Soap Box: The Opposite of Bad Tipping – the Entitlement Mentality

Wow.  Just… wow!  No tongue-in-cheek tonight.  I’m serious.  A ‘Soap Box’ post.  This is the second post in a row where we talk about tipping, and this one wasn’t planned, but I read something tonight that annoyed me so much I felt the need to comment on it immediately.  Before we start I want to make sure a couple things are clear regarding my attitude about tipping.  The Disclaimer, if you will…

  • I tip.  I tip well.  Most often 20%+.
  • I don’t begrudge paying a tip, per se, but I do get annoyed by the constantly moving target aspect.
  • All but five states (I think) allow tipped employees to be paid less than minimum wage.  I think that’s wrong.  Minimum wage should be minimum wage.  (I don’t think tips should be taxed as income, either.)
  • The biggest annoyance regarding tipping in general is how it’s turned into an entitlement mentality.  That’s what this post is about.  I recently read on a forum where a server talked about how the tip was her money before the customer even gave it to her… but this is even worse than that.

I am going to do something that may or may not be kosher.  I am going to post this person’s post from another forum in it’s entirety, as posted and unedited.  I feel that to properly understand the depth of unethical behavior here it all needs to be said.  (I’ll elaborate further down.)  I am not including the name, though I suppose if you’re internet savvy enough you could probably find it on your own.  So, without further ado, here we go…

The question was:  How do waiters and waitresses handle “regulars” at restaurants who are terrible tippers?

The server’s answer was:

I handle them in a very simple way. I slip a service charge on their receipt. I always go under the “usual” good tip, I put 15% on. I get paid solely in tips. I don’t get tips, I basically don’t get paid. One bad tip isn’t going to ruin my day. But if I wait on you hand and foot to get $2 on an $85 bill and you do it every week, you bet I’m going to put a service charge on.

I had this couple that always came in. I was actually cashiering this night, another server got their table. We all know how horribly they tip, and dread getting them. They take up all of our time, asking for suggestions, pretending we forgot something when they never asked for it in the first place, multiple refills, etc. They tip $3 no matter what the bill is. I’ve seen their bill go up to $78, still a $3 tip. She put a service charge on them. Oooooh boy. They came up me at the front and demanded to know what this charge was. I told them “it’s an automatic service charge, it’s an automatically calculated tip to your server.” She was livid, “this is WAY higher than I would normally pay! Why is this on here?!” Uhhh m’am it’s because your bill was $45 and you still would have tipped her $3. I notice she went back and forth from the kitchen to your table at least 7 times with a smile. I think she deserves at least a 15% tip.

I don’t feel bad. We make $2 an hour. Until that changes and we get paid fairly, you can afford to leave a decent tip. If you can’t, don’t go out to eat. If your server sucks, by all means leave a small tip. If you leave $3 every time, I’m going to put a service charge on. And no, I won’t take it off and neither will my manager.

EDIT: I turned off comments because I’m not looking to argue. I wrote my answer, if you have a different opinion then write your own answer. No, automatic gratuity is not illegal. There is no legislation against using service charges. Usually they are only added to large tables, 6+ people at 18%. (hence, my adding 15% is a low amount) The IRS made a decision that starting in 2014 automatic gratuity would be a service charge, meaning it does not count as a separate income as a tip to the server, it goes to the restaurant and they have a choice in giving the money to the server as a tip or keeping it for themselves. This means the customer does not have a choice in paying this amount. Since posting this I’ve gotten multiple comments saying this must be illegal, I felt a need to clarify.

Again, just… wow!

I get there are bad tippers.  There are also wonderful tippers.  I’m not defending bad tippers, especially chronic bad tippers. If you’re a chronic bad tipper, screw you, you’re a cheapskate, but it’s still your money until you decide if/when you tip.

Think about the hypocrisy.  If someone tips  35% does she chase them down and give back the excess?  Ha!  I bet not.

She talks about her actions being legal.  I question that.  Maybe.  I know service charges are legal when stated up front, but afterward as a surprise, and at random based on her whims?  (I would have spoken to her manager at another time, and if that didn’t get satisfaction I just might file a small claims suit against the restaurant solely to make my point.  She’s an agent of her employer and it would get her employer’s attention, more so than if I sued her.)

