Gouging for tips is getting ever more aggressive. Even the generous among Miss Manners' Gentle Readers complain of feeling hounded.
Tip jars and saucers have appeared everywhere, from counters where pre-wrapped fast food is handed directly to customers, to private events where hosts who are paying the hired staff a service charge and tips on top of it little suspect that their guests are being targeted as well.
People on the receiving end are franker about stating the size they expect those tips to be and using embarrassment to pressure tippers into giving more. A particularly insidious technique in vogue now is to refrain from offering change and then loudly asking whether the customer "wants" it, as if taking it would be a breach of manners. One Gentle Reader reports being asked if he wanted change after submitting a $100 bill for a $40 meal.
Those in positions that were never associated with tipping, notably the owners of establishments such as restaurants and hairdressing salons, are letting it be known that they would be far from offended by being treated like their employees when it comes to tipping.
Holiday collections are initiated by the would-be recipients, who are often not shy about announcing what is expected. Those who used to be tipped annually, such as newspaper deliverers, have added a line for tips on their monthly bills as well.
"I'm at my wits end with the number of people expecting tips," writes one G.R. "I know they deliberately underpay waiters and waitresses, so I don't mind leaving 15 percent (though I do mind that the standard, I've recently been informed, has become 20 percent). I don't like it -- why don't their employers just raise the prices that much and actually PAY them, so at least customers could make a reasonable budgeting decision upon ordering? -- but I don't object.
"But on deliveries, I'm already being charged an extra fee. Why am I tipping on top of it? Maintenance workers are paid as well as I am, but I'm told that the reason my previous apartment was always in disrepair was that clearly I wasn't tipping the company's workers and it was revenge. Isn't that why I was paying a ridiculous rent in the first place?
"Hairdressers? Please! They already overcharge, given that I usually just want a shampoo and a very basic trim. Bellboys? Cabbies? Homeless men who decide to employ themselves opening doors without being asked? (I always say, "Thank you, sir," of course, but I don't expect a doorman at 7-Eleven and am not going to pay for one.)
"The situation is totally out of control. I can't seem to budget for a day out because I never know how many people are going to expect a handout along the way. I was chastised for being 'un-American' because I'm not willing to give people money for doing their jobs, but it was always my understanding that paying an agreed-upon fee was paying for services rendered.
"It's not as if the services are cheap, or I'm a member of some idly rich class that can afford to just throw money around to show my largesse. Is there any way at all to stop this trend? Or should I just put a tip jar out on my desk at work to cover the tips I'm supposed to be giving everyone else?"
Miss Manners can comfort you only by reporting that it is the custom of tipping that is historically un-American, as American workers at all levels of employment used to consider themselves too dignified to accept tips.
Alas, the custom is now built into the pay scale of many jobs, and ignoring it would cut into the wages of those who can least afford it. For the others -- those who have simply decided to trade their dignity for handouts -- Miss Manners gives you full leave to refuse to succumb.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I work at a small company that just hired a new truck driver to make our deliveries. This man always invades my personal space. Is there a way to kindly tell him to back off?
GENTLE READER: Impound his truck?
Wait, for a minute there, Miss Manners thought he was taking your parking space. If he is standing too close to you or hovering over your desk, it is you who back up or turn your chair away saying, "Would you excuse me, please? I have work to do."