Thoughts on Tipping

Tipping is somewhat of a bizarre practice because it suggests that you are rewarding a person for a job well done. However, often times it merely reflects societal norms. For example, when I go to a restaurant, I always tip the waiter/waitress. How much I leave largely depends on the service, but their performance has to be awfully bad for me to neglect to leave a tip altogether.

I am particularly interested in situations where it is not the norm to leave a tip. For example, I went through an automated car wash this morning. After the car passes through, two or three employees of the car wash then proceed to dry the car. I may be mistaken, but this is not a situation that requires a tip by some societal norm. Some employees are better than others and, in my view, they should be rewarded with a tip. However, I do not like to roll down my window after a car wash and thus I sometimes give the tip prior to the wash.

So here are my questions. Is this efficient? Should I tip before they have completed the job? Will this provide an incentive to do a good job? My rather unscientific observations suggest that they do a good job when tipped prior to the wash. However, since I do not know any of the workers I cannot be sure that this is as a result of the tip or the natural work ethic of the employees.

Any thoughts?

2 responses to “Thoughts on Tipping

  1. I am a student, studying abroad in Rome. I got here a few days ago, and perhaps the single most obvious cultural difference (well, other than the language) I have noticed is how awfully the wait staff treat people here. It is not only because I am an American (I try my best to assimilate), because I see them treat the locals just as poorly. A major reason for this seems to be that tipping is not done here nearly as much as in the States, and even when you are supposed to tip, you tip a much smaller percentage. I realize that the obstacles towards firing people in Italy probably plays a part too, but on a client-to-client basis I would think that if more of the waiter’s salary were riding on tips they would be a whole heck of a lot nicer.

  2. I’m with James. I always point to the Starbucks kiosks that are contained in a (union) grocery store that proscribe tipping. They invariably provide poorer service than Starbucks stores that encourage it.

    I suggest that your “preemptive” tip might be more effective at the car wash precisely because they do not expect the tip. I gave the guys mowing my lawn $20 each last year to haul away a dead tree limb and got extras from it all year.

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