Notice at one point she says, ” I notice she went back and forth from the kitchen to your table at least 7 times with a smile. I think she deserves at least a 15% tip.”  You think?  YOU think?!?  Not only are you deciding if they tip, but you get to decide how much?  Entitlement much?

She turned off comments to her post.  Basically she knows her attitude is sketchy and she doesn’t want to have to defend it.

This, THIS, is exactly the type of entitlement mentality that our tipping culture has degenerated to, ‘If you don’t give it to me I’m going to take it.’

Soap Box: Rebates, coupons, and other insidious retail games

I don’t think I’m an unreasonable person.  I just want things to be simple and uncomplicated.  I want to save any thinking and planning for things that are, you know, actually important.  And this filters down into daily activities that should be as drama-free and boring as shopping.

Why does shopping have to be so… annoying?  I mean, it’s bad enough that I have to go out and brave the wilds of rude people, now I have to run the gauntlet of pricing, too?

Maybe it’s just me… it usually is, just ask The Wife Missy… but is it too much to ask that pricing be simple and straight forward?  No games.  No illusions.  No fine print.  Just sell me what I want, at the same price you sell it to everyone else, and let me be on my way.  Is that really too much to ask?

I guess so, as evidenced by some of these offenders…

Local Regional Nursery (plants, not people)

At every sale they give special discount “bucks”. the more you spend the more you get.

The catch:  They expire next month and you can only use it at their store.

Local Regional Grocery Store

Absurdly high prices… averaging 30% more, yes, I’ve done two of my own surveys/studies… coupons and special sales galore.  Plan accordingly, or…

The catch:  …be gouged.

Local Regional Home Improvement Big Box Store

Rebates.  Awesome rebates!  11% rebates.

The catch:  In the form of a gift certificate redeemable only at their store.  So, it’s not really a rebate, it’s an in-store coupon.

All of these tactics are designed to get you to come back, of course… often.  I’m sorry, but no.  I’ve probably collected over $100 worth of nursery “bucks” over years, and never used a one.  I go back when I need to go back.  I only shop the regional grocery store when the stars align and they have a good sale AND I need what’s on sale.  Otherwise, say what you will about the primary big box retail behemoth, at least they respect me enough to give consistently reasonable pricing day in and day out.  And I virtually stopped shopping at that home improvement warehouse store solely because I didn’t like being played like that.

What other underhanded tactics can we see?

Coupons and Rebates in General

Manufacturers and retailers aren’t offering discounts and rebates because they’re swell guys.  It’s a gimmick that most people, including me at times, fall for.  They know full well that most people will never claim a rebate, especially if it requires effort, like putting a stamp on an envelope.  They know full well that people who use a coupon will likely spend more on the higher priced items at the same time.  They get to tout themselves as the good guy while not really risking anything.  It’s a win-win… for them.

The World’s Pre-Eminent Online Retailer

Prices change daily, often hourly.  See an item for $63 today?  It might be $57 tomorrow, $68 the day after, and back to $63 the day after that.  In other words, pay attention, keep coming back, and oh… buy some other stuff in the meantime.

Internet & Cell Phone

New customer?  $50/mo for a year.  Existing customer?  Sorry, you pay your standard $90/mo out-of-contract price.

Airlines

Next time you fly, do a survey of ten people sitting around you.  Chances are you all paid different prices.

Bottom Line…

I shouldn’t have to worry about something as simple as pricing.  At least pretend that you actually value me and my business.  You want to impress me?  You want to really impress me?  Just sell me what I want and let me go on my way happily.  I’ll come back.  Honest.

Soap Box: Don’t lie to me

One of the great things about a blog such as this is that there’s almost never a lack of good subject matter. Today’s topic is when people lie to us. More specifically, when corporations… which are made up of people… lie to us. I’m talking the bold-faced intentional lie that no one, not even the most forgiving considerate nice person, believes.

For example: I log into my email this morning, and there’s a message from Google Play, the header of which reads…

At Google Play your security is our biggest priority

😐

No, it’s not. Don’t lie to me. Nobody, without exception, believes that. If I had to dissect it… which I will because I need to fill some space, stating the obvious is kinda short and quick… I guess the big hang up for me here is the inclusion of the word “biggest”. As in #1, everything else pales in comparison, we will sacrifice profit to protect you. The mere notion makes my head hurt, it’s so patently ridiculous. You’ll sell us down the road for a buck in the blink of an eye. You know it, I know it.

