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Mar 5, 2009 09:15 AM

Putting money in tip jar, but server has turned away

I got takeout lunch today for the office from a place I don't usually pick up from (someone else does). The staff are good, hard-working women with a great attitude and provide good service. There is a tip jar at the register, which I intended to contribute to. So one woman rings up my sale, I pay her, and she gives me the change, then turns away to tend to other duties. The other women were all busy taking care of other customers, so not nearby. I wanted to give a tip, but I wanted her to KNOW that I was giving a tip, because in addition to it being the right thing to do, I think it generates good will. So of course I put the money in the tip jar, but I was disappointed that no one saw me do so. I actually thought about waiting until she turned around but thought better of it. She didn't turn back to the register for at least a minute or two, which would have been a ridiculous amount of time to wait. (I paid in advance so that I could take the food as soon as it came out, so I was waiting anyway.)

So my question to you all is, would you have waited? Or do you think it's irrelevant whether someone knows you've tipped them?

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  1. Would have saved the money on that trip and then tipped double the next time when she was looking. You'd be a hero (in her eyes).

    3 Replies
    1. re: JohnE O

      Wasn't this a Seinfeld episode? Yes, yes it was.

      1. re: janetms383

        I knew I got the idea from somewhere when I posted earlier today.

        1. re: janetms383

          Most etiquette questions have been adressed by Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm. Sample abuser, anyone ?

      2. Since the REAL point of tipping is NOT to generate good will, I think we all know the answer. But, yes, human nature is such that we do crave that recognize, don't we??? :) So tip then.

        15 Replies
        1. re: c oliver

          I must say, I felt like a bit of a putz even having that thought, which is why "right" one out (quickly) in the end. It was such an odd moment for me, I had to ask what everyone else thought.

          1. re: lisavf

            I don't tip in tip jars since they are usually at places I don't believe in tipping, but if I did I would have waited until they see me do it. Like if one was on a bar and went to all the bartenders, I usually make sure someone sees me throw in there.

            1. re: rockandroller1

              I don't think I've ever seen a tip jar on a bar.

              I'm curious. What are the places where you don't believe in tipping? I didn't use to put money in tip jars figuring well, it's not like I'm sitting at a table being served. But when I got to thinking about how little people in those jobs probably make, I decided to tip after all. Not 15+% but something.

              1. re: c oliver

                We have them here in bars, usually in small/independent establishments.

                I don't believe in tipping wherever the employee is making at least minimum wage.

                I don't think minimum wage is a good, working wage and I do plenty with letters to my congresspeople and senators to support change in that area, but by law, those making less than minimum are expected to make up the difference via tips. Others are not. I get minimum wage working at a retail store and I work damned hard there, certainly as hard as anybody at a starbucks counter if not harder. Everyone is different, but that's my reason.

                1. re: rockandroller1

                  We'd be a whole lot better off if the government would enact a maximum wage!

                  In concept, I agree with what you're saying but how do you know if the workers are making minimum wage?

                  For example, generally speaking bartenders make minimum wage, if not MW, then at least more than the floor servers. But, I know of one establishment where the bartender makes the same amount hourly ($2.35 I think) as the waitstaff.

                  The justification is that the staff tips out the bartender at the end of the shift.

                  The 2 flaws I see with this is 1) people ASSUME that the bartender is making more than the server because that's the norm 2) when the bartender has to take time away from his customers & waitstaff to prepare a take out order - he gets no tip. His tipping customers get ignored and his waitstaff gets behind on drinks, potentially reducing the overall tip they receive and therefore, the overall tip that the bartender receives.

                  I stop into one small place where their son comes in after school to put together take out orders, bus the few tables that they have, run food if needed, roll silverware, etc. A really hard working kid. They don't pay him AT ALL - every thing he earns for this, he earns through tips. Personally, I'd tell my parents to go pound sand, but hey - that's just me. I know this because he is one of my son's friends.

                  I agree that it's different at a fast food place - however, there is still no way to know for sure what they are paying their employees, especially independent places.

                  It's just impossible to know who makes what these days. For me, the bottom line is that if I get good service - I'm willing to throw in a $1 or $2 or .02 ;-)

                  1. re: rockandroller1

                    I think there must be exceptions to your policy of "I don't believe in tipping wherever the employee is making at least minimum wage." Severs in the state of California make minimum wage, and the expected tip in L.A. is still 20%. I imagine you'd give a tip if you lived here or visited. But I don't tip in tip jars either.

