My newspaper carrier puts a card in our paper every holiday season thanking us for subscribing, wishing us a Merry Christmas, and asking for a tip. At the bottom it reads, “Please tip your carrier. Checks for tips should be made out to, “Mr. Smith.” (Not his real name.) This appalls me because I was always taught that tips are to be neither expected nor asked for. Needless to say, I don’t tip. (Not only because he so blatantly asks for a tip, but because the service during the year isn’t worth it. When we go on vacation and ask to have the paper held and delivered when I return, he never does it. But I digress…)
There are expectations to tip everyone these days, whether it is traditionally tipped position or not. Restaurant receipts tell you that a tip should be twenty-percent. Well, what if the service was terrible? People tip their garbage collectors and mail carriers. They tip teachers, nurses, doctors (really?) and FedEx drivers. To me, if a profession receives a wage or salary for doing the job, it’s not a tipped position. Sure, I will tip some people if they go above and beyond the call of duty, but most of these people do not. At least not in my area. And I can’t see myself ever tipping my doctor who has a boat, a condo at the beach, and drives a Mercedes. But maybe that’s just me.
I also find myself shocked these days by wedding and other invitations that ask specifically for money or enclose a registry. That seems presumptuous. If I want to give you a gift, I can ask you where you are registered or if there is something that you need. You can then hand me the registry, mention a gift card you might want, or ask that money be donated to a charity in lieu of gifts. Saying, “Thank you for thinking of me/us,” when you give me ideas is also appreciated rather than just shoving the list at me and saying, “Give me this toaster.” To stick a gift list in the invitation and to presume that your guests will give a gift seems to me to imply that the gifts you’ll get from them is more important than their presence at your event.
It’s the same with showers. I was raised that you had a wedding shower for your first marriage and a shower for your first baby. Now every time I turn around there are invitations for showers for third and fourth marriages, the third baby, “gender reveal” showers (in addition to the standard baby shower), and even “divorce showers” so that the man or woman can get the things they will need to live alone. And, many times, the invitations to these events contain registries and requests for money.
The other day I even saw an obituary in the paper that, instead of the usual “In lieu of flowers please consider donating to [the charity of choice],” said, “Please give money to my grandkids for their college funds.” All I could think was, “Um, what?” I thought that it was either the grandparents’ responsibility to leave that money to the grandkids in their will or for the parents to provide for their own kids’ college education. I would have felt differently if this was the obituary for a young mother or father of babies who didn’t have time to prepare for their kids’ future, but this particular request just struck me as a money-grab. Who’s to say that the money would even get to the kids and not be spent by the parents? And why is it on me to pay for the education of your grandchildren? Isn’t that your family’s responsibility?
Maybe etiquette has changed since my younger days and maybe all of this asking for money is considered normal now. Maybe this is the new etiquette. Maybe it’s all just a reflection of our current society where “enough” is never enough. There always has to be more. Maybe it’s a reflection of the entitlement mentality some people have. Maybe when you grow up celebrating your graduation from kindergarten, then third grade, then sixth grade, then eighth grade, then high school and college, having just one baby shower can seem anticlimactic.
It seems to me, though, that when there are expectations of tips and gifts that the specialness of life becomes lost. The point of a wedding is to unite a couple, not to get a truckload of gifts. The special part is the ceremony and having your close friends and family there for the service. The special part isn’t the KitchenAid mixer. The point of a baby shower is to celebrate the new arrival. Gifts are great and often helpful, but would you turn away your best friend if she only brought good wishes and not a Diaper Genie? The incentive to tip shouldn’t be an expectation but rather because the person did something special. Maybe you want to tip someone who consistently goes the extra mile for you, or the person who bends the rules for you in some way. But just to tip for doing an adequate job doesn’t really reward anything special. It only rewards mediocrity.
Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m an old fart now who doesn’t get it. But when I see people tipping and gifting people just for breathing and then I listen to them complain about having no money, it riles me, especially when people say they felt forced into it. That’s just not eh etiquette I was raised with. Certainly if you can afford to tip and buy gifts for every little thing, then please go ahead. If that’s what you want to do, it’s your money and you should spend it as you please. But for those who have tighter budgets, all of these expectations can be disheartening. An invitation that basically says, “Gimmie” can so fluster a potential guest that they may decide not to attend your event at all if they cannot afford the pricey gifts requested. When you’re making out invitations or requesting tips, try to remember how the wording/invitation may look to someone who can’t afford to give lavishly. Are you really asking for their presence at the event or thanking them for being a customer, or are you demanding stuff or money? If it’s the latter, ask yourself which you want more: The person/customer or the present/tip? If what you really want is the person at your event or the customer for your business, then leave the money grabs out of it and consider any gifts or tips to be “gravy.”
(Photo courtesy of JefferyTurner)