Appeals to morality have become all the rage, as they not only serve to make us feel better about our choices but can’t be challenged. After all, everybody wants to be moral, and have everyone recognize them as such (or at least not call them immoral). And since morality has no rational basis, there is no battle to be waged against it.
It’s not that there aren’t universally accepted moral beliefs, like don’t kill*, but tipping 30%?
So when you’re thinking about compensating servers, it’s best to start from the assumption that tipping will be around for a while. The smart thing to ask is, how can we make the best of a bad situation?
Which brings us to the real reason I’m writing this column. It is common these days to think that the way to do political and social change is: Think of the ideal system, then move to that. But the better way to make social change is: Think of the ideal system, then get as close as you can, given the restraints of human nature, and our own situation.
There’s a problem with this otherwise lovely sentiment. What’s “ideal”? That’s where morality kicks in, you immoral heathens, because you just can’t wrap your heads around good and evil, right and wrong, and even though tipping is immoral, you just can’t seem to let it go. I can’t even.
In the meantime, there are ways we can all make the best of a bad system:
- Tip 20 percent when the meal is over $25 and 30 percent when it is under.
- Always, always, always leave a tip in a hotel room.
- To combat implicit bias when tipping drivers and others, commit to a percentage for all rides and stick to it.
- Understand that the advantages you enjoy are products of both your individual effort and privileges you didn’t earn. Tip accordingly.
If you don’t do these things, it’s because you’re immoral and deserve to burn in hell. And it’s not as if the hotel owner who sucks you dry should pay the cleaning staff a livable wage or the good fortune that allowed you to be born white, male, cis-hetero in America, to loving parents (plural) in a safe neighborhood where education was valued and provided should mean that you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor without splitting it with the help.
Oh wait. What if you’re not basking in the wealth of privilege that enables you to tip so promiscuously? Maybe you’re struggling to pay the rent, or taking the Uber to your job as a house cleaner because you can’t afford to buy a car?
The one thing about morality nobody really considers is that it costs money to be moral under the new rules. Even if it’s not a matter of being on the edge of starvation, does that mean you can’t save your pennies for a night out once in a while? Is there no limit to the demands of morality?
I went on a group yoga retreat after my father died as a way to decompress. Our group of ten, including our instructor, stayed in a barn-like structure with a bunk room and a few private rooms and shared bathrooms for two nights. We had two dinners, two breakfasts, and one lunch. We had use of the pool. The price for the retreat was pretty high.
At the end, the proprietor, who lived on the grounds in the main house, asked us to each leave a minimum of $25 for the woman who cooked our meals and cleaned the bathrooms because she “deserves a living wage.” Of course she deserves a living wage, but shouldn’t that be paid out of $7000 the proprietor was paid for our two night stay?
She’s going to hell. After all, if you can pay $700 for a yoga retreat, can’t you pay $25 to the person the proprietor doesn’t adequately pay when she’s pocketing your money? After all, it’s the moral thing to do. Govern yourself accordingly.
*Terms and conditions apply.