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“Hi, my name’s Jennie. I’ll be serving you this evening. Would you like something to drink?”

 So began a very pleasant evening, eating out with friends. Jennie took good care of us, was unobtrusive, always timely and efficient. When paying, I gave her a well deserved, generous tip. Her service in return gave me something to think about. 

Tipping. 

Tipping is a way of saying “Thank you” for many services received – in restaurants, hotels, home deliveries, taxicabs, etc. The size of tips changes over time and by circumstance. Not that long ago, 10% of a bill was a good tip in restaurants. That became 15% and is currently about 15% for good service. 

Tips, of course, can “talk,” letting a server know one’s pleasure – or displeasure – about their performance. As I tallied the evening’s bill, I realized how rarely I ever think about the practice of tipping and, afterwards, gained a few insights.

First of all, tipping is not charity. Jennie worked hard and well to earn her gratuity and was pleasant in the process. She was young and probably a college student. I realized later that what she made in tips has no middle-man taking a percentage, that the tip is all hers and goes directly to someone in need, someone working hard to get to where she wants to be. Tips need to recognize that, not only in restaurant settings but wherever a tip is expected.

Second, a tip should reflect gratitude rather than obligation. Thus, percentage becomes secondary. Most tips are perfunctory and impersonal. Those who serve should be left feeling appreciated. A “Tnx” on the credit slip may help, but a thought-out tip is better.

Third, when service comes up short (a lukewarm entree, a delivery late or lost) a poor tip should not punish the wrong person. If the “messenger does the job,” there should be no “killing.” But if the messenger is the problem (surly, sloppy service, an “attitude” that rankles, consistent shortcomings, etc.) a tip has every right to register a complaint.

But tipping does not have to say it all. What can be more valuable is a word of appreciation to a manager, a maitre’d or a boss about good service. “Your Jennie is a keeper” is more than enough. Unfortunately, that kind of feedback rarely happens.

Good service does not always happen, but when it does, especially when it is exceptional, it deserves to be recognized