Tipping Gone Wild

Is it just me, or does everyone expect a tip these days?

Recently I visited a local dry-cleaner (I'll save you the name since I no longer use their services). On the counter, right next to the cash register, was a plastic container with the words, "tips for great service" written around the bottom of the container. I'm an absolute fan of great service, so I politely asked the person behind the register why there was a tip-jar at the register in a dry-cleaner? The person kindly responded that I should tip if I feel he, or any of the other people in the store, had provided good service. My response, "aren't you supposed to be delivering that kind of service to me anyway?" Perfectly reasonable question I thought; but it was not kindly received as the person behind the counter simply replied, "you don't have to tip if you don't want to". Thanks for the heads-up.

Maybe I just don't understand the concept of tipping, but I thought that it was meant to provide a means to reward restaurant and hospitality employees for great service, since these industries usually pay less than the minimum wage. As a former server and bartender in another life, tips were a great way to augment my income, but it was a result of my service to the customer and not a blind expectation based on the fact that I showed up to work that day. For the record, I don't like the concept of tipping. Great service is cultural, so the organization's focus on service delivery ultimately determines how that shows itself to customers. If the organization is truly committed to great service, then its employees will illustrate this in their interactions with customers. Tips don't equal great service, and using it as a reward has been replaced with the idea that tipping is a part of the experience, regardless of the whether the person delivering the service deserves a tip or not. In some places, tips have been added to the final bill and renamed "Service Charge". Soon, we won't even have a choice in the matter.

Anyway, from the dry-cleaner, to the grocery store, to the carpet cleaner and beyond, more and more people are asking for tips for providing the very service we thought we were entitled to as paying customers. I'm waiting for the day when the person who delivers my mail puts an envelope in my mailbox; "tips for on-time mail delivery appreciated".