Tipping: The Way to Overpay for the Overpriced?

August 20, 2010by Jeane Kropp

When $25 Doesn’t Deserve $5

There’s a coffee shop I frequent that has wonderful customer service. People smile, say thanks like they mean it, ask if you’ve been here before or want to try something new. If cars line up at the drive-thru, a staff member will come out and take my order in person to expedite the process. Now, I live in Wisconsin so taking orders outside is not always fun–imagine sleet, hail and wind chills of -30 degrees (albeit it feels like 100 degrees today, but that’s not fun either). If there are two of us in the car, our bill usually comes to $8 or $9. If you tip 20% on $9, that’s $1.80.

Now for the inverse. Recently I was out with a friend. We stopped at a bar to have a drink. The wait person was surly, it was hard to grab her attention and she spilled a little of my drink when it arrived. Getting her to bring our bill took Herculean effort and the charge was $25 (one overpriced martini/person). A 20% tip on this equals $5.

This got me thinking – why in the world are we still tipping based on the cost of the items we order versus the quality of service we receive? I can order an expensive item that requires one trip to my table, or I can order an inexpensive item that requires one trip to my table (think caviar vs. nachos). I can get equally dreadful service or equally great service in both cases, but our societal norms say tip big for the caviar.

Never overlook the noticeability and impact of great service. It can even overcome less than idyllic products. Great service gets you more than just a big tip – it builds brand loyalty, it gains you word of mouth, it gets the attention of customers and employees.

Let’s start a revolution. Let’s tip big for a great smile, a sincere greeting, a frequent check-in to see if we’re okay. Let’s forget whether we’re paying $3 or $35, and let the caliber of the service, not the price on the menu, drive our tipping. Please join me in this campaign to honor the right thing, to give kudos to those who take pride in their jobs, to laud the worthy.

Can I hear a “Heck Yeah?!”

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