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Tips for Tipping: Is the Recession Changing the Rules?

Tipping is one of those awkward social requirements that can sometimes make people a little frazzled. Leave a bad tip for bad service or be merciful and remember the wait staff and how your tip fuels their livelihood?

Tipping used to be a relatively easy process. Do a little math, recall how quickly you got your refills and there was that magic number. Nowadays, people are factoring in the Great Recession and are finding ways to shave off costs from their bill. This isn’t just causing confusion, its causing some pretty lousy tips too.

Also, since many restaurants are offering specials and discounted prices, what do you tip? Do you leave a tip based on what the total of your bill is or what you would have paid had your entrée not been on the specials menu? Let’s go back to the beginning and see if we can sort it out from there.

Tips, which actually stands for “To Insure Proper Service,” originated during the Middle Ages in Europe and came to the U.S. even before our independence in 1776. Due to age of the practice, most everyone grows up viewing tipping as a social requirement and for good reason too! About 90 percent of a waiter’s paycheck comes from the tips a restaurant’s patrons leave!

A friend of mine from college has a job for which the majority of her pay comes from tips. If the customers’ tip well, she ends the night with a heavier wallet, if not then she is financially strapped for the week ahead. We were talking about her new job one day when she flat out admitted that she wasn’t the best tipper before she got her job. That has now changed significantly.

Tips also make a difference for my step-sister who works at a coffee shop. She sometimes makes up to an extra $20 a shift because the money customers leave in the tip jar. This only brings up another question. Am I required to put money in tip jars?

I usually don’t leave a tip in the jar (sorry baristas) and find that, thankfully, I don’t get too many judgmental stares. The way I see it, a coffee shop employee’s paycheck doesn’t depend on whether or not there is money in the tip jar, it just acts as a bonus.

Another industry where tipping makes a big difference is the beauty industry. Generally, I will tip at least $3 when I get my eyebrows done, and try to tack on $5 when I get a manicure. The way I see it, cosmetologists not only have to deal with some sore sights (one word: toenails!), if you don’t tip them at all you might want to watch out next time the hot wax comes out!

Overall, don’t make tipping too difficult for yourself or too depressing for the person serving you. Here are a few simple tips to take away:

– Most cell phones have tip calculators built in, use it!
– Use good judgment and fairness when it comes to nontraditional areas that don’t have set percentage expectations.

– If you get bad service, maybe leave a 14-15 percent tip instead of 20, but don’t be too brutal.
-And, as Nicholas Demeda once said, “If you can afford to dine out, you can afford to tip well.”

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