You get in line at the counter in a coffee shop, a deli or a pizza parlor; the first thing you notice is the tip jar next to the register. The pressure is on! To tip or not to tip? That is the question. And if so, how much? Now mind you, the clerk is just going to take your order and payment, and at most, fill a container with coffee and hand it to you. A process that takes less than a minute.
Is a tip really appropriate? It’s not like in a restaurant or at a bar where the server spends time and effort to keep you happy, running back and forth bringing dinner and drinks to you and enduring your small talk and world view philosophy, while standing there hoping you shut up before their head explodes. That customer service activity deserves a tip, pegged at 20% by today’s social norm. (It was 10 percent 50 years ago, 15 percent 25 years ago and now has reached the 20 percent level. An entirely different issue for another day.)
So now, you’re back at the counter; the server took your cash and handed you a cup of coffee. A tip? How much? The pressure is debilitating for us old coots, cheapskates by nature. It’s because the price of everything is so high compared to our multiple decade reference point, starting when we were kids, buying a full-size Snicker bar for five cents. It costs well over a dollar. But, back to the subject at hand – the clerk rings up a small coffee on the register, $2.08. The register in your head taps your memory and rings up 10 cents. Ouch! It physically hurts to hand over that much money for a cup of coffee. It feels like a ransom payment. It’s why we’re so CHEAP (price conscious is what I call it).
So, we take our coffee, stiff the clerk, and feel guilty and slink out of the building. But, if it’s a place we go to frequently and are welcomed by name and asked, “The usual?” Then it’s a different matter. We tip, but not every time. We wait until the clerk can see us stuff a bill into the tip jar or is close enough to a quarter or two rattles in the jar. We want credit for our generosity. It’s generosity because we don’t feel a tip is necessary for such a small amount of effort. It’s the tip jar that forces our hand.
Regular people, I notice, don’t bother to get credit for their tip; they stuff the jar even when the clerk has their back to them. These are people who paid a dollar for a Snicker bar when they were growing up, not the five cents I paid. These are also the people who think I’m lying when I tell them a pizza (a whole, eight slice pizza) was a dollar when I was a teenager. They can continue to tip without it being noticed, but NOT ME! I want credit for it. That’s the way it is for a cheapskate. How about you?
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