When I Tip You, You Better Acknowledge Me

Published On 04/24/2015 Published On 04/24/2015
tip jar
Dan Gentile/Thrillist

There's a bit in Seinfeld where George gets his hand caught in a tip jar. Oh, George! He wasn't trying to steal the tips, he just wanted the pizza shop guy to notice that he was putting a buck or two in the jar. He wanted to be acknowledged as one of those guys who lends a hand. And I get it.

Because when I tip you, whether you're a barista or a bartender or a worker in a fast-casual restaurant -- I need you to do one simple thing for me. Look me in the eye and say, "thanks."

Andy Kryza/Thrillist

Why is saying "thank you" so difficult?

Common courtesy is basically dead. We text each other things like, "Sry I cheeted on u" after a four-year affair or "Oops my bad" when we run over someone's dog. Perhaps a barista not saying "thank you" when I tip them is a symptom of the fact that 42% of prominent businesspeople/research scientists surveyed believe millennials will lack "face-to-face social skills" by 2020. Maybe years of Snapchatting and Tindering have rendered them incapable of basic social skills.

But they do have social skills! I work from coffee shops quite a bit, and when I'm about to order something, baristas almost always engage me. They look at my face! They ask what I want! They smile! And yet the second my hand goes to tip them, with a few bucks in the tip jar or on that iPad cash register they have? Stone-faced. They're already greeting the next customer behind me who might also tip. Makes me feel a little used.


"Thank you" is an important part of good service

Last weekend, I went to a fast-casual restaurant in Denver called Biju's Little Curry Shop. It was incredible. The restaurant is set up like Chipotle, but instead of choosing carnitas and guac, you select incredibly flavorful "Southern-style curry" to eat over rice. I'd never been before, and there were a ton of options.

Luckily, the employee guided me through it. He pointed out his favorite dishes. He engaged me. And because rewarding good service is important to me, I threw him a few bucks in the tip jar. He saw that I tipped him, looked up, and said, "thanks" while looking me in the eye. And when it happened, I noticed.

Probably because it hadn't happened in so long.

Sure, the food was great (and I can't stop talking about it), but service is equally important. When you go into a restaurant or a coffee shop, you're going for an experience. It's about how the food, the people, and the atmosphere make you feel. And it's nice to feel appreciated.

Nodding is also fine

I realize that if a barista is super busy, there's no time to openly acknowledge every single person who tips. It takes forever to say the word, "thanks!" That's one entire syllable! But since that seems too difficult for so many in the service industry, I'm also willing to accept a nod. Just lift your chin a little bit in my general direction.

You might even get a "you're welcome" back. And when you do, you'll probably notice.

Lee Breslouer is a senior editor at Thrillist and has tried to work Biju's Little Curry Shop into every conversation he had this week. Follow him to tips on common courtesy: @LeeBreslouer.



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