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An Insidious Trend

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One of the worst trends I have seen in this century is the retail tip jar. I never really saw it much before about seven or eight years ago, but the usage of this device appears to me to have really accelerated in the last couple years.

Tell you what got me thinking about this. I ordered takeout from Maggiano's. I drove downtown to pick it up and parked. I walked in and I was fourth in line. It took them ten minutes to get to me, but they did, and I picked up my food, and paid.

As I was leaving, I noticed it: the tip basket on the counter. There appeared to be fifteen, maybe twenty bucks in it.

OK, so let's see -- I drove to them, I waited in line to get my food, I made all the effort to consummate the transaction ... so, what it is I'm tipping them for, now?

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One of the worst trends I have seen in this century is the retail tip jar. I never really saw it much before about seven or eight years ago, but the usage of this device appears to me to have really accelerated in the last couple years.

Tell you what got me thinking about this. I ordered takeout from Maggiano's. I drove downtown to pick it up and parked. I walked in and I was fourth in line. It took them ten minutes to get to me, but they did, and I picked up my food, and paid.

As I was leaving, I noticed it: the tip basket on the counter. There appeared to be fifteen, maybe twenty bucks in it.

OK, so let's see -- I drove to them, I waited in line to get my food, I made all the effort to consummate the transaction ... so, what it is I'm tipping them for, now?

Good point, but I always tip my retail bartender (even if they are at the stadium).

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I agree with you, but what are you going to do? If people are foolish enough to tip Maggiano's employees, deli workers, and Kmart cashiers, what's to stop them from putting out a bowl?

I wonder if this trend has somehow affected the tips that real tipped employees (waitresses, bellmen, bartenders, etc.) have earned over the past seven or eight years.

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Great Seinfeld on this point...And good call on Maggiano's - tell me you went with the vodka gnocchi.

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Can't say I blame them. What's it hurt to try?

Heck, why not. I might put one on my office at work tomorrow just for kicks. I don't deal with the public but I do work with fools.

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Bahh.... Maggiano's.... went once, hated the whole thing, will never go back again. I say you got what you had coming! :)

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They probably put in the bills themselves. When I worked at a diner in Europe we did the same gimmick. We had a tip jar out and would dig out the small stuff throughout the day when we were slow and make sure the pound coins and notes were readily noticible(we'd even start it off each day with a couple of pound coins and 50p pieces sorta deal). Don't know if it backfired though as some people might have been disueded to throw in the change from their order because it was only 20p or whatever.

It was basically to try and snag the change from their orders, as you'd be surprised how many people don't want to carry around coins(even pound coins) and they'd throw it into the jar. Remember most don't tip in Europe, however in a tourist town, during tourist season, and with foreign currancy, it was certainly worth ones while.

Most of the time we'd get les than 5 quid, on a really busy day maybe ten, I mean we weren't making a killing by any stretch, and that included the waited tables. But it would add up over the week, the other kids working there would use it for bus money on the way home or we'd use it to buy a pint across the way sorta deal.

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I first noticed it at Starbucks. That's why it feels like its everywhere, and why everyone came across the idea. If the barista is making extra coin, then why not the girl at the Frozen Custard?

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I concur with you Chas. The thing I don't like about it is that I feel guilty when I don't put money in there. However, its merely an effort to skim some money off me. I'm not violating any societal norms by not tipping many of these workers, but I feel guilty for not.

I go to a local pizza buffet every Friday, and they have a tip jar. I always tip them there - it works to my advantage!

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The Starbucks tip jar is definitely the worst, since the stuff is so expensive to begin with, and the workers are definitely not paid lower than minimum wage, as are many waitresses, etc.

Interesting topic. I wonder if any articles have been written on it.

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Of course, many of you are right in one sense -- it doesn't hurt for these retail clerks to try to get you to tip them, and it is successful to some degree, and people are getting used to it -- so why not go ahead and put the jar out? What can it harm?

Well, my beef with this practice is twofold:

1. It's shifting the burden of paying these folks a decent living wage from the employer directly to the customer. The employer thinks it's great -- rather than giving raises to their employees to reward them for very good service, or to keep up with inflation, they merely advise them to hump customers directly for tips. Now, all of a sudden, I'm the bad guy if I don't tip them, and the workers are upset at me for not tipping them rather than being mad at their boss for not paying them well enough in the first place. The business owners are getting away with one, and I'll bet most of their workers don't even realize it.

2. I'm developing a growing philosophical problem with having to pay substantially more for consumer goods than their listed price. It hasn't graduated to a pet peeve yet -- after all, this affects every purchase I make, and if I were really upset with it I would be in a state of perpetual anger. But it's bothering more these days that when I order a $9.95 appetizer at Goose Island, it's going to end up costing me thirteen bucks after adding tax and tip, rather than the advertised $9.95.

This second point is not an insignificant issue. Marketers hype a certain price for things -- cars, trips, Internet service, loans, food, whatever it is -- and consumers make decisions predicated on those specific prices. Yet the actual amount of money they spend in the end is always 10%, 20%, 30% or more than the advertised price. We always grumble about the taxes and fees when we pay them and usually end up blaming the government. In the meantime, the marketer is off the hook for luring you in with a false price in the first place. It's emblematic of a society that is steeped in bullshit. And that bothers me.

I know why marketers, restaurants, etc. do this, of course -- if they told you the plate of calamari will cost you $13 rather than the listed $9.95, you might not make the purchase. But I do see it as a very basic form of false advertising, and I don't think the customer should have to either go through mental arithmetic calisthenics to get at the final cost of a purchase beforehand, or be stunned at the end result once the purchase is made.

I would like to see some way to advertise or provide the final price you have to pay for things when they are promoted or provided to you. I would also like to end the practice of tipping altogether, pay service people a decent wage, and list the final price that you'll be paying for the menu item or service.

I know none of this will come to pass. But I'd still like to see it. And that's my view on the subject

Regarding the actual issue of tipping retail workers, I never do it, although I routinely tip service people the going rates, philosophical dissonance notwithstanding. I have a simple rule regarding whether I tip: if they wait on me, I tip them. If I have to wait on them, I don't.

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I don't like it because there's the chance if I do'nt put anything in the tip jar then next time they'll remember that and my service may suffer as a result.

I also hate being nickeled and dimed.

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I agree with you, but what are you going to do? If people are foolish enough to tip Maggiano's employees, deli workers, and Kmart cashiers, what's to stop them from putting out a bowl?

I wonder if this trend has somehow affected the tips that real tipped employees (waitresses, bellmen, bartenders, etc.) have earned over the past seven or eight years.

I'm way more annoyed by this trend now than I was four years ago. Yesterday I saw a tip jar at a liquor store. WTF? I'm waiting for them to start cropping up in banks and grocery stores.

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The next time I'm stopped on the street and asked the time, I plan to pull out a tip jar.

what could happen?

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