Dec 28, 2022

All That Glitters:  Guilt, Gilt or Gelt?

Do waiters and baristas need to see their tips?

By Ed Goldman

By the time we’re five years old, most of us have been introduced to guilt tripping, a practice that grows, along with many of our bodies, exponentially.

When we’re little kids, fiendishly clever parents opt to guilt-trip rather than yell at us, by saying things like, “What you just did (or said) hurts Mommy’s (or Daddy’s) feelings.” Or “Don’t you know that Santa will be mad at you for calling your teacher a poopy brain?”

Edgy Cartoon

Unjust Desserts

In our teens and young adulthood, the tripping gains some sophistication but remains both effective and toxic. We suddenly find out our parental units have feelings very much like humans—and when they tell us we’re breaking their hearts by not going to the college of their choice, not marrying their friend’s son or daughter and, worst of all, not having any interest in taking over the family’s animal husbandry business, we find that we, too, may have feelings.

Okay, enough of this. Today’s column is about something far more heinous than guilt tripping.

It’s guilt tipping. It’s being piloted in restaurants and coffee houses. And it genuinely sucks.

In restaurants, because we’re increasingly being presented with electronic tabs instead of paper checks at the end of our meals, the waiter gets to see what sort of tip we plan to leave for him or her. At least the meal is over by that point should we feel inclined to leave a small tip (or none at all—a cruel gesture but I’m betting it’s a practice that will soon be on the rise).

This also happens at coffee joints, where the waiter is also the cook—excuse me, the barista—and hands you your order only after the transaction is completed. I’m not sure what angry baristas would do if you decided to stiff them but I suspect they can still knock the cup of steaming liquid out of your hands from across the counter.

I was once told that tips were given to service industry people—waiters, yes, but also bellhops and concierges—before they delivered their service. In the telling, “tip” stood for “to insure promptness.”

I must tell you that, armed with this data, I’ve had great service in hotels, especially in Europe—though part of that may have to do with my complete inability to understand currency differences.

For example, I had no idea when I was in Greece decades ago that its drachma was worth about a fifth of our dollar. So when I tipped a bellboy five American dollars for carrying up five bags when I arrived at a hotel very late, I had no idea I’d given him the equivalent of 50 bucks. Had I known, it would’ve been no surprise when he returned at 6 a.m. to retrieve my bags for a boat trip I was about to take. “You work a long shift,” I said in my pigeon Greek. In perfect English, he smiled and replied, “No sir, I came back, sir.”

Ironically, considering how it’s helped me to inspire promptness, tipping isn’t encouraged in most European countries. There, decent restaurants and hotel pay their workers salaries adequate enough so waiters and bellhops don’t have to rely on tips to stretch their incomes enough to pay the rent. For Americans used to dining out, this can be a tough habit to break. A French waiter once asked me as I left the restaurant if I were aware I’d left what amounted to 20 percent of my tab (in francs, at the time) on the little tray he’d used to deliver my bill. “Yes,” I said with the pompous largesse of an American abroad.

He didn’t thank me. Or even nod. He just slid the money into his pants pocket and walked off. In retrospect, I think I might have offended him. It was the first time I experienced a guilt tip.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).

Yes, Virginia

A Weekly Blog by Virginia Varela

President, Golden Pacific Bank, a Division of SoFi Bank, Inc.

photo by Phoebe Verkouw


As I write this, the airports are doing record business—as, I’m sure, are the makers of Valium.

Holiday season travel is a stressor, especially this year, which is bursting from a combination of pent-up demand and weather-related flight cancelations.

Even so, we’re about to make our annual flight into the new year.

In last year’s New Year’s message, I quoted Michael Altshuler, the popular authority on valued-centered living and competitive edge selling. What he said is irresistible to repeat: “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”

In 2022 we began to deploy the lessons we’d learned in 2020 and 2021 about, as I wrote last year, “how to fly through the combined wind shears of a pandemic we thought had been downgraded to an endemic; an economy that was in constant flux; and political discourse as disruptive as the most turbulent air currents.”

I also pointed out that through it all, we still managed to stay aloft—”as a nation and more important, as a people.” And in 2022, “we demonstrated a renewed spirit of giving to worthy causes even as many of us navigated our way through the clouds of workplace changes—as in, Where is the workplace, Control Tower?

“In short, we managed to adapt, changing our personal flight plans in mid-air if needed and facing the future with our figurative seats in the upright position,” I said.

A couple of thoughts from 2021, never more relevant than now as we face 2023:

“What do you want to create in (and for) your future—a more stable environment for your kids, grandkids and this planet on which we’re privileged to be tenants? Are you hoping to create a new business or make your current one improve its solvency? Are you excited or afraid of what’s around the corner?”

Change may be everywhere but what is the same is our need to connect with others, to create a future together.

So welcome aboard Flight 2023! Hop into the pilot’s seat. Now, as always, it’s yours for the taking.

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