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On our way home from our annual vacation to the Outer Banks, I made my usual stop at my brother’s favorite seafood market to get him some crabmeat.
The cashier rang up about $430 worth of items — jumbo lump was almost $40 a pound — and the bill included an option for a tip.
When I didn’t leave one, the cashier huffed slightly in annoyance.
Meanwhile, the young man who carefully stacked the canned meat among layers of ice offered to carry out the cooler for us. He did all the work in this transaction, so I tipped him.
But why in the world would I give a 15% tip to the market, just because I bought items there? That would have added another $65 to the bill. As my son-in-law said later, they should be glad that’s where we picked to make our purchase.
I believe in tipping for good service, whether that’s at a restaurant or hair salon, but the expectation to tip on top of what’s paid for products is getting old. Especially when workers haven’t done anything above and beyond what their job requires to provide those goods.
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And it’s not only at seafood markets. The bill from a favorite food truck, where I recently bought some barbecue, included an option for a tip. So do most places where we get carryout. We never ate out all that much, then basically stopped during the pandemic and really haven’t resumed.
But if we order subs or General Tso’s, Mexican, Italian or Asian to go, we’re asked to leave a tip when we haven’t even entered the dining room and had someone bring us so much as a glass of water.
The same is true at ice cream shops, and for me, it doesn’t feel like a trip to the beach unless I get a few cones. There were tip jars at every place. Paying more than $5 for one scoop of moose tracks, peanut butter-brownie or mint chocolate chip already took some of the fun out of the experience.
People have different ideas about tipping. A friend’s husband never bought into the notion that a tip should be based on the amount of the bill. So what if the entrees at a nicer restaurant cost twice as much as at a family place? They weren’t twice as heavy to carry or twice as hard to get to the table so why should he leave twice the tip?
On the other side of the coin are people, particularly in the Northeast, who are accustomed to tipping for everything and often leave a tip that’s almost as much as the bill. After a family funeral in New York, one member of our group slipped the limo driver some money as a thank-you as the two shook hands. It was like something out of “The Sopranos.”
I realize wait staff rely on tips, and I have no problem with rewarding good service. But I don’t think anyone and everyone who works for a living has a right to expect tips.
When we entered our beach house this year, there was an envelope on the dining room table, saying so-and-so had gotten the house ready for us. They hoped we had a nice vacation — and by the way, they always appreciate a gratuity for excellent service.
Well, there was a mound of sand on the mat, right outside the front door, and on the laminate flooring in the entryway, kitchen and living room. The vacuum sweeper had been left in the hallway, and there were still items in the dishwasher.
There wasn’t a single can of cleanser in the house so I bought some at the dollar store to scrub the hallway toilet because it was that gross.
What made it even more insulting was that the rental agency had included a $130 cleaning fee already.
I left the envelope on the counter for a couple days before I tossed it. Had I put it back where I found it, my tip would have been: Focus more energy on your job rather than expecting something extra.
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425