Search results for “tips” yield bets for horse racing; Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities; advice on improving energy levels and guidance for a more productive lifestyle – including; eating nourishing food; getting regular exercise and 8-hours’ sleep; having meaningful and positive thoughts; keeping good company and avoiding news overkill. To some a tip can mean a refuse dump. Looking out for “service tips” can also lead us to sports pages for tennis and beach volleyball.

Our quest was for gratuities but some of the above sound interesting, especially inflation-protected securities! Our curiosity with tipping has been heightened in recent times because of changed circumstances. Tipping is awash with mystique anyway. It is a significant feature of the service industry in North America, where 25% is now a minimum expectation. Whereas in Europe, tipping is not as pervasive and 10% is a more common expression of gratitude.

Tips (being wholly voluntary) are a highly contentious and controversial subject. There is a view that tips should only be given for exceptional service – after all, we should expect reasonable service at no extra cost. Some people have the view that tips are intended for the primary server only; ignoring other support staff. Some are sceptical that tips actually go to the staff at all and are simply pocketed by management as additional business income.

But perhaps the most provocative issue concerns cash or card. In bygone days all services were settled in cash – so tips became simply a cash add-on. Then for many years, there was a mixture of cash and card settlements. Some people preferred tipping in cash; reasoning that the cash had a better chance of going directly to the server; and concluding that tipping by card meant bureaucratic shenanigans of segregating the tips from business receipts and personal tax implications for the server.

In more recent times, card machines provide touch-button options of adding tips with the suggested percentages presented on screen. This is far too presumptuous for some. There is an override option, but it is difficult to navigate. The changed circumstances of the current pandemic see far less use of cash in every business setting including service gratuities; and this simply adds to the conundrum of the pros and cons of tips.

So, what are we to make of tipping? Many fear that the growth of tipping encouraged management to suppress wages. Economists see tipping as an atypical behaviour that is downright irrational and mysterious. But is there some kind of strategy at play? Academics have theorised that tipping occurs because of social esteem. Some consumers feel content to provide a voluntary contribution to the server in recognition of outstanding service; but also in the expectation of preferential future service. Ones social conscience is eased if the service levels are not exceptional and if there is little chance of a return visit.

MMPI likes the notion of social esteem, whereby, tipping is influenced by social well-being and positivity towards fellow humans. Cynics will argue that greed also plays a part!!

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