Monday, November 8, 2010

Tip Cup Guilt: Tipping at the Counter Etiquette

Nov 4, 2010 Aimee Larsen Stoddard

A Tip Glass Can be Obnoxious - Keith HInkle

A Tip Glass Can be Obnoxious - Keith HInkle

It seems that everywhere I go to grab a quick bite to eat or a pick-me-up caffeinated indulgence, there’s the beleaguered tip cup, jar, or bowl sitting on the counter or cash register harassing me for a donation. Each and every time I see it, I engage in an inner struggle: to contribute or not to contribute.

On one hand, I feel like I’m being coerced into tipping when it is not really warranted. I mean, after all, I’m not getting served by a waiter. On the other, I wonder if I’m a tightwad for not wanting to donate.

A nagging, though I’m sure unwarranted, worry haunts me: Will the employee spit in my food or drink if I don’t cough up a tip?

I feel blatantly manipulated as I stuff my crumpled buck into the mouth of the jar.

Tipping at the Counter

Analyzing my quandary over tipping at the counter, I realize that I often seem to have forgotten the whole point of tipping. Tips should be for good service, right? They shouldn’t be willy-nilly plunked down for service that is so-so, absent minded, or downright bad.

So this is my new realization I’m trying to implement by which I am determining whether to tip or not: I tip for good service and I don’t for bad. Walla! It sounds simple enough. I have resolved not to be shamed into tipping when it isn’t warranted.

Case in point: I got an order of chips and salsa at Chili’s recently. After I paid, I offered up a dollar into the tip jar. After waiting and waiting … and waiting some more …I inquired about my order. The counter employee was obviously annoyed by the question as she begrudgingly slogged over to get the chips. In response, I retrieved my donation back out of the jar.

Tip Jar Guilt

The tip cup is deceptively clever and effective. It induces a sense of obligation and guilt in customers. Tip bowls unsubtly labeled “Tips: Thank You” make customers feel that they really should contribute.

Maria Panaritis of concurs: “The mere presence of the tip cup, however unobtrusive, can be psychologically potent.”

I think the key to not feeling pressured into contributing to the tip cup is to keep in mind the purpose of gratuity. Tipping is intended to reward good service. I believe in situations where tipping is not customary, service should go a little beyond the norm and be delivered with a measure of courtesy to warrant a tip.


Beyond the Table: Tipping Properly in Every Food Scenario, Accessed November 4, 2010.

To Tip or Not to Tip? Workers Cash in on Tip Cup Trend, Accessed November 4, 2010.

Karma? Tipping for Counter Service & Take-Out, Accessed November 4, 2010.

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