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Tipping Point

Anyone who’s ever waited a table, worked a valet stand or serviced a client in a multitude of ways knows and respects what T.I.P. stands for—To Insure Promptness. But I’m here to tell you that these three simple letters have become an epidemic—like H1N1 and Lindsay Lohan court appearances. And there’s clearly no known vaccine. Consider this series of disturbing events during a recent Saturday morning round of golf at a nice—but certainly not haute—course in the area: I pay my green fees and hit the range for some much-needed practice. After I’m done with my bucket, and after my name is butchered by the starter (“Now calling the Ka-lac-ca-nick foursome”), I walk to my cart. Awaiting me is a guy with a damp towel who starts wiping down my club heads. Not that I asked for this service, but I feel compelled to reach into my wallet and give the guy a couple of bucks. At the next turn, I buy a sandwich and a drink. Of course, the tip jar next to the service window practically demands at least one of my “spare” dollars. … You get the picture.

Tipping surrounds us, suffocates us and infuriates us. Should I tip the valet when I drop my car off AND pick the car up? Should I tip the roller-skating waitress at Sonic when I wouldn’t think of tipping the same girl at Wendy’s? And what’s up with all of the tip jars? Shouldn’t there be laws to protect us from tip jars?

Tipping at Starbucks? No way! Tipping at SportClips? Sure, but my hair takes literally four minutes and 23 seconds to cut so I’m not sure I’m getting the value here. Tipping during the holidays?—don’t get me started. My mail carrier hasn’t spoken to any member of my family in six years. Why would I tip him, again? Oh yeah, so he can give me my neighbor’s Oprah magazine. Gee, thanks.

Tipping for teachers: OK, before I dive into the deep end of the pool, let me say this: I love and respect teachers who passionately pour themselves into guiding our little ones. They are heroes right up there with police and firefighters. But please, no more tipping for them, OK? Can I get an amen? I will now enter the witness protection program, as will my kids.

Teachers work hard. Then again, so do I. Teachers work long hours and are underpaid. Me, too. Teachers put up with 17 to 25 kids for eight hours each day of the week for nine-plus months. I put up with 150 or so adults, who often act worse than kids, for at least eight hours each day of the week for the full 12 months. But, at the end of my year, especially lately with the economy hemorrhaging, there are no tips for me. Meanwhile, each of my kids’ teachers scored some pretty hefty gift cards.

Rumor has it that teachers actually have running scorecards on which homerooms rock the big-time gifts and which ones come up short. Another rumor says that teachers are starting to ask parents to forget the gift cards altogether and just come through with some cold cash. Parents are one-upping one another to see who gives the most unique gift. Seriously, who didn’t see this coming? Tips have run amok. We’ve reached the tipping point on tipping.

Should kids get tips? Yes. Heck yes. Let’s start passing out tips when kids go above and beyond on their myriad duties. Open the door for mom: $1. Take my suitcase to the car before I ask: $1. Help their brother with a towel after his shower: $1. Fill up my iced tea glass without me asking: $1. No tips for doing homework, doing the dishes or taking out the trash. That’s considered part of the joy living under my roof. But paying for promptness and good service? Now that’s some tipping I can get behind.