Wednesday, July 25, 2012

As Far As I'm Concerned, They're Just Doing Their Job

I promised myself I wouldn't reference Reservoir Dogs, and I didn't even get past the title. Disappointing.

I work at a coffee shop. We have a tip jar. People put tips in the jar.

Some customers don't tip. They might be paying with gift cards, they might be making a small transaction, they might be out of singles. They might be trying to save money. They might be cheapskates. I don't care. I really don't care when a customer doesn't tip me.

Some customers do tip, in a sort of off-hand fashion. They tip because they feel they should. Or because they don't want to carry the change around with them. Or because they believe tipping is part of the transaction. ("Tip" is slang. "Gratuity" imposes, intimidates, legitimizes.) Some people tip as a matter of course.

Some people TIP. TIPping is where they hold up the dollar and drop it in the jar, very conspicuously. Or they put the coins in one at a time. They call attention to the fact that they're TIPping.

I am grateful for every gratuity that comes my way, but something about the TIPping, the overtness of it, rubs me the wrong way. When a customer TIPs, it's reflexive. To me, TIPping says "look at me, aren't I great? I'm giving you free money! I'm a better person because of that!"

Giving as a means of feeling better about oneself isn't giving at all. It's a transaction: I'll put a dollar in your jar, then I'll feel generous. It's buying self-esteem. When a customer TIPs, it's not altruistic--it's selfish. It's not giving anymore; it's trading.

Before I sign off, let me reiterate that I am in no way ungrateful to customers who tip, or even customers who TIP. A tipped dollar spends the same as a TIPped dollar. I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.

Long live convolution. 


Laura Elaine said...

First off; YES!
Secondly: Can one ever truly give with an altruistic heart? We always receive something back from whatever we put 'out in the universe' (thanks 'Mom')

Ian the Pontificator said...

Haha, glad you've seen this too.

I think altruism as an intention is absolutely attainable. It's a question of motive. If I give without expecting, desiring, or hoping for anything in return, that's altruistic giving. Even if I happen to get something back when I give altruistically (peace of mind, "thank you"s, an autographed folding chair), I didn't expect that. I wasn't giving in order to get. I was giving because giving is Christlike.

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