Tipping in the US is complicated. It used to be easy - you tipped waiters and waitresses 15-20% and pizza delivery drivers $2-5 total. Today everyone wants a tip. There are tip jars everywhere and it’s built in to various point of sale devices. UPS doesn’t accept a tip, but Amazon’s food delivery does.
So, is tipping good? Sure, if you’re receiving the tip then tipping is great! For the rest of us, tipping is a mixed bag. Sure you might feel good for helping someone else, but the emotional (and now physical) extortion involved in tipping leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Also the power dynamic is unnerving - tipping treats the tipped party like a dog with a friendly pat on the head. It’s beneath us as humans to treat eachother this way.
I tip waitresses / waiters 20% as expected. I sporadically tip barrista and retail people the remaining change after a purchase or $1-$2. I definitely would not tip every day (or even once a week for that matter). I tip delivery people (restaurant, Amazon Whole Foods, etc) a fixed amount ($5-$10) and never an amount based on a percentage of the sale.
Why do we tip barristas? The explanation I’ve heard from my peers boils down to pity and guilt. The assumption is that a barrista is making less money than the consumer so it’s your responsibility to give them a little charity. This doesn’t really pass the smell test. The real reason is the coffee shop can pay their workers less because you’re subsidizing them.
Why do we tip delivery drivers? Fear of reprisal. I’ve heard plenty of stories of under-tipped delivery folks tainting food, losing items on purpose, and other childish acts to punish consumers that ddidn’t give an acceptable gift (tip) to them. I chose not to tip my Whole foods driver last week and he delivered only 3 of the 4 bags in my order. That’s extortion. Disgusting!
Why do we tip uber drivers? I only tip uber drivers when they’ve done an above average job. It’s a high five or a pat on the back. This kind of tipping makes me feel good. No one forced me to tip and the uber process makes not tipping less emotionally draining than other options.
Why do we tip Amazon / Whole Foods delivery drivers? Amazon adds in a tip for you on the checkout page. Tipping workers of one of the wealthiest companies in the world is stupid. Amazon has plenty of money to pay these workers a fair wage. I feel nothing not tipping these folks.
So, what can we do? How can we keep our head high and avoid this entire mess? It’s really hard. You can stop tipping entirely (the best option!), but the world isn’t ready for that and you’ll probably have issues with petulent delivery drivers.
Here’s another option - strategic tipping. When I’m tipping I’m buying a good or service AND the service of the employee. It’s not automatic money I’m going to give you because you’re poor or have a crappy job. This is a financial exchange between the two of us. If you go above and beyond I’m happy to toss you some sweet green. If you’re doing an adequate job only - no tip. You don’t deserve the tip. It’s a gift from me to you and you’d better damn well work for it and be thankful or you won’t be seeing it again from me. I advise others to do the same. Don’t tip just because they tell you to.