Just The Tip

I have spent a good portion of my life waiting tables, so I am very familiar with the art of tipping. Waitresses in this state are paid such a small hourly rate that they rarely, if ever, receive an actual paycheck. And, on top of that, they are expected to give a portion of their pay to other restaurant employees, such as bussers and bartenders. I don't want to get into a long mathematical breakdown of how this works, so I will sum it up with this: Tip your servers 18% to 20% (or more, if they surpass your expectations.) Your tips are the only financial compensation that servers are receiving for working all night. I think it is fair to say that most people who have ever worked in a restaurant are good tippers, myself included. In fact, I am the person most of my friends turn to for tipping advice. Lately, though, I've been feeling like the concept of tipping has been skewed by the tip jars that are out everywhere. Tipping has become more and more confusing over the past ten years; it now seems that everyone expects a tip. When I go to a restaurant, I tip my server, the bartender, the coat-check person. I tip the valet. These people are all depending on gratuities to survive. But what about at the coffee shop? Or the ice-cream parlor? Or the movie theater? There, it gets murky. In these situations the workers are being paid an actual hourly wage. Do you really need to hand over money to the guy who scooped your popcorn to avoid feeling like a tightwad?

Lately, I've been experiencing this tipping confusion in my acupuncture practice. I've had quite a few people come in for their treatment and attempt to leave me a tip. Don't get me wrong-I take it as a compliment. If you feel so good that you want to throw extra money at me before you leave, that's great. Actually taking the tip, however, feels...well...smarmy, somehow. I always tell my clients that I do not accept tips, although the offer is appreciated.

When I think about it from the patients' perspective, I completely understand where they are coming from. They tip their hairdressers, their masseuses, their reflexologists. Even psychics expect tips these days! Why wouldn't you tip your acupuncturist?

When I am asked this question, I immediately respond with: "Do you tip your doctor?" Usually, the response is something like, "No, but I don't leave his office feeling this good!" And there I am at a loss. So, today I ask the question, should we acupuncturists accept tips when they are offered? And where should we draw the line on tipping those who provide services? Any thoughts?