It has become something of an obsession. I don't know exactly when it started, perhaps 10 years ago, when I noticed increasingly more bartenders were not showing gratitude for the tips they were given.
As a former bartender of about 25 years, I always believed that tips must be earned. I called this philosophy GIV (Gratuity Is Voluntary) or GIVE (Gratuity Is Very Elective) and I upheld it to the best of my ability. I'm not saying I acknowledged every single tip that came along—there were those times, when I was having a bad day, or pondering something heavy, or suffering from a minor case of absentmindedness—but the default policy for me, and most of my colleagues, was to say, "Thanks," for the tips we received.
But after years of watching an increase in people who subscribe to the TAKE (Tips Are Klearly Expected) worldview, I find myself obsessed. I can't help but take note of every person in the service industry who didn't pay due respect to an offering given by me, or others. And what makes it even more disheartening is that, as a former bartender, I tend to over-tip. I'm not bragging. It's just how it is with people in the service industry. We tip big. And if a certain bartender isn't acknowledging my 25- to 50-percent tip, I can only imagine how badly he or she neglects the average tipper.
Of course, I always give the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they were having an awful day or suffering from a minor bout of absentmindedness. But if it happens twice, they get placed on my "No More Tips for You, You Ungrateful Bastard" blacklist.
And that blacklist has been growing so quickly in recent years, I'm beginning to think the problem is pandemic. Yes, of course, my little survey is anecdotal and un-scientific, but I remain convinced—there are more TAKErs and less GIVErs in the hospitality industry than ever before.
Indeed, it happened two days ago. I encountered a TAKEr who so blatantly defied GIV philosophy, she is the reason I am writing this column today.
It was a little neighborhood bar in North Park. I walked in, chose one of the few remaining stools, and waited for the bartender to approach. She was in her early twenties, olive-skinned, buxom and stylishly delinquent—with a handful of tats on her left arm, ripped jeans, matching pair of silver nose hoops, and a pulsing, pink aura emanating from her radioactive punkgina.
I ordered a shot and a beer and gave her $20. She returned with a five-dollar bill and four singles. I pulled the singles out of the pile and pushed the fiver toward her, which she promptly picked up without a word.
Well, that put me off but, as I said, my policy is to give the benefit of the doubt. So after the next round, I pushed another fiver toward her and again she thanklessly scooped it up and stuffed it in the tip jar—as if I owed that money to her, as if it were part of the asking price—as if my five-dollar bill was born in her tip jar and had finally returned home to mother after years abroad.
After two more beers (tips withheld), I stood up to leave. For some reason—probably ex-bartender guilt, perhaps her hotness played a factor—I couldn't find the courage not to leave another tip. So I dropped one last Lincoln on the bar and said, "Thanks, bartender," but she just smiled and waved goodbye.
Well, wow. What the hell was that? I am no social scientist, but my theory is that these TAKEr types are from a generation that was taught everyone is a special. There are no winners, there are no losers and everyone gets a gold star! I call them Generation N and the "N" stands for "Entitlement."
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Oh Ed, you're just becoming one of those old, Get Off My Lawn cranks who gripes about how 'selfish and lazy these kids are today,' and that 'things were better in my day,' and blah, blah, blah." Well, you're wrong!
I may be older than most of the people who read this column—my eyes and ears are semi-retired, the cartilage in my knees relocated to Florida and all my blood clots are closer to my heart and lungs than your blood clots are—but I am not a Baby Boomer supremacist! Things were most certainly not better in my day. Things are better right fucking now! We carry computers in our pockets more powerful than what the Pentagon had during the Cold War. The stranglehold that religion has on this country is loosening by the minute. And while mainstream media is owned by only half-a-dozen corporations, the Internet is a wild frontier of independent information. I mean sure, Generation N has an entitlement problem but you know what? At least they're not subjugating women, bashing queers or hosing blacks. Blood had to be spilled in order to change people's attitudes about such things, but changing a bartender's sense of privilege? All it takes is a stiff. That's all. Just stiff 'em with the cold, empty palm of discontent until they learn to appreciate the gift of gratuity. That's my plan anyway.
I mean, c'mon, TAKErs. I'm not asking you to do a jig. I don't need a bell rung or an air horn blown. And I'm certainly not expecting a freebie. All I want is a knock on the bar or a heartfelt, "Thank you, man." Is that so difficult?