American Consequences - December 2017

A big tip is memorable. It doesn’t go unnoticed. If you give great tips, then you get great service – that’s how it works. But there’s been some debate on how and why we tip so much in America. Some think it should be outlawed and believe it’s done out of guilt. And yet it’s been ingrained in our culture that tipping is a reward for a job well done. Michael Lynn, a professor at Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, estimates the tipping economy is worth about $40 billion. He sees tipping doing imperceptible damage to collective well-being... And he’d like to see the custom outlawed.

I’m sure tipping can be viewed as problematic because it creates classes. There’s a hierarchy associated with every exchange. But this is the world we live in. Whether it’s a bartender, masseuse, or cable guy knocking on your door, if you hand them a tip before they work, it establishes that their services are respected and appreciated. They’re incentivized ahead of time to go above and beyond. Of course, this isn’t without risk. Someone can take your money and not take care of you, but chances are you’d have tipped them regardless. Maybe it cost a few extra bucks. To me, buying the futures on tips is a well-calculated risk. It works for me. My car is always parked right near the exit at the garage. I’m always squeezed in when I need an emergency haircut. I never wait for a table at the restaurants I frequent. I always scratch their backs before they can scratch mine.


Tipping doormen wasn’t about past accomplishments like signed packages, hailed cabs, and squashed noise complaints... It was about the future packages, cabs, and complaints.

28 | December 2017

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