TIP TOP TIPPING
You meet a client for lunch ($40+tip), but wrap up the deal faster than expected. With the extra time left in your lunch break, you duck into the neighboring salon for a quick mani-pedi ($25+tip). Picking the perfect shade of pink took longer than you had thought, so you grab a cab ($10+tip) back to the office.
For an act that is practiced so often, tipping is certainly controversial.
“I wish tipping could just be done away with,” says R. of Chicago. “If it has to make things more expensive, so be it. But the money-grubbing nature of the thing is so distasteful.” He finds the pressure to tip – even when service is inferior – impedes the ability to enjoy the service. Others complain that the custom is too ambiguous and they don’t know what’s expected of them. (We’ll solve that problem soon.) Still others find it arbitrary – tipping a mover is required, but tipping a plumber isn’t.
On the flip side, tipping gives some control of service quality to the recipient. Service providers know they’re being “graded” and are therefore eager to please. It’s also nice to be able to show appreciation directly – instead of your cash being swallowed in the bowels of the business’ cash flow, to be spat out two weeks later into the employee’s paycheck.
But even appreciation isn’t so simple.
When it comes to education, F. from Queens is appalled at the practice. “I don’t understand how schools can allow parents to tip teachers. The idea reeks of bribery! Because little Dini’s parents can afford to grease the wheels a little, she gets preferential treatment in class? So my child either suffers or I have to somehow find the way to squeeze a tip into our budget? That’s obscene!”
But S. of Yerushalayim is unapologetic. She fully admits to bribing her children’s teachers. “I’ll stop in randomly with small gifts – an iced coffee, a chocolate bar, doughnuts for the class on Rosh Chodesh. These are my children. I want to ensure they’re taken care of. And I really do appreciate the work the teachers put in.”
Bassie Friedman of Crown Heights thinks she strikes the right balance.
“It’s about the relationship. If I feel a teacher is doing a great job, if I connect to her and speak to her a lot, if she’s connecting to my kids, I’ll give gifts throughout the year – manicures, a nice accessory, cookies – in addition to the Chanukah gift the PTA arranges. In contrast, I give my son’s rebbeim a monetary gift with the mishloach manos on Purim and that’s it. I don’t have a relationship with them, so I just give what’s accepted in my community.”
I decided to ask some teachers how they feel.
“I definitely have to work on myself not to treat the kids that give gifts less fairly,” says R. of Lakewood. “It doesn’t last long, but if one parent takes the time to say thank you, I’m gonna have more positive feelings towards her and her kid.”
“Does it feel like a bribe?” S. of North Miami Beach ponders the question. “Listen, it’s nice to be appreciated and I definitely feel more positively towards the kids of parents that acknowledge my work. But a bribe? I don’t treat their kids any better because of it.” She pauses. “Ok, maybe I’m more patient with them, but nothing more than that.”
What’s my take? It doesn’t really matter – tipping is a fact of life. So, whether you’re a proponent or not, here’s a guide to the ins and outs.
First, a quick quiz.
Choose the correct statement:
Tipping is complicated.
Some industries have a tip credit – they’re legally allowed to pay their servers a lower wage, with the expectation that tips will top things off. Other providers don’t rely on tips, but get their hands dirty for you, so the gesture is appreciated. Still, others vary according to location.
So, tip with discretion, give according to your budget, and ask if you’re not sure what’s expected of you!
In secular circles, tips are pretty much set in stone. If you’re patronizing a frum service provider, however, the amounts may be lower, as tips are typically seen as less of an expectation and more of a generous thank you. Tips are also not factored in as much in employee payment structures as in their secular counterparts, likely because many frum patrons don’t tip. “Some people will tip $5 for a wash and set,” says the receptionist of one popular Brooklyn sheitel salon, “but it’s not expected, just appreciated.”
Events (Weddings/Bar Mitzvahs)
As a guest:
As a host:
If your event is at a frum venue, check your contract – some include tips as a line item, usually $100-$500 depending on the scale and scope of your event; others leave it to your discretion. “We include the tip in the contract because if we don’t, we never see it,” says the catering manager at an upscale hall in Lakewood. “Most people are mistaken in thinking the tip goes to the wait staff, which we pay fairly – they don’t need tips.” The money actually usually goes to paying overhead costs, like the secretary’s and catering manager’s salaries. If you’re celebrating at a secular venue, or using some secular providers in a frum space and tips are not included in the contract, use this chart.
Some individuals provide their services all year round, so tips are not expected at each point of service, but are expected annually. December, with both secular and Jewish holidays, is the opportune time to give those tips. Keep in mind your service providers’ ethnicity or religion, though; they may appreciate the gift at a different time of year.
If you’d rather give a gift than money, here are a few ideas: toys or books for the provider’s family; food gifts (homemade or bought, depending on Kashrus preferences) such as fruit, chocolate, or candy platters, or cake and cookies; pampering gifts like manicures, bath sets, or a massage; or an accessory like a scarf or jewelry. And there’s always the infallible gift card!
Legally, government workers cannot receive monetary gifts (that includes gift cards), and can only receive non-perishable gifts with a value of less than $20. You can also give perishable gifts valuing more than $20 if they share them with their co-workers.
Dos & Don’ts
Keep these legalities in mind:
Tipping on the Thrift
The Tipping Point
You waited 15 minutes for menus, you got an eye roll for the polite request to avoid tree nuts, and your water glasses were empty half the meal. No tip, right?
Refusing a tip may not get the message across. Your server may think you forgot, or that someone else pocketed your change. Instead, alert the manager.
Written By: Nechama Elbaz