Have you been to my house? Well, maybe you haven’t but plenty of people have. And though they may present a bottle of wine, or flowers as a gift upon their arrival, I have never found a fiver or even a bit of change left for me on the table.
I do all the work… Shop for the food. Cut. Chop. Make the dinner. Entertain with good conversation. Dazzle with my decor. But get tipped for my obvious effort? No. It’s just meant to be.
Same goes for my family. Who though helpful at times – my husband a somewhat reluctant but thorough dishwasher – allow me to buy and prepare exotic dinners for them, who accept the clean towels in the bath from me, who expect that the gardens will be trimmed, the furniture polished, the mail sorted and delivered, have also never provided a tip for these services.
I do it for love and friendship, it’s true. I don’t expect a tip. Though some small praise would be nice. As I would give any hostess or caregiver. I’m sure my daughter is thinking I am asking for too much recognition. But a tip? No. No way.
So after all these years, of cooking and caring and schlepping and washing, I am less than generous with extra compensation for those who simply do their jobs. I don’t want to seem miserly or unappreciative, for sure, but I wish a fair price were a fair price, and that would be the end of the transaction.
How did tipping begin? Is it because waiters and waitresses are paid too little? Their minimum wage was always lower than other hourly workers. Legend has it that it originated in England. Blame the Brits. They were slipping an extra shilling or so to the waiter so they would get prompt service. It wasn’t after the fact, it was in order to keep the process moving.
There are some racist origins for tipping as well. Recently freed slaves were often only paid in tips. They had to rely on the whim and fancy of whomever they were assisting in the hopes of getting a few cents for their efforts.
Some of these inequalities have worked themselves out, though certainly not all. There are laws now. But blame is shared by Herman Cain, a fair weather presidential candidate in 2008 best known for his pizza selling expertise, who helped establish the tipping minimum, ensuring underpayment for millions in the food services industry for years to come.
It’s an American phenomena. I visited Europe recently where tips are not expected to be added to the restaurant bill, nor given to the taxi driver. Similarly, in Asia, you pay only what you are charged in contrast to the US where you must tip everyone you come across, especially if you are traveling – the porter, the driver, the maid at the hotel, definitely at all restaurants.
My children look askance if I don’t slap an extra 20% on top of our already pricey dinners. When did it edge up from 15 to 18 to 20? Is it just because the math is easier?
I’m not suggesting that there aren’t vastly underpaid workers, but everyone I know would like an extra “wife” around to “take care of things”. I visited at a Masai village and learnt how many wives each gentleman thought they should have, and how many they had acquired, and I mean acquired in the truest sense. The women there not only bear the children, raise the children, feed the children and their husbands, but collect the wood for the fire, make the fire, collect the wood to build their homes, make the home, make the clothes, make the crafts to sell to unwitting tourists like me, and on and on.
So I’ve got it easy. And there are no complaints here. I’m just saying, I’m not getting no tips, and if I’m not tipping you, well, or well enough, perhaps the underlying economics are more akin to my appreciation that we all give it our best, on a regular basis, and not just to get a little something extra.