People in our community of San Antonio who rely on tips to make a decent living, are some of the hardest working folks we know. They work long hours in jobs that require lots of physical effort and spirits that are resilient, and are expected to greet even hostile customers with cheerfulness. Their extra efforts to make our meals and parties celebrative, our hotel stays pleasant are appreciated.
To leave a sufficient –or even a generous tip, is a way to demonstrate this appreciation directly to the person who has served you. It is a way of honoring this short, but important interaction of people. It gives the conduct of business a personal aspect. In an age of the remote, the automated, the virtual. Even to sometimes be charged a predetermined service charge is an agreement that good service means something, and fairness to those who serve is important.
So to find out that someone who has gracefully placed a beautiful plate of food in front of you, who noticed the moment your water needed refilling or your coffee was getting cold, or who shared a moment of friendship with the cranky kid who was dragged to a restaurant they didn’t choose, --does not receive the tip you personally calculated for him or her to receive, feels like a betrayal of something very basic. It feels like we are being robbed of an opportunity to express our decency and appreciation to important people. It feels like another way workers are being asked to settle for less and customers are asked to settle for yet another ambiguous “surcharge” on a business transaction.
When members of my congregation began to learn that they couldn’t assume that service charges and tips would go directly to the people who had provided service to them, many were shocked.