Costanza on Tipping

Maybe it’s just me, but have you ever had one of those “ideas” pop into your head that make you feel like you’re living in a Seinfeld episode? Or worse, you witness something that makes you so exasperated that when you finally start thinking clearly again, you realize that you could have been George in a Seinfeld episode? I have. I think of them as Costanza-isms.

Here’s one of them now, to show you what I mean:

Lately, it seems that almost every retail counter I go to, I see a tip cup. Oh it’s everywhere – coffee houses, fast food, video stores… once one type of store started doing it, it became a trend. I believe in tipping. To quote Vinnie Antolini, in My Blue Heaven, “I believe in over-tipping.” At least when it’s warranted. See, here’s the deal – you go to a restaurant and you get seated and you get waited on. The waiter/waitress and the service people all get a share of the tip you leave at your table. Why? Because they are paid less than minimum wage as the owners know that tipping is expected at their type of restaurant. In fact, the whole aspect of tipping is supposed to encourage great service; if you don’t screw up the order and smile, you’ll get a 20% tip. If you lose my food or screw up my drink (god forbid that!) and your tip drops accordingly. It’s called incentive and it’s part of the restaurant experience.

Now look at fast food. Having picked on Dunkin’ Donuts in the last Rant, lets focus on somewhere else – say McDonald’s. You walk up to your counter; you place an order and they give you a bag with food. The work crew is usually bored and/or obnoxious – the service is not always as fast as you think it could be, given that the customer before has requested their pickles be chopped rather than sliced – so you’re there for at least a little while. And there’s a tip cup there… why? You haven’t even been given service yet, just having placed the order, and there’s the cup waiting for your change. The entire staff of a fast food place gets well above minimum wage, at least here in the northeast – nationwide maybe it’s just minimum wage. In any event, there’s no tipping considered at any point, for wages. Think about this: how many times have you left the counter and realized you got a Filet-o-Fish when what you ordered was a Big Mac? I figure there’s only a 66.7% chance that your order is 100% correct every time you place one. From Lethal Weapon 2: “They fuck you at the drive thru! They know you’re going to be miles away before you realize you’ve been fucked!” – Urban myth or vintage wisdom? So why the tip cup? “Hey, you’ve done your minimum amount of effort for your job, like you’re getting paid your wage to, and now you get an extra reward”? When was the last time you got tipped for doing your job at work? When your budget spreadsheet had no macro errors, did you get to put out a cup at your staff meeting and say “Thank you – drive through”? The next time you go to one of these places, think about it – why are you leaving your change there? The service? The smiles? The irresponsibility of money? The lack of jingle in your pocket/purse as you leave? I don’t know – but I know I don’t know, so that’s gotta be worth something. Why is this a Costanza-ism? Because all of this thought is for a quarter or two – who gives a crap about that?! But because it’s wrong, and there’s money, this is exactly the type of fight ol’George would take up, usually with Krammer somehow burning the restaurant down shortly there after.

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