How you tip may tell more about you than the service!

A few years ago in my then barber’s

I had my haircut today and it prompted me to write about tipping. I am not sure that I would tip as often as I do if I had not known the power of being tipped.

I started my first job in the summer of 1979, I was nine years old. In those days we had such people as ‘Lemonade Men’. They were like Milkmen only they delivered your lemonade once a week rather than every morning. The Lemonade men had lorries whereas the Milkmen had what we called ‘Milk floats’ powered by a battery and not exceeding 15 mph.

I must have said I was bored and my mother thought a job would eliminate boredom. I was sitting on top of a pillar listening as she asked Tommy the lemonade man could he give me a job as a lemonade boy. He said yes and immediately I jumped on the lorry.

He had a couple of us boys who would fetch the lemonade and bring it to the customers. After a few weeks you would get to know your customers’ orders, deliver them, they would pay you and often say, “Keep the change.” I probably earned more money through tips than I did through what Tommy paid me. The tips were a great encouragement and at the start were a great boost to the confidence. At Christmas, the most generous customers would give you a fiver (£5) and at the end of the round, I would take great delight in counting my tips.

At 14 I added to the lemonade round with a paper round. It was once a week on a Saturday and it was printed after all the sports results came in which meant I would take the delivery from the van at one end of town and visit most of the pubs working my way through to the other end of town. Again it was the tips that made it worth while and looking back I can see that many of ‘the punters’ only bought the paper to encourage me in my enterprise.

By sixteen I had ditched the lemonade and papers and began working as a waiter in hotels. Now I was entering the politics of tips. The kitchen staff wanted a share yet the waiting staff felt it was their service, rather than the food, that gleamed the tip.

In one restaurant the management also took a share which seemed wrong. So enraged were a number of staff that they decided to take money from the tips before it got to management. They tried to enlist me in their scheme and although I understand their reasons I didn’t feel right about it either. The management was wrong but this attempt to thwart them seemed also wrong. My refusal to enlist created a dilemma as I was then being short changed on my share of the tips.

Once I finished studying the jobs with tips ended. I became a customer who tipped. At times I sit around a table and others seem reluctant to give a 10 % tip. I can see why and fear that if I had not known the benefit of being tipped I too would be reluctant.

I often think of tipping as a principle of life, do I have to know the benefit of generosity to be generous? Do I have to be understood to understand? Yet life is not like that I can’t have experienced everything to understand.

The test of life is on the areas we know nothing and how we respond?