                    1. re: Nicole

                      There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. When in Rome, I do as the Romans do. But the point of my position/post isn't talking about rare and few exceptions due to a cultural or legal difference in a state on the other side of the country or in another country or whatever. We're talking about our normal, every day practices and what we would or wouldn't do in a normal situation. I don't tip at a fast food counter, I don't tip at a retail store, I don't tip the pharmacist at the drugstore even if he "hurried up" and filled my prescription right away, they are all doing their jobs and are compensated at a certain rate for them, and aren't paid less than that because they are "expected" to make up the difference in tips, and thus I don't tip at Starbucks or similar locations either for the same reason.

                  2. re: c oliver

                    I don't "do" tip jars either, and it's not because I'm a bad tipper in general. I fully support proper tipping for waitstaff (yes, even when paid min. wage as cited above). I do not support tipping at the ice cream shop, coffee shop (counter take away, not service), fast food (saw one at Five Guys yesterday), etc. If you're getting minimum wage or more, you're not getting a tip from me.

                    1. re: irishnyc

                      I tend to agree with you on the tip jars for counter service. I worked several of those types of job in college and even then I didn't feel right putting out a tip jar. Kept me at odds with my co-workers.

                      But there are exceptions as usual. I always tip at the coffee shop I stop at during the weekends. The staff knows me, always friendly and knows my order. I walk into the place and my order is automatically started up and placed in line before I even order and pay.

                      That kind of quick friendly service is worth throwing in an extra buck in the jar for me.

                      1. re: irishnyc

                        In general I'm against tip jars. There are two places that I frequent w/ some regularity (once every couple of months) that I put money in the tip jar though. One is a diner down the street from me. The women behind the counter actually operate as servers, they come out to your table, take your order, bring your food to you, etc - but you pay/etc at the register and they have a tip jar.

                        The other is a local burrito joint that's nestled in the back of a gas station. The woman is *super* nice, everything is painstakingly assembled w/ care, etc. And if that weren't enough, the area she's in has massive rents, so I figure a little bit extra can only help her.

                        1. re: irishnyc

                          Funny, I've always held the same position as you, but recently I read a piece in The New Yorker about David Chang. He was talking about how he was trying to come up with a 3rd restaurant concept. At one time he considered not having servers at all, but rather letting the cooks also serve and get all the tips. He said, "Servers are such greedy bastards,” he says. A server at Ssäm Bar could bring in seventeen hundred dollars in a week working thirty-two hours; a cook working the same hours would earn three hundred and fifty."

                          I gave thought to his statements and it dawned on me that he is right. I waited tables for many years and worked in the resto biz in many different capacities and servers always made more money than everybody else in the restaurant (sometimes even management). They put in less hours than everyone else and often were whiney and demanding (which kind of explains the usual turmoil between front of the house and BOH).

                          1. re: lynnlato

                            That's kind of a horrifying attitude to me. I never worked harder than when I was a server, and believe me, a lot of people screwed me out of decent tips. I would have been livid if someone had called me a greedy anything. Pay your nontipped employees decently!

                            1. re: Parrotgal

                              Servers do work hard, generally speaking, but my experience has been kitchen staff works much longer shifts and harder than servers and for less pay. Let's face it, if the pay wasn't good and the hours weren't flexible, we wouldn't have done it. It was the perfect job while I was in college and even after college - I enjoyed it. Once I started my "career" outside the resto biz I missed the resto culture so much so that I worked a couple of night shifts waiting tables just to stay connected to it.

                            2. re: lynnlato

                              Why take that out on the servers? If he's the owner, isn't the solution to simply pay the cooks more??

                          2. re: c oliver

                            My husband doesn't believe in tipping maid service at hotels. He thinks it encourages the practice of underpaying and that the service is part of what he pays for in the price of the hotel. I've convinced him that although I agree theoretically, in reality he needs to tip them. They're underpaid and our little rockstars trash hotel rooms. We need to show a little appreciation.

