Curious readers appear to be occupied with the subject of tipping as I look at the questions which readers have sent in lately. Not to confuse this with the cutting of hemlock boughs to fashion Christmas wreaths, here I am referring to gratuities. How do we graciously go about handing out tips, both in restaurants and other public establishments and also during the upcoming holiday season to individuals in various service industries who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to make our lives just that much more pleasant. Establishments might also include hotels, salons, taxi services and couriers. Individuals might include household staff - gardeners, housekeepers, pet sitters, trash collectors and newspaper carriers.
What comes across in the questions is the confusion over who should be tipped, how much they should be tipped and when and how the tip should be delivered. There is a general lack of surety surrounding this simple yet important act. In general, if you are wondering if you should tip, you most likely should. Remember that almost everyone in the service industry relies in a large part on gratuities to round out their incomes. This is especially true in North America. As an aside, when traveling overseas it is important to find out what the policies are in the countries in which you will be visiting as customs can vary dramatically and faux pas can and should be avoided.
For public establishments, a 15 to 20 percent tip is expected. This standard has risen slightly over the years, but not significantly. And if you frequent a restaurant or hotel and you treat the staff appropriately, they will remember you, and at times when a you want a special table or other favor, having shown respect in the past will pay you dividends. This is not to be confused with kickbacks and bribes although there are obvious similarities. The key difference is that tipping is a form of respect; bribery is a form of control and involves gain of an illicit nature. Discerning the difference is an important skill to have.
The question of tipping shopkeepers continues to surface and the answer continues to be yes. Shopkeepers should not be overlooked as having some special exempt status from receiving tips. They are after all the people who create the stage on which you are being treated to services supplied by someone other than yourself. If they are providing the service, they deserve the tip - it's just that simple!
In certain instances, giving money may seem inappropriate or awkward. For example if you have a favorite store where you buy exotic foods, have clothes tailored, cars repaired and so on, a gift during the holiday season may feel more comfortable to you. Be sure to put some thought into the gift. The days of handing out cases of scotch whiskey and boxes of candy wholesale are over. Many people don't drink scotch whiskey nor does everyone automatically like candy. Be as generous as you can afford and feel comfortable with. Remember that it is indeed the thought that counts more than the actual gift. Be sure to include a hand written note of thanks for the good services provided throughout the year. Such sentiments carry huge meaning.
The great bonus to giving gratuities is not as much in thanking people for services rendered and to hopefully insure good service in the future. The real bonus comes from the feeling tipping gives you. If tipping doesn't feel good to you, give yourself a shake. It is one of the most time honored traditional ways of showing respect in the western world and dates back centuries if not millennia. The connection between gratuity and gratitude are clear. If you don't feel gratitude when someone does something nice for you, life is a lonely place. Especially during these stressful economic times, where tipping is more important than ever to the service provider, so is it all the more important to be grateful and to demonstrate that gratitude.
Tipping is not a substitute for saying thank you either. It is a supplement. Look at it as the punctuation mark at the end of the sentence. What tip you leave will either resemble a period, and exclamation point or a question mark. Remember that the next time you leave the dining table, check out of your hotel room (yes, chamber maids still get tips), or head out of the coffee shop with with your morning cup of 'oh be joyful'. I'd rather be an exclamation point than a question mark any day. You will carry the feeling of gratitude with you throughout the entire day. It's well worth it!