If they had said “…your security is our priority”, and left out the ‘biggest’ lie, it would still imply #1, but it wouldn’t be as in-your-face blatant lying about it, and would have been ok. I probably would have rolled my eyes and moved on. It wouldn’t have triggered my ire to the point that I felt the need to speak out about it.

At least butter me up and pretend that I’m intelligent.

Soap Box: 10 Things Servers Shouldn’t Do

The internet is replete with articles about rude customers and how people should be considerate to servers. And let’s be fair, serving is a hard job. I won’t dispute that.  There is absolutely no excuse whatsoever to treat a server poorly.  If you think you’re better than them, the hard truth is probably the opposite.  But these articles make it sound like the customer is the only one ever unreasonable. Not so. Servers themselves do things that are unnecessary, if not outright rude, and equal time is called for. Here are some of the primary things, in no particular order, that servers need to stop doing…

1. Don’t scowl when I order ice water for my drink. Yes, it probably cuts into your tip, but either the customer wants to be healthy, or they don’t want to pay over-inflated drink prices. $3 for a soft drink is unreasonable, outrageous really. That’s $6 for two people. If that’s the issue you need to take it up with your employer, not the customer.

2. Don’t make it an issue if the customer doesn’t want to sit at the table you want them to sit. As long as the customer is not requesting a room or large section that is obviously closed and segregated from all other activity, the customer should be accommodated and made comfortable. It is not the customer’s concern whether they are upsetting the carefully planned rotation.

3. Don’t beg. If I pay in cash, do NOT ask me if I want my change. Ok, you’re busy, I get it, but it’s still my money. Asking this is equal to begging, to panhandling. It’s undignified. There are times that I will, of my own choice, say “Keep the change.”, but that’s my choice and I do so freely. If you are quick on the draw and ask if I want my change I will automatically say “Yes” just as a matter of principle and just to make you make that extra trip… even if I intend to leave it all as a tip anyway.

4. Don’t try to force me into leaving a larger tip than reasonable. The bill is $9.62 and all I have on me is a $20 bill. You bring me change of a $10 bill and 38 cents. (Some will bring two $5 bills.) What am I supposed to do with that? Too many people are too timid to say anything and will leave the larger tip. Unless your service was absolutely fanatbulous… which would be pretty impressive, and rare… I am not leaving a 50% tip. And no way in hell am I leaving a 100% tip. Ever. I now have two choices, basically stiff you, which you will misinterpret as me just being cheap, or make you go back… again… and bring me some ones. Bring me a five, five ones, and 38 cents, the first time and we’ll all be happy.

Side note: I once had a server ask me if I wanted my change when I paid with two $20 bills for a $22 tab. I’m not leaving an $18 tip for a $22 meal. I’m sure they weren’t even paying attention, but it was still insulting. And yes, I made her bring me my change, and I tipped accordingly.

5. Don’t tell me how tired you are, or how you can’t wait to get off work in an hour, or how much you hate your job. Let me be clear on this: I… don’t… care. Not only do I not care, I am now annoyed and put off that you have expressed to me that my presence has inconvenienced you. You are not earning my sympathy, I have a job, too. Oh, and I don’t want to overhear you saying these things to your co-workers, either. Be professional.

6. Don’t stop serving prematurely. In other words, when you believe that my visit is winding down, or you want to hasten my exit for whatever reason, don’t ignore my empty glass. (Doing so will affect your tip.) At least ask if I want a refill. Often I do, but if I don’t I’ll be honest and politely decline. At least then I will know that you were still paying attention and doing your job.

7. Don’t mislead me. If I ask for a Diet Coke, don’t say “Ok” then serve me a Diet Pepsi.  By just saying “Ok” you are allowing me to believe I will be getting a Coke product.  The two are not the same, not to mention that businesses actually do get into legal trouble if caught doing that. Normally I will notice, but even in the times that I don’t, you’re still being dishonest by doing this. It’s called lying-by-omission.

8. Don’t use absurd adjectives. Nothing… and I mean that quite literally… is ever “perfect”. When you ask, “Is everything perfect?”, you are insulting me by asking me to knowingly lie. Granted, it’s usually at the insistence of management, but you don’t have to be so enthusiastic about it. I would even suggest you don’t even have to do it at all. Rather, just ask how my meal is and let me answer for myself.

