Published Date Written by Natalie LaddA month or so ago, I wrote a column about how to get bigger/better tips using manipulative techniques that had little to do with outstanding service. It was a tongue-in-cheek bit and for the most part I embraced the documented research first hand, reaping the rewards. Along with my restaurant cohorts, I bought into the data that indicated bright red lipstick on a happy service individual is effective. Just think of Flo. Not from Mel's Diner, but of Progressive commercial fame. Also effective is drawing smiley faces on the bottom of a dinner check, and boosting up the bust.
Case in point, New Guy's daughter continues to see a marked improvement in her bottom line bucks by investing in the Bombshell Bra, and as suggested, I have made it a goal to learn full names off credit card slips of anyone I believe will be a frequent flyer in my section. This is no small feat as I can barely remember my own name most of the time.
Interestingly, "the how-to-get-better-tips-tips" do not apply to men. Unless at Mardi Gras or a special event or occasion, I wouldn't expect to see red lipstick on my friends Jacques or Greg (well, maybe Greg), and the same industry research mentioned above says male servers actually receive nine percent less than their female counterparts if they draw smiley faces on guest checks. It isn't an exact science, and I've scoured the Internet for non-offensive, covert things men can do to improve tips, but to no avail.
Sexist or not, tipping is a topic that deserves to be revisited as often as possible because there are so many reasons people do it. There are so many different mathematical formulas and rules of thumb, and so many crazy insider battle stories. I used to have a pin that said, "Tipping is not a town in South Korea," but for some reason my boss made me take it off. Thinking back, most people laughed when they read it but I think they squirmed a bit, too, and I didn't care since the end result was usually a well deserved gratuity none the less.
Most recently, my cohorts and I were wondering how it all came to be.
The origin of the words, tip and tipping, are officially traced back to 18th century English taverns, but probably started in Rome when slavery was en vogue, and to this day are often synonymous with some form of service bribery. According to a fun website called thestraightdope.com., etymologists have managed to come up with several possibilities for the birth of the phrase, "to tip." The least exciting, and most plausible coming from the Latin word "stips" which means gift. In the time of Chaucer and Middle English, somewhere around 1610, "to tip" meant "to give" — as in, "Tip me that turnscrew, wench," which today means, "Give me the Phillip's head, sweetheart."
As class and caste became even more paramount, highly visible urns were placed in 18th century pubs displayed with the label, "To Insure Prompitude," in which imbibers and intellectuals alike could place money for quicker or preferred service, thus inspiring the otherwise uninspired attendants. Giving money to servants for incenticized job performance quickly spread across Europe (but, sadly, never to Canada) and visitors to the newly established America were amazed when they found waiters and coach drivers thought of themselves not as servants, but as employees who did not accept tips.
Revolution does funny things to people, and tipping was poo-pooed after our break-up spat with England, as only a social inferior (aka indentured servant or second class citizen — which in theory didn't exist) would be tipped. The ideology of equality didn't last long as once again, the rich got richer, and by the 1910s, about five million workers, making up more than 10 percent of the labor force, had tip-taking occupations.
Tipping has since become a social, economic and cultural phenomenon that still screeches to a halt where service-oriented positions end and professionally perceived ones begin, regardless of the actually money brought home at the end of the day. No one tips an astronaut or pharmacist, but most of us slip a little something to Javier the pool boy, or the way beyond 30-minute pizza delivery kid.
The ongoing questions of who, what, when, where, why and how much to tip continue to fascinate me as much as the history of the concept. Do we do it to show gratitude for good service? Is it our desire to impress others we may be out and about with? Do we want to feel good about ourselves by fulfilling a societal norm? Do we relate to working for "the man" and does this mean 99% of us should be getting tips?
Until these and other universally-existential questions are answered, I'll continue to freshen my lipstick, practice making the perfect smiley face circle and above all, give the best food and beverage service possible, boldly labeled promptitude vessel, or not.
The Down Low: Speaking of pharmacists, our modest prescriptions are filled by a guy named Mark who runs the pharmacy where I grocery shop. The term "filling a prescription" is not unlike filling a dinner order, and this guy remembers everything about my kids, myself, our refills, allergies and due dates for flu shots. He waves to me across the aisle where I am drooling over the ice cream cakes and always says hello. By trade, he doesn't get tips, but I may write a glowing letter of satisfaction to his corporate cog of a boss, and suggest many of you do the same for the non-tipped professionals in your world, who always seem to go the extra step.