Millennials have been described as stingy tippers, perhaps a cliché by now, yet I’ve seen first-hand young professional, pen in hand, look at the tipping line on the credit card receipt as an affront. I’ve seen a tab for $86 graced with a $2 gratuity, and one for over $100 with the words “no way” scribbled across the tipping line. “It’s like an extra tax,” I’ve heard diners say. My daughter once worked at a Washington DC taco and burger joint where almost a third of the customers left no tip. Whether parsimonious diners are reacting to bad food, bad service, are just cheap, think tipping is charity, or feel they have dropped enough coin for a meal and it’s the restaurants that should pay their servers a living wage….I have no idea. Maybe it’s all of the above, and more. I would love to see a consumer survey.
Tipping allegedly started in 17thCentury English taverns, when patrons gave servers extra money ‘to insure promptitude” (TIP). The practice was later adopted in the States and other countries, but a fair number of cultures discourage the practice. Others add a gratuity automatically to the bill. Optional tipping is where a variety of emotions are aroused, not just from diners but servers and counter people. If using a digital device to indicate the amount of gratuity, I’ve watched the wait person turn away for a moment, giving the diner privacy in making his or her decision. To some, it feels rushed and awkward, but I’m not sure what can be done about it. Some waiters don’t even glance at tip amounts because it’s beyond their control, while others work diligently and hope to be rewarded. For many, the extra ten to twenty percent or more you add to your bill makes a difference in their standard of living, from affording an extra gallon of milk to paying the rent.
When I was younger and eating out was a luxury, I left a ten percent tip (parroting my parents), which was the standard at the time. As my wife and I grew financially secure, I raised the ante to fifteen or twenty. Now, witnessing the vast disparity in American incomes, and its consequences on the social fabric, I tip 25%. I can afford it and I know my server appreciates it. I find tipping not to be a tax but a bond between strangers. It’s a feel good moment, which there never seem to be enough of in the daily grind.
The other day I was introduced to a new word, Precariat. It blends “proletariat” and “precarious,’ and refers to a social class with little job security, resources, or means of escape to a better job. Sounds typical of today’s America, I thought ruefully. Anyone without bankable job skills, living paycheck to paycheck, whether it’s a waiter, bellhop, taxi driver or delivery person, knows the importance of a gratuity. I have a friend, whenever he eats out, who forgoes ordering an ice tea, or a dessert, and adds the difference to his tip. Small acts of grace and common sense ultimately change our thinking and maybe the world
Readers Become 'Friends' with Main Characters of Michael French's Latest Book
Michael sits down to chat with host Dan Mayfield about his characters social media. You can "friend" Alex Baten and Jaleel Robeson here:
I hope readers of the novel can relate to [the characters'] struggles and impulsive judgments, even when we react by thinking, “no, please don’t do that!” Their lives twist and turn like ours, and realistically not everything ends up tied in ribbons. But life lessons are real.
I try to challenge myself as a novelist by communicating what I understand the world to be. I like reading other writers who storytell a different vision than mine, as their narrative is as unique to them as mine is to me. Everything is about a point of view, realized through three-dimensional characters embedded, hopefully, in a compelling and memorable plot.
In Once Upon a Lie, a story of the Eighties, my two principal characters seem as different as the Americas they live in—one in a white and privileged enclave in Los Angeles, the other a Texas town with walls to climb if you’re poor and black and have the ambition and talent to escape. Their paths cross and a relationship as complex as their differences begins to bloom. Jaleel and Alexandra (“Alex”) deal with societal problem as well as the personal ones they make for themselves. I hope readers of the novel can relate to their struggles and impulsive judgments, even when we react by thinking, “no, please don’t do that!” Their lives twist and turn like ours, and realistically not everything ends up tied in ribbons. But life lessons are real. Jaleel and Alex even have their own Facebook pages, their interweaving stories continuing in the present, picking up where the book leaves off.
Michael R. French
Michael French is a graduate of Stanford University and Northwestern University. He is a businessman and author who divides his time between Santa Barbara, California, and Santa Fe, New Mexico.