A stiff fine for entitlement

Stephanie - Walnut Creek, California
Entered on June 3, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe we are creating a nation of entitled men and women. My conviction stems from the increasing appearance of tip jars in commercial settings. I have nothing against tipping. My grandparents owned a restaurant so I come from a long line of waitresses. I spent my high school and college years waiting tables like many others. I grew up safe in the knowledge of professions that relied on tips: waiters, hairdressers and taxi drivers. As I started traveling I noticed that this was pretty much standard in other countries – okay, the bathroom attendants in Paris threw me for a loop – but I could see why they deserved a little extra for such a hardship post. When I worked as a flight attendant we were instructed not to accept tips because it was our job to provide safety and service for passengers.

My tipping point came with the rise of baristas. Tip jars are now part of the cash register in every coffee house, begging for money before any service has been rendered. I feel stressed out before I’ve even had any caffeine. As I wait in line, my inner voices obsess and rage, “if I don’t tip will the barista secretly spit in my coffee?” My other inner voice counters “why should I tip them now? I don’t even know how my coffee is going to turn out. Besides, these drinks aren’t cheap.”

But my dismay isn’t limited to coffee places –tip jars now top counters in juice bars, delis, bakeries and other non-traditional settings. One sighting that left me with a bad taste in my mouth was in a chocolate shop. It’s not like the employee was on the factory line. What’s next? Tip jars at the doctor’s office, at the grocery store, in my daughter’s classroom?

Ah, the classroom. This is the breeding ground for entitled men and women. Students used to be encouraged to work hard simply to earn good grades, a gold star or for praise by the teacher. I know it’s well intentioned, but in my daughter’s Kindergarten class kids were rewarded with fake money for completing their homework or for performing tasks in the classroom. At the end of the month, the children could spend their “bucks” choosing a prize offered by their teacher. This continues on in each grade in varying forms. In addition, the school has a reward system for children who adhere to the school’s values. Children are given vouchers – weekly in Kindergarten just for turning in their homework – which can be exchanged for ice cream or an outing with the principal. The kids now expect to be rewarded for any task they perform – well or not – at school and at home. The tip is factored into every decision my daughter makes regarding homework and chores.

I believe that hard work and a job well done are its own rewards. Repeated remunerations for tiny tasks just short changes our chances of achieving pride in workmanship.