That $1 Tip

This is a tough one. Like I have mentioned before, I am a front of the house guy.  I made my bones getting tips at Beverly Hills steak houses and West Hollywood trattorias.  The absolute last thing I want is for people to stop being generous with their gratuities.

Ahh…New York

Lately, I have found myself taking advantage of all of the great food carts and counter services in town.  I love it.  They say New York is the king when it comes to food carts, and although I have been to New York many times and adore visiting, I feel it has nothing on Portland when it comes to food carts/food trucks.

In New York you can get a hot dog, a pretzel, or some falafel.  In Portland, you can get a cumin-roasted chicken sandwich on made-to-order flatbread with a white bean-garlic spread and a red cabbage slaw.  For about three dollars less than you paid for that hot dog in New York.

Tip Trouble

This is where I get into trouble. The tip.  I always automatically throw that dollar into the tip jar.  However.  It has become expected.  If I don’t put the tip in the jar, the person making my food knows this and is probably putting little effort into the food that they are making for me.  Often, when I do put the tip in that jar, my order is screwed up anyway, and on top of that, I get some surly attitude from the person making my lunch.

On two separate occasions, I have asked for my tip back.  You can imagine how popular that one was.  Anyone remember the Seinfeld episode when George tries to take the dollar tip back from the jar because the guy didn’t see him put it in, and he just wants the guy to see him do it?  Instead he is accused of trying to steal tips?

I also did this for a bit:  I decided that I was not going to tip until I received my order, was sure everything was correct, and that I got decent service along the way; and then I would drop money into the jar.  That didn’t work, mostly for the reason I described above…by not tipping up front when I paid, the person got the impression I wasn’t going to tip at all, and then things unfolded as they would.  Even if I said, and I did often, that I would leave a tip after our transaction was complete,  that just seemed to irritate them even more.

Anyone have answers out there?

I’m quite perplexed.  I don’t know the answer to this dilemma.  Especially when many of these food cart folks are the owners of that cart.  I want to give them a tip, but often they make it so hard to do so.  I have trained my kids, even though they don’t have any money, to always tip the person who served them.  And now I find myself not wanting to put any money in that darn, expected, taken for granted, jar.  What to do….?


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