Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Here's a Little Tip for You

Make no mistake: I'm not a cheap guy.

I firmly believe that when I go into an establishment and receive good service for items such as in a restaurant or pub, or at a hairdressers, that I will reward the person who gave me good service with the gratuity known as a tip.

And I don't do the math when I leave a tip, I calculate what I think is fair, and that amount often reaches 20 percent or more.

When I eat in a moderately priced restaurant, I generally calculate $2-3 per person served. For example, at my family's favourite restaurant, when the bill comes to $35, I add $2 for each of us, which comes to $8. So, at our favourite restaurant, I leave almost a 23-percent tip. If there's an alcoholic beverage, I leave an additional dollar per drink.

At my favourite brew pub, where I am treated like family, I will tip $2-3 per drink; if I have a meal, I leave $10. At a tweetup, $20.

People in the restaurant business work hard, and if the service is good, those people should be supported. Period.

When I get my hair cut, I leave a $5 tip. Depending on where I go, a hair cut costs me between $15 and $20. The only time that I'll do rough math to leave 15 percent is when my cut is not what I asked for, if the barber or stylist doesn't listen to me and snips away as he or she sees fit.

So, I am not unfair when it comes to leaving something extra for these services.

But what I'm seeing more frequently are calls for a tip on wireless point-of-sale (POS) terminals in places where, before the wireless debit/credit machines were widespread, no tip would have been expected or called for.

For example, when I have taken my car in for routine service, say a checkup or an oil change, the price on the bill was the price I've paid. But I've noticed that, with the POS terminals, the program for completing the transaction includes an option to tip.

Since when was tipping required for an oil change? Seriously. There are generally two or three people following a checklist of operations that are required. They do what is required and that's it. That's what the company offers for the price I pay, and the employees will perform exactly the same tasks in the same order, and they'll treat the next patron in exactly the same manner.

Should I give more money on top of the price the company charges (oil changes today are not cheap)? No. When the POS machine asks if a tip will be provided, I press No.

One other place where I pay by credit card for a service is at my massage therapy. I have been seeing the same therapist for more than 10 years and she's awesome. I carry the stresses of day-to-day life in my neck and shoulders, and every six weeks she makes them go away. I also have lower back problems, and she irons them out. Lately, with my cycling, she has found knots in my legs that I didn't even know I've had.

As I said, my massage therapist is awesome.

When I first started seeing her, she worked out of another clinic and I could only pay her by cash or cheque: she didn't accept credit or debit cards. But for the past couple of years, since she started her own clinic, she started accepting plastic payment. At first, it was a fairly straight transaction. But now, her POS terminal is asking for a tip.

The first time I encountered it, I hesitated. This was new.

The cost of my massage appointments aren't cheap. Every year, the fee goes up. In the past 10 years or so, the cost of my appointments has increased by about 50 percent. And now an additional gratuity is being requested by a machine.

I don't know what my massage therapist thinks of me. She has always been kind, has always shown an interest in my family, has shared her family life with me. I have sent her referrals and have recommended her to countless more. I appreciate all that she does for me.

But I don't leave her a tip.

Much like the way I treat technicians at an oil change centre, I feel that the full service is included in the price. If my therapist wants to earn more money, she can increase her fees. Chances are, I won't balk at the hike.

But for me to decide how much more she's worth on a gratuity? I can't. I won't.

And that doesn't mean I'm cheap.

What bothers me is that when I'm faced with a tip request on a POS terminal  and I'm not expecting it, I feel guilty for not leaving a tip. And then I feel resentful that I've been made to feel bad. And it sours my experience at the oil changers, the mechanics, and my massage therapist's clinic.

Where do you think it's fair to ask for a tip on top of a service? Where is it not fair? Do you always tip when the POS machine asks for one? Send me your thoughts on the subject.

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