A Porch Swing Point of View: “Here’s a tip...”

Well, it happened again.  I was at a counter with a tip jar today, and as I received good service, I generously placed a crisp dollar bill in the jar.  Do you know what the problem is with a crisp dollar bill in a tip jar?  It makes no sound.  Because the clerk didn’t see and didn’t hear the tip, I turned to leave and was left with the image of a disgruntled retail employee and a dollar less in my pocket to show for it.  Now, I don’t care about the dollar and I certainly don’t tip for recognition, but the whole ordeal did raise some questions.  Why do we tip? 

Do we use the tip as an excuse for our less than friendly attitudes?  Do we feel that our rudeness and disregard can easily be forgiven by an ample cash contribution? 

My wise-cracking friend was quick to advise, “You should’ve tipped with change—they hear the rattle in the jar.”  Perhaps he’s right, but I’m not ready to take such a cynical view just yet. 

The fact is, had I cracked a smile and presented a friendlier attitude myself, I might have left the cashier in a better humor, in spite of my stealthily silent dollar bill. 

It was time I did a little inventory.  When was the last time I spoke a kind word to the fellow dipping my ice cream or asked the cashier at Wal-Mart about her day?  But it isn’t just me.  We seem to have lost a bit of courtesy in our fast-paced world and I want it back.

Do you suppose our interactions with the long-suffering employees who serve the public would improve if we made a little more effort instead of leaning on the tip crutch?  I seem to recall many times hearing the phrase, “I work with the public.” 

And it certainly wasn’t uttered in a bubbly tone.  A public relations standpoint would suggest it’s time we work on our image. 

Yes, we the public, have a long road ahead to improve our image and perception in the eyes of those who serve us. 

Which presents what I offer as my lesson from this experience and my “tip” to you:  the cheapest tip we can give—and sometimes the most appreciated—is our kindness. 

I have confidence that my readers who have worked in a public setting can attest that customers sometimes lack even the simplest courtesies and fail to see through the uniform to the fellow man inside it. 

I suspect that many times after a long shift, the fatigued and weary waitress would prefer a tip-less smile and pleasant attitude over an inconsiderate and demanding customer with a 20 percent contribution at the end. 

Before I lose my wait-staff readership, I am not advocating dissolution of the tip system; rather, I’m promoting a better attitude towards those who serve us daily. 

We fail to remember that others have struggles just as we do.  Bad days, financial difficulties, and family quarrels—and yes, those are carried with the employee throughout her shift.  You need not get involved in a deep counseling session with the bank teller you’ve only just met, but a simple smile, thank you, and a bit of concern can go a long way. 

So, here’s my newest challenge for you:  the next time you approach a counter with that wily tip jar—and you realize you have no noise-making change, fear not—your smile may just make more noise yet.