To Tip Or Not To Tip?

photo by BinaryApe

photo by BinaryApe

Last week, traveling to Dallas I ended up on an airport rental car shuttle bus crammed with people; literally standing room only. For those that don’t travel often, there are typically two types of shuttles, shared buses that all rental agencies use and brand specific.

Flying into Dulles International, each rental agency has branded buses and their own employees. In Dallas the bus system is generic and shared among all the rental car companies.

Where the buses are branded, you will sometimes have a driver that will go to a little extra effort and maybe help with your bags. Usually you can expect the shared bus drivers to get you from point A to point B and that’s about it.

Last week was different; the driver actively hustled to help as many riders as possible. He was grabbing bags and loading them on the racks, strategically adjusting bags to make as much space as possible.

When we arrived at the terminal the driver again was making an effort to be as much help as possible. As I watched, about half the customers said nothing, several expressed their appreciation but nobody gave the guy a tip. Upon leaving the bus I grabbed my only carryon myself and then gave the guy five dollars and told him I was covering the tip for the boneheads that were not appreciative.

When comes to tipping there are a lot of different points of view. Some people going to avoid it at all costs, others feel compelled to tip at every turn. While I live with the philosophy of reducing expenses at every turn, I see tips as a cost of receiving value added service. Are there any situations where tipping is required?

Not legally but socially, maybe. I read a great argument for the need to tip wait staff on They referred to tipping as a social obligation. I appreciate the analogy provided:

You may not agree that pharmaceutical companies be able to charge what they do for prescription drugs. But that doesn’t mean you go behind the counter at CVS and just help yourself to your meds, and tell the staff there you do not agree with the charges so you won’t pay them.

As a frequent traveler I depend often on service by wait staff. When someone goes above and beyond they will be tipped very well. If they meet my expectation they will get a 20% tip. If the service is lacking but not offensive I agree to the concept of a “social obligation” of a 15% tip. However, if a server unnecessarily inconveniences me, if my time and patronage is not respected, I don’t feel obligated to leave a tip.

Before anyone comes down on me for this perspective, let me be clear, I am talking about less than subpar service and I can count on 3 fingers the number of times it has happened. Servers may argue that even in the case of poor service they deserve a tip because, they say, anyone can have a bad day. The argument is that servers are often paid less than minimum wage and deserve 15% at least.

True, as quoted directly from the Department of Labor website:

Tipped employees are those who customarily and regularly receive more than $30 a month in tips. Tips actually received by tipped employees may be counted as wages for purposes of the FLSA, but the employer must pay not less than $2.13 an hour in direct wages.

This document then goes on to specify that this wage plus tips must meet minimum wage requirements. If the employee does not earn enough tips to meet this requirement the employer must make up the difference.

My view is that if we continue to tip for subpar performance we are covering up the poor performance. If on the other hand an employer has to “make up the difference” they will recognize sooner that their employee may be better suited to a non-customer service roll.

What about other service providers? There are several resources on the web to guide your tipping protocol:

CNN/Money – How Much To Tip – Holiday Tipping Guide – Tipping Etiquette

You may or may not agree with the recommendations of these tipping guides. Especially the recommendations for a child care center, after all they are taking care of your most precious possession. I believe a weeks worth of fees are appropriate for a year of service.

Personally, I am always prepared with several dollars in hand to recognize personal attention in any arena. This is especially true when the service provided is personalized and obviously shows respect for my time and patronage as a customer. However you have to find your own comfort level with tipping, providing what you feel is appropriate for the circumstances and your financial ability.

Jim at bargaineering made a great point that we all should keep in mind. A tip does not have to be in the form of cash. if money is tight, at the very least express your appreciation personally or with a heartfelt and handwritten note.

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