The tipping gods must be crazy

I was among the first people in my circle to tip the carhop at Sonic. I’ve also given gratuities to my mail carrier, garbage man and the delivery guy who charged me exhorbitantly for filling my propane tank after hours. Once, I was even accused of being gauche for tipping $10 on a $20 haircut.

In full disclosure, I’ve also left pennies and a coarse napkin note for a server who seemed to require intense therapy and anger management classes.

The common denominator in all of those events: the tip happened after the service was rendered.

During the past few weeks, we have patronized three restaurants that request tips upon paying the tab — before the meal is served. All three businesses employed a counter ordering system in which customers pay in advance via a crowd-visible iPad. The system is similar to ordering at a fast food restaurant, except I’ve yet to hit up a McDonald’s or Whataburger that puts the patron in such a precarious position.

Have we really arrived at such preposterousness?

During my vent to a longtime friend recently about this advanced tipping thing, he abruptly cut me off. “Hate it,” he twice repeated as I started to explain why such a practice is just … backward. This old friend, by the way, very much lives by the same gratuity code as Lawrence Tierney’s mob boss character Joe Cabot in Reservoir Dogs.

Mr. Pink: “I don’t tip because society says I have to. All right, I mean I’ll tip if someone really deserves a tipping, if they really put forth the effort, I’ll give them something extra, but I mean this tipping automatically, it’s for the birds. I mean as far as I’m concerned they’re just doing their job.”

A little later in the scene…

Joe Cabot : “He don’t tip? Whaddaya mean you don’t tip?”
Mr. Orange : “He don’t believe in it.”
Joe Cabot: “Shut up!”

Just like Joe Cabot, my friend always seems to think that everyone should throw their share in the tip pile. But advance tipping?

“It’s an age-based thing,” he told me. “It’s much like these fucking kids who don’t understand that ‘No problem.’ is not the proper way to respond to someone who says ‘Thank you.'”

In her Wall Street Journal article You Want 20% for Handing Me a Muffin? The Awkward Etiquette of iPad Tipping, author Jennifer Levitz writes: Tip jars have long sat on counters, but consumers have all sorts of viable excuses for avoiding them or tossing in just a few coins, such as not having the right change, according to Michael Lynn, a professor and tipping expert at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. Not so, he says, with the electronic tip prompts that explicitly require consumers to opt out of gratuities. “You can’t even pretend like you forgot,” he says. “It clearly ups the social pressure to tip.”

Though my experiences occurred long after Levitz’ article hit the pages, I totally concur.

My first experience caught me way off guard. It was advertised and reviewed (by the Houston Chronicle) as a higher end eatery. It never occurred to me that such upper scale restaurants usually employ waitstaff who wear ebony-colored slacks and bow ties. Here, I read my order from a chalkboard while standing at a counter. The polite lady, after asking me if I’d like dessert, directed me to the 12.9-inch iPad screen to settle up.

Because it was dinner and because there was a line in my rear view mirror, I tapped the 20 percent button — $10 for a $50 order that I ordered no differently than had I been a Dairy Queen patron. Just as important, I was responsible for filling my tea glass and selecting my flatware from cafeteria-style compartments. Indeed, someone delivered my meal to the table, and someone was nice enough to reappear halfway through my meal to inquire as to whether I might want to change my mind about dessert.

As delicious as the food truly was, the apparent tip-shaming left a layer of rancidity on my taste buds.

Tipping in advance is nothing new, by the way. But the rules have changed over time. Historians have pretty much proven the TIP acronym To Insure Promptness as lore. Still, the practice hasn’t always been the exception. My friend pointed out to me that his father regularly offered a portion of the gratuity up front so that servers and stewards weren’t always “betting on the come.”

I’m curious though what his reaction would have been had the advance tip been requested via an iPad in the company of onlookers.

No problem? No way!

The end of the world is near! (Thanks to social media.)

The first time I heard the end of the world attributed to social media, was from a grouchy old man in a barbershop. He was at least in his seventies and bragged about his track record of never answering his rarely charged flip-phone.

I mistakenly – and respectfully – dismissed his claims. But, golly gee, it turns out the surly senior was quite the soothsayer.

And it’s not because of the hordes of people who have suddenly gained courage behind the safety of their keyboards. Neither is it the unruly political discourse over the mass media’s issue du jour. Not even the slew of unending food photos (of which I’m guilty of posting) has contributed to the earth’s doom and gloom to the level of the real culprit.

It’s T.M.I. people. (That stands for too much information for that handful of people who still speak an actual language.)

Just during the past week alone, my social media timelines have announced patients of high blood pressure, heart stents, tonsils and stomach issues that were due to alleged food poisoning at the local Ground Round.

But that’s not all.

I’ve been subjected to countless photos of middle-aged people trying to recapture the bygone popularity of their high school years. Of course, they’ve had plenty of surgeries since the days of honest-to-goodness genetics and dietetic choices. And they now have the available credit for cheap blingy sandals and those tiny trite stick-ons upon their freshly pedicured toes.

None of us are fooled. We know you’re having hot spells … and that you’ve just gone through your most recent divorce. Why try to hide it? There are more than a few of us who are right there with you at the free blood pressure machine at the drug store. The whole hot mess is funny — and sad, at the same time.

I understand the need to tell one’s story. After all, I’ve shared many love letters to my wife, recipes from long-gone ancestors and complaint letters about my children being forced to sell for the school PTA.

But I’ve never felt compelled to mention that I had ‘bubble gut’ in the process. Neither have I caved and revealed the truth about the boil on my inner thigh. For the record, I’m not claiming any such intestinal or dermal disorder now, but would it bother you if I did?

Based on what I’ve witnessed on social media, I just don’t think most people would be affected.

So, you made your mom’s meatloaf and took a picture. Fantastic. But why did you feel obliged to mention that your dog left two piles on your doorstep after inhaling the leftovers?

Now, about your keyboard courage and your politics…

How has that worked out for you? Have you convinced anyone from the other side? And, would you say that in person? Let’s be honest here, folks … as honest as your bad day at work or your 20th low-light selfie in three days.

While we’re at it if I were to see you in person and ask about you, would you really tell me about the migraines that leave you with just enough energy to update your social media status? Would you really have the nerve to detail your most recent root canal? Or the flesh-eating bacteria that attacked your left elbow after a weekend trip to the beach?

Turns out that old man was right. He came from an era when people didn’t share information that involves the bowels of any mammal … or the details of one’s stomach virus.

We are so doomed.

And, for the record, I’m in agreement with one all-to-common social media dispatch: I’m also sick of you being sick. Take a pill already. Go outside and get your steps in, for crying out loud.

Lord, take me home. Please.