In the general scheme of things, I try to be polite and proper. Now, sure, I can belch like a man, and I’ve been known to use a curse word or two (or all of them), but in most cases, I like to follow the rules that society sets. Specifically, I like to tip properly.

Some of it’s easy — unless you do a pretty shoddy job waiting my table, you’re getting 20% from me. I waited tables for a couple of days (no, literally — I was hired, trained a day, worked a day, and realized I couldn’t do it and quit); I know how difficult it is, and I appreciate when it’s done well because it is HARD WORK. You have to be polite but not too friendly, remember what items come with what sides, keep track of who ordered what … forget it. I’ll happily give someone a few extra dollars when they’re able to manage all that. Even if they don’t know how to pronounce half the things on the menu.

Services are a little tougher. Bellhops and valets, not a big deal, but I get flustered with things like spa services. Probably because I almost never get them, but still, it’s tricky. However, I know ahead of time what I’m going to spend, so I can calculate and plan. I am a planner, you know.

Now, here’s where the waters become all muddied for me: I just picked up some Chinese food, and there, on the receipt, is a line for tip. On the counter, there’s a tip jar. I feel like there are two reasons for tipping. One, because you know the person providing the service gets paid in such a way that they rely on tips (like a waitress who makes $4 an hour + tips). Two, to reward exceptional service or hard work (like a valet running to grab my car in the sweltering heat so my precious little self doesn’t have to sweat).

I mean, I don’t want to sound cheap, but what am I supposed to do in that situation? I’m obviously not going to leave 20%, but I feel like tossing a buck in the tip jar for my $25 order looks cheaper than leaving nothing. Like, “Hi, I’m acknowledging that I can tip you, but I’m not going to tip you any big amount. Enjoy that pop pack of gum candy bar third of a tank of gas on me!”

The girl at the counter was sufficiently pleasant — no complaints from me, but, I mean, I drove there, I walked in, and she handed me the food I paid for in a big bag. Do I tip? Do I not tip? Do I tip a lot? I would love love love to hear from people who have more extensive food service experience than I (and the chances are pretty damn good that you do), but I’d also like to hear from anyone who has a theory on how to best handle this. In advance, I thank you!

(And yes, I know everyone would like to be tipped. Of course they would. But, I mean, there’s not a tip jar at the dentist’s office for me to leave a few bucks for the hygienist when she cleans my teeth without making my gums bleed. There’s no tip line on the credit card receipt at the book store to show my appreciation to a helpful employee who helps me find random paperbacks in a particular genre. I’m just trying to find out if tipping in a place like my Chinese restaurant is proper manners or going above and beyond.)

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