9. Don’t stand silent if I request a substitution that adds an extra charge. If I want to substitute soup instead of french fries, and there’s an “upcharge”, tell me right then. Allow me the the courtesy to consider my option. Don’t surprise me with a bill later where I’ve been nickle-and-dimed.

10. Don’t be difficult. Don’t tell me a certain substitution is not allowed when other servers have done it for me many times. Worse yet, don’t argue with me when I point it out that it has been done before. The customer isn’t always right, but neither are you. If in doubt, excuse yourself and go check… then be adult enough to admit if you were wrong.

Soap Box: Retail Pricing

Come and listen to my story about a man named Jed
A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed…

That’s exactly how I feel when it comes to retail pricing, and it’s getting worse. I’ll share some examples and I’ll include my evolved philosophy and procedures.

Example #1: I recently ordered some printer ink from Amazon. It was on back-order, but they said it’d be just a week, so no big deal. The price was $42. Remember that, it will be relevant as we go further. As the week is winding to an end I get another email saying it’d be another month. Ummmm, no.

So, I ventured down to my popular big-box retailer and they don’t even carry my brand of printer ink. Next I mosey on to my local brick-and-mortar office supply store. Go in, a guy asks if he can help me, so I hand him my empty box and say, “I need this.”

He finds it and goes to hand it to me, and I stop in my tracks. I said, “No offense intended, but I can’t buy it at that price.” He says ok, puts it back on the shelf and I leave.

The were charging SEVENTY-SEVEN DOLLARS for the same thing I could get at Amazon for $42. 83% higher! And they wonder why online retailers are kicking their butts.

Now, granted Amazon had it on back-order, but I wasn’t out so my situation wasn’t critical. I get back on Amazon, find it through a third party on Amazon, in stock, for… get this… $40 and free shipping (and no sales tax!). It won’t be two-day Prime, but it has already shipped this morning, two days after I ordered it. It will arrive soon.

Example #2: I have a couple friends who work for a local photo store. They often say that people don’t understand the value they provide. They often say that people will regret the day when there are no brick-and-mortar retailers from which to shop. And you know what… I agree with them. I completely agree with them. There is great value in what they provide that goes beyond the simple buying of products.

I know people who think nothing of going into a store, comparison shop, consume the salesperson’s time, then go home and buy it cheaper from an online retailer. Those people suck. They have no intention whatsoever of purchasing from the local retailer. They’re just selfish and rude. Those people suck.

If I go to a store, and let’s say I’m shopping for a new camera lens, I will ALWAYS give that store first shot at the sale. Always. I am also willing to pay a reasonable amount extra to buy from them. 1) I want a vibrant local economy, 2) I value the service that they just provided, 3) When I establish a relationship I can go in and talk with a friend in a no pressure and no expectation scenario, and that has value as well, and 4) I want a place where I can comparison shop brands and models in the future.

So, as I said, I always give them first shot. But… there’s always a ‘but’, isn’t there?… but, I am not a lottery winner. I don’t have a deep bank account. I am not Mr Moneybags. I have to look out for myself at the same time, and ensure my own financial well-being. I am willing to pay a bit extra for local and for service, but I am not willing to drain my bank account to do so. The retailer still needs to respect me and be competitive.

I’m not saying they have to beat, or even match, the online retailer’s price, but they do have to be reasonably close. How close varies with many factors, but my general rule of thumb is in the 5% to 10%-ish range (less on very expensive items). If Amazon is charging $750 for a camera lens, I will pay around $775 to $800 from my local retailer, and I will do so gladly. I refuse to pay anyone $900 for a $750 lens, regardless who it is.

Example #3: We have a local regional grocery store chain that is, overall, pretty good in selection and quality. I would prefer to shop there exclusively instead of the big-box retailer, but I can’t. They’re simply too freakin’ expensive. On average, according to a couple price check surveys of my own that I have done (yes, I really have), they’re about 30% higher than the big-box guys. Again, at some point it is too much, it is price gouging, and I have to look out for myself, too.

Their big slogan/jingle is about having “a friendly smile is every aisle”… note the rhyme, lol. Nothing about price (except the odd good sale), nothing even about value, just how friendly they are. Spare me <insert eye roll here>. Just know that any business that goes out of it’s way to avoid telling you how competitive they are are doing so because they aren’t competitive at all, and they know it.

