Mar 282012
Authors: Lydia Jorden

When I was about seven years old, I stood outside for hours waiting for someone to entertain my lemonade-selling efforts. I sold a carefully decorated cup for 50 cents with a refill at only 5 cents.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make any money. In fact, if I remember correctly, my mother was the only one who got in her car to drive around the block to pretend that she was an actual customer. Pretty sad.

When I was about 10 years old, I understood a bit more about how much competition there was in my neighborhood with lemonade stands. I decided to differentiate myself with a corner candy shop. This idea was much smarter and with this idea came my first real lesson surrounding a business: tipping. A woman purchasing candy decided to give me one more dollar, just, well….because.

Tipping can be tracked all the way back to the Middle Ages, but the act of tipping did not become readily recognized until the 1800s. U.S. citizens even thought of tipping as un-American in the early stages of its presence. However, over time, tipping became a much more accepted and acknowledged practice.

Earlier this week, I had a conversation with a friend who works in a service industry about the varying opinions that follow customers and their tipping patterns.

She began to tell me that she constantly tips, wherever she goes. She also mentioned that it seemed that the more wealthy the individual, the less they tip. She was quick to mention that even people who appear to be homeless afford to drop some coins into the restaurant’s tip jar.

This is, indeed, a stereotypical view. Although I do not work in a service industry in the same way restaurants do, I still am not 100 percent convinced this is an accurate statement.

My opinion drifts very far from my friend’s view. If I am in a formal sit-down restaurant, where a waiter is assigned to my table, I will tip. But, when my cup of coffee is averaging about $4 for a medium size, it seems foolish to add another dollar on top of that fixed price.

The difference between these two examples is clear.

A waiter at a sit-down restaurant is assigned to my table, works to assist in all my various requests and remains a part of my experience until I leave. This person is likely being paid below minimum wage at about $4.24 and relies on tips to make up the difference. I expect a certain level of service, but when the server goes above and beyond to make sure my water is always filled, I am checked on at appropriate times and inquires about my food, a tip is deserved.

Many usually receive this type of service at a formal restaurant. This explains why tipping at a sit-down restaurant is a norm and standard to the point where restaurants add gratuity when the guests exceed a set number.

On the other hand, the individual making my coffee is paid an hourly rate at about $8.10. The difference explains itself. Although the barista tries to make my experience as pleasant as possible, there is no real direct expectation I have from that individual, besides to complete his/her duty of making my drink.

When I sit down in Starbucks, I don’t expect to leave my drink on the table — I’ll throw it out on my own. I also don’t expect for the barista to ask me if I’d like a refill or water. I don’t expect them to do this and I don’t want them to do this, and that reflects the difference of when you should tip.

Though, if you’re carrying around bushels of cash that you can afford to appreciate people with, then go ahead and tip. But for those who are a bit more price conscious and need to budget, it’s important to focus on who you should tip and the services they provide for you to make that decision.

If you’re unsure about the service you received and feel you should tip, but are not sure, a good indicator is if your receipt has a line for you to leave a tip. This is a general indicator of whether or not you should tip.

The service industry has changed. Instead of exceeding expectations in an effort to keep a customer returning, industries have come to expect tips regardless of the service, whether filling a glass with beer or a mug with coffee.

If you want a tip, exceed expectations –– simply meeting them is not nearly enough.

Lydia Jorden is a junior business major. Her column runs Thursdays in the Collegian. She can be reached at

 Posted by at 3:53 pm

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