                    2. I tend to shy away from the "tip" jar in general. The establishments that put the "tip jar" on the counter pay their by salary or by the hour. Here in MA, waiters get paid a miserly hourly rate and so tips are necessary for their income yet I feel like I'm being "shaken down" at the coffee shop after paying $4 for a latte. I must say though, when I am out at a restaurant I have been known to tip upwards of 30% of the bill if the food and the service are extraordinary.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Lenox637

                        At a counter service/take-out spot, what are you tipping for? You order, they take your money, make change, hand you food. Do you tip at McD's? The tip "jar" is the commercial equivelant to a person on an on-ramp with a card board sign.........

                        1. re: nkeane

                          In this case, it's a small restaurant, mostly known for its hot dogs, and my understanding is that the tips are shared by all the servers, since they all pitch in for the takeouts, which is the biggest part of their business. Although at the moment I was paying, the other servers were taking care of seated customers or doing other duties, for the five or six minutes before that they were all very busy filling the orders - assembling the hot dogs to order (buns, dogs, toppings, wrap it up, etc.), assembling all the other parts of the order. They worked as a team. They spent as much time taking care of my take-out order as they would have had I sat down and eaten at the counter. In other words, they were working their butts off. And I think they take turns doing different jobs. So no, I don't tip at fast food places or Dunkin Donuts or the like, but in this case it seemed appropriate.

                      2. I completely understand where you are coming from! Let's face it - most people don't tip for carry out - it's a fact. I personally want the recognition - not that I tipped, but that I appreciate the work that goes into preparing a carryout order.

                        I had a similar experience just today! I stopped into a little pizza shop to get a cheesesteak to go (thanks to a tip from a fellow ch'er). This was the first time I've ever been in.

                        The order came to $7.02 - I had $8.00 in my hand and started to dig for the .02 in my wallet. The lady behind the register said - don't worry about it.. So I handed her $7, as she was putting the money away, I dropped $1 into the tip bucket. Well, I was already working on digging out the .02 so I decided, "hell, I'll just put that in too". Well, don't you know........know what she saw me doing? Dropping .02 into the bucket - I felt (feel) like a complete horses behind.

                        The cheesesteak was great and I'm glad I found this little place - but next time when she rings me up, I'll hand her the money and tell her to keep the change. That way SHE can put it in the bucket.

                        And I guess I'll have to tip like $5 to make up for today's incident......LOL

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: chicaraleigh

                          Oh, man, that's even worse. What can you say? "Uh, by the way, I just dropped a dollar in there, too"? Ouch.

                          1. re: chicaraleigh

                            Ouch for me too. Guess I'm not THAT non-recognition seeking :) Better to have her wonder if you left a tip than to think that you left (your) two cents (worth).

                            1. re: chicaraleigh

                              LMAO, I once accidentally threw a $10 bill in a tip jar at a bar. The bartender didnt see me do it, and when I realized what I did I momentarily thought about grabbing it back. Thank god I didnt! He turned around exactly when I would have had my hand in the jar and handed me my drink. Silver lining, he looked in the tip jar, saw the $10 sitting right on top and deduced that it was from me(only person standing there). lets say the rest of the night went great.......

                              1. re: nkeane

                                lol! now that's a seinfield episode for George!

                            2. As others have mentioned, it's nice to be recognized for your generosity....

                              What I do is always leave the tip on the counter near the jar if I am not able to put the money directly in the person's hand......or, lets say the final amount is $4.00....I'll pay with a $10 bill and say to give me back just a five..... this way they know the tip amount and there are no awkward moments......a la George Costanza.

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: fourunder

                                I should have added that there are times when I decide ,whether it is for good service or whatever, to leave the change for the server, in these cases I just say "Keep the Change." with a smile even though there may be a tip jar, this way the server knows right away that I valued the service or the smile or what have you.

                                1. re: fourunder

                                  Good point. I've done that in the past as well. In this case, the total came to $14 and change, so I handed her a 20 and the change. I wanted to give a $2 tip, but I only had one $1 bill, so I needed the other $1 I knew I was getting back to make the $2. Maybe the moral of this story is to carry more small bills!

