations. We all know it’s been a rough economic stretch. There are a lot of people without jobs. A lot of people about to lose their jobs. A lot of people waiting for a donated meal. Give to those folks or organizations that support them.

What about you? Are you overly generous all your long? Do you tip the “untippable”?


Sun December 16, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Cash tip is considered a bribe for some industries. My postal carrier is not allowed to accept cash, but he can accept cookies and Starbucks gift cards. ๐Ÿ™‚

Kevin December 16, 2010 at 10:42 pm

Interesting. Did not know that!

Jeff December 16, 2010 at 10:10 pm

Sorry, but the postal carrier is making 60,000 plus a year with a life time health plan and pension. The principal is making 6 figures with the same benefit package. I can get behind the janitor and bus driver. If your kid wants to get the teacher a small gift that would be ok, but the teacher has the same package as the principal. If you have a burning need to give, skip people who make more money than you do, and give to St. Judes.

Kevin December 16, 2010 at 10:45 pm

It all depends on where you live. Granted I don’t know how much my mail carrier is paid. But I don’t know any teachers (my wife is one) that get paid 6 figures. Most teachers get paid $30-35k starting out and max out about $50k. On that small salary they pay for a ton, and I mean a TON, of supplies for their classrooms that the school systems don’t provide. Yes, the IRS gives a $250 credit… but many teachers spend 2 to 4 times as much as that because they care about students and want to make an impact on them.

Are there perks to teaching? Sure, time off, benefit availability (for now until states run out of money…), etc. But again… they’re in charge of molding the next generation. We sure don’t pay like it.

I think teacher salaries should be doubled to increase competition for talented and smart individuals coming out of college. Combine that with removing tenure (to encourage teachers to continually improve, just like businesses have to innovate in the marketplace) and you’ve got a winning combination.

Unfortunately, that’s a pipe dream. I’ll get off my soapbox now. ๐Ÿ™‚

Jeff December 17, 2010 at 9:07 pm

Dreams are a good thing. I agree. My point was principals make the big bucks. I am in central IL and teachers make upwards of 60000 and can retire with 30 years. So they go out at 55 with a pension for life, at least in IL. Good gig if you can get it. Where I work, I know several retired teachers who gripe about their pensions, but take several trips a year and get a new car every other year!! But don’t get me wrong. I am not bashing teachers-they are professionals who deserve to make as much as lawyers, CPA’s, etc. I am, however, against tipping principals!

Chris @ SmartPF.com December 21, 2010 at 9:03 am

How about tipping the people who do your taxes each year? It takes a lot of knowledge to understand the complex tax laws. And I don’t think it should matter how much the person makes each year. I don’t tip a waitress because they only make $2 an hour. I tip them because they offer good service.

Comments on this entry are closed.