Scrooge Has Lunch

Pret. Half-sandwich, chips, Yoga Bunny Detox. Calories, about 550 (estimating high); cost, $7.87. I picked out all these items and took them to the counter. The cashier handed me a plastic bag when I asked for one, and a receipt when I asked for one but I put the items in the bag, filled the bag with utensils etc (straw, salt/pepper) (napkins came pre-packed in the bag and were not set out for general consumption, a move I appreciate – shave the paper, save the earth). I gave the cashier the .13 cents of my change. Expecting a harumph, I was surprised when she instead complimented me on my pink plastic sunglasses ($3.00 Duane Reade, some time last summer). Since flattery will get you everywhere, including in my pants pocket, I will be back next time with a tip with her face on it (didn’t catch the name).


Just Call Me Scrooge

My breakfast at Bean & Bean, consisting of oatmeal and a regular coffee just came to $8.05. I picked up the oatmeal and took it to the counter, got the bag and put the oatmeal in it myself, went to the table and put cream and sugar in my coffee while making sure to wipe where I set my coffee and not otherwise leave a mess. I did not use the bathroom, did not use any of the tables or chairs. I am a regular there but was not greeted warmly (not coolly either – just kind of a standard “I can help you here.” Even though it’s Christmas and other holidays, I think I’m justified in not tipping. All they did was pour my coffee and put the lid on.

I did get the stink eye for stiffing so, if I was in the wrong, I think I got my just desserts. Or maybe the baristo is just sour grapes. Either way, I got my breakfast feeling like I overpaid for the product but was not gonna overpay for the (non)service.

When did it happen that places that are principally self-service started setting out tip jars? I usually do tip there if there is a reason, like if I ordered a specialty drink that requires some work or extra preparation. But having tip jars out wherever you pay for something you’ve purchased that you can eat or drink now feels like a slippery slope into being asked for money just because you have it. What next? Tip jars at the grocery? At Macy’s? At Santa’s lap at Macy’s? Wait — I think that already exists. It reminds me of the guy who makes his living standing near the door of Citibank in Park Slope, opening the door as you enter and, when you leave, opening the door with one hand and holding out his empty hand with the other. It feels predatory. And I’m just not buying it. It’s like tipping has become a tax instead of an incentive for better service.

Does this make me a Scrooge? Maybe. I like to think it makes me a principled tipper. Not too long ago, I worked at a fast food organic/healthy food store in Park Slope for $7.00 cash. I was thinking of opening my own restaurant and wanted to learn the business. So I went from $200,000 a year to $7.00 an hour. And I worked hard every minute of every hour for those each of those seven dollars. I served coffee, cleaned behind the counter and at the tables, endured the kind of crowd that only a place such as this in Park Slope could attract, and their kids, carved chicken, packed multiple meals, took take out and delivery orders, did food prep, bakery and the like. And I was sweet as pie through it all, saving my outbursts for gritted teeth conversations in the cell phone during my cigarette breaks (this was back in my smoking days). But I never expected a tip unless it was from someone who sat at a table or otherwise made my job hell (like asking for four separate bags for each individual item – which one patron did regularly). So I have been on the other side of the counter. One of my earliest jobs was doing pizza delivery. Tips were so rare that one time, when some @sswipe teenage boys made me wait at the door for five minutes only to come back giggling and throw a handful of grubby pennies in my hand, I actually said thank you and meant it as they slammed the door shut. But I’m not bitter.

Happy holidays everyone. And when you do tip, tip like you mean it. Cheers!

QUESTION: what is your policy on tipping? Do you give a bonus to sanitation workers, your postman/woman, anyone else? Go ahead … gimme the dirt!