Example #4: Soft drink prices in restaurants have gotten completely absurd. Most places are trying to be as competitive as possible on their food, I get that, but they don’t want it to cut into their profits, so they’re making up for it on the drinks.

I have a great deal amount of restaurant experience, including ownership for a short time, albeit many years ago. Soft drinks have always been a high-profit item, but now it’s ridiculous. A glass of soda costs the restaurant, maybe, 20c. Maybe. I’m now commonly seeing prices of $3 (ok, $2.99). This means that for my wife and I to have a refreshing soda with our meal, up to $6 gets added to our bill, and unlimited refills go only so far. And to be even more insidious about it, many restaurants are taking drink prices off their menus so people don’t go into sticker shock when they see it. They’ll still list the flavors, of course, but no prices.

My counter-measure to this is that I now always ask the server how much soft drinks cost. I have set my own admittedly arbitrary limit… $2.29, which is still very generous… and if they answer with anything higher I reflexively say I’ll have ice water… which I should be doing more anyway, but I digress.

I have had one server laugh and say she understood. Many servers look disappointed, or even annoyed, because $6 less on the bill affects their tip. Well, sorry, talk to your boss. We’re back to where I have to protect myself and my own bank account.

Example #5:  Raising the price without raising the price.  You’ve seen it.  A product gets smaller, but the price stays the same.  And of course the package never points this out to you, though they do label size/weight per law, so *IF* you’re paying attention you’ll notice, but if you aren’t, well… you know.

Breyer’s Ice Cream went from 2 qts, to 1,8 qts, to 1.75 qts, to 1.5 qts over a period of just a few years.  Many kinds of orange juice are no longer 64 oz, but 59 oz.  The dog food we buy used to come in 40 lb bags, and is now in 30 lb bags.  And I could go on and on and on.  You get the idea.

I have read instances where companies are claiming they are only reacting to people’s desires for less portions, etc.  Ok, but if that were the case then the price would go down with the packaging.  It doesn’t, does it?  Let’s be honest and call it what it is… raising the price without raising the price.

Conclusion… finally, eh?: That’s it. And to think I started with two examples in mind, and it snowballed from there.  Anyway, you have to be on-guard. You have to protect yourself. No one cares more about you and your well-being than you.

Soap Box: Pets, Hurricanes, and People

Today we introduce a new feature, the “Soap Box”. This is where I will go on a literal rant about something that, in my humble opinion, any decent person should agree with me is just plain wrong. Soap Box topics generally make me angry, and I have little to no tolerance for the guilty parties. Soap Box topics cause me to believe that people suck. While very curmudgeonly and very opinionated, I am not prone to violence, nor do I endorse violence in most any individual circumstances (excepting self-defense, then it’s expected). So, here we go…

In the Houston area during Hurricane Harvey many people have had to evacuate their homes. Many of those people have bent over backward to save their pets, as well. Some of the faces of the forlorn pets is heartbreaking. People, even most kids, know and can comprehend what is going on. That doesn’t make it better, per se, but they get it. Animals, on the other hand, essentially have the relative safety and security of their world turned upside down. They’re scared, they’re tired, they simply do not know what’s going on. Add in domestication and they are unusually dependent on us for their survival.

Then we have the dregs of society. The ones who define “people suck”. Two recent examples involve dogs. In one example a dog was left in rising flood waters tied to a tree. In the other example two dogs were left in rising flood waters in crates on a porch. Who the hell does that?!?

Just thinking about it makes me livid.

Really, what kind of selfish low-life person does that? Personally, I cannot imagine leaving my pet behind. A pet would be second only to people, of course, and if I absolutely had to make a choice, I’d have to go with people first, but I’d do whatever humanly possible to save my pet, as well.

And I’m not so much ranting about leaving the pets behind. I don’t know the people’s situation, and maybe they had to make an either/or decision. That’s one thing. It’s quite another to leave them in a situation where they are likely to suffer a horrible death by drowning. If you have to leave a pet behind, ok, but leave them free so that they at least have a chance to run and/or swim to safety and a chance at survival. Only a sadistic jerk would not allow them that chance.

In both of these examples someone happened by and saved them. Those people deserve eternal admiration. But it shouldn’t have to have happened that way in the first place.

/rant off

There is no humor in this post, as that wouldn’t be appropriate, but true to my general purpose, it needed to be said.