By Boshika Gupta
The first time I witnessed the power of a generous tip was right at home. My mother rewarded the pizza delivery guy with extra change as two kids (my brother and I) danced around her excitedly. The delivery boy’s face lit up and he thanked Mom for her kindness. We continued to happily sniff around for hot pizza but I did notice how genuine his smile was. Since then, I’ve cultivated the habit of leaving behind a little extra cash, mainly in old-school establishments that don’t lean on service charges or when I’m shown around by a particularly efficient and polite server.
Last week, Singaporean citizen journalism site Stomp reported that a generous, much-needed tip made a waitress cry in gratitude during one of her regular night shifts at a restaurant in Katong. The single mother of two from Penang had been struggling to make ends meet and the surprise tip from a wealthy customer, Atwell Tay came to her at exactly the right time. She’d been frantically trying to arrange funds for her kids’ school fees. “My take-home salary from the restaurant is $700+ while I can earn $50 for every home I clean (about four hours each time). Sometimes, I have to clean up to 20 houses a month,” the 37-year-old waitress told Stomp.
Heart-warming tipping stories like this one aren’t unheard of but they’re rare. In April this year, a waitress in the U.S. was in for an unexpected treat from a particularly considerate customer. The waitress, Keri Marie Carlson was accompanying a guest to his table at GW Carson’s restaurant in Connecticut when he noticed she couldn’t hear him properly.
She told him that one of her hearing aids had malfunctioned and needed to be repaired. While she didn’t say anything about facing financial difficulties, he handed her a hefty $500 tip before he left. “I cried for a minute in his arms,” she told ABC News. The thoughtful deed inspired the owner of the restaurant, Jim Kirtpopulos to donate money from GW Carson’s T-shirt sales to the American Society for Deaf Children.
— ✨✨ IcatchR ✨✨ (@w8n2xhale) October 15, 2014
The 1994 Nicholas Cage film, It Could Happen to You follows a cop who offers to share his winnings from a lottery ticket, instead of giving his waitress a tip. He actually does win, and it is no pocket change. He stays true to his word and in a heartwarming gesture, shares $6 million with her, as promised. The movie is based on a true story from 1984 that involved a cop, Robert Cunningham and a waitress who worked at South Pizzeria, Phyllis Penzo.
Many celebrities are known to be generous tippers including Johnny Depp (who once left as much as a $4000 tip at a steakhouse in 2009), Amy Schumer, Charlize Theron, Tom Hanks and Taylor Swift. In 2015, Schumer doled out a $500 tip on a bill that actually just came up to $49. She found out that her server was balancing two jobs to make enough money for college and decided to leave a good tip behind.
Interestingly, tipping etiquette fluctuates in different parts of the world, making it a slippery slope in a few places. For example, while tips are greatly appreciated in many parts of America and Europe, it is frowned upon in Japan and South Korea. A waiter may politely refuse your tip in New Zealand where waiters were dismissed from their jobs two decades ago for accepting a tip. In Mexico, it is important to be discreet and offer the money in an envelope instead of making it extravagant.
Tipping in general is welcomed in most places and situations, though. Recently, I asked an Uber driver to keep the extra change for his fantastic service and he was delighted. In a turn of events days later, a different Uber driver politely refused to keep any change and gave me the money back with a