                                  1. re: lisavf

                                    lisavf and lenox637,

                                    It's obvious you are both of the tip camp for service rendered......if you already know you will be leaving something, being prepared and leave something before the person turns away is the lesson learned. And (lisavf), if you already have the small bills on person, fold up one or two and when the server gives you your change, hand the gratuity (bills) directly to her then.....this method works better for the mathematically challenged out there and shows the instant recognition of the person's efforts and your generosity at the same time.

                                    1. re: lisavf

                                      A lot of people don't even carry cash anymore. I wonder how the introduction of debit and credit card machines in counter service establishments has affected the amount of tipping done?

                                      At my local Tim Horton's (Canadian Dunkin' Donuts equivalent), they've cleverly put the tip jar on a counter behind the staff, which means that if you give the cashier a tip, he or she must acknowledge it, then put it in the jar, to be divided equally (hopefully) amongst all staff at some later point. Of course, this means that you aren't really rewarding the individual who gave you the stellar service, but it does encourage a team effort to deliver good service consistently, which I think is really lacking throughout the service industry these days, particularly in big Canadian cities (I don't want to speak for anywhere else, just in case).

                                      All that said, I have a hard time digging deep to tip at chi-chi coffee bars when my coffee beverage comes in at $5+. I shouldn't be punishing the servers because I chose to order a pricey beverage, but I must admit that I have an easier time leaving the change from $2 if the total for a coffee comes to something like $1.58, than leaving the change from $6 if the total for a huge latte were something like $5.02 (random totals, BTW).

                                      1. re: 1sweetpea

                                        I'd be inclined to leave $0.25 for the cheaper coffee and $0.50 for the more expensive one. I wouldn't be rounding up to the nearest dollar.

                                        I think it's interesting that counter help ALL get paid at least minimum wage. Do people think that or do they KNOW that? And as for retail sales people, do you have the opportunity for commissions or bonuses? I'm just asking cause I want to know. This is all giving me food for thought.

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          No. No commission or bonus in any retail job unless you work in a large department store and only in shoes or men's suits for departments, pretty much across the board.

                                          In some stores, there is an opportunity to earn some kind of store credits if you get store charges opened, like a couple of dollars you can spend in the store itself for each store charge opened or frequent customer card application filled out, but it's not like a bonus or commission. And you DO have daily sales goals you have to hit; and if you don't, after a certain amount of time, they lower your pay. After 3 consecutive pay-lowering reviews (you are reviewed every 3 months where I work, for example), they can fire you for not making your sales goal.

                                          Edited to add: the only other job I know of, and this may be strictly local, where they are "allowed" to not pay min. wage because the workers are "expected" to make up the rest in tips is the people who drive the carts around inside the airport to aid those who have trouble walking long distances. NOBODY knew they were not getting paid min. wage for a long time; they're not allowed to talk about it and not allowed to ask for or indicate they accept tips in any way, there was a big stink about it a few years ago in the news. I don't use those people but if I ever have to, I would definitely tip them.

                                          1. re: rockandroller1

                                            If someone is making minimum wage in retail, how can their pay be cut? Now I'm REALLY confused :)

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              Sorry, I am mixing my job descriptions (I have had over 35 jobs as I always work 2 if not 3 jobs at once, so it gets hard to remember). The job where I have had my pay cut due to not making sales goal was about 5 years ago, in a large department store in the purses and jewelry department (not fine jewelry), and I didn't start out at min. wage there, which was one of the reasons I went to work there.

                                              I started at min at my current retail job (which is only a PT job) but have had merit increases three times, so it would be possible to have my pay decreased here as well. It's also at a department store, but a different "anchor" store than the previous one. I work in the fine china department.

                                              The smaller, independent stores I've been at, like Sam Goody or Ups and Downs (women's clothing retailer) or the WB studio store Lerner/NY all start you out at min. wage. When I applied for the job I have now at the anchor store, I applied all over the mall and also places like target and everything and nobody would even consider you for more than min. to start, several managers told me so. I picked the store where I am because it was larger and thus offered more scheduling flexibility than a smaller store, although now most of our department has been let go because of company restructuring, so there is less flexibility.

                                          2. re: c oliver

                                            Right, inmy case today, the servers did double-duty to serve seated customers as well as take-out customers, so I am assuming they get paid as servers, i.e., less than minimum wage. I'm not sure how I would know that for sure, though, short of asking outright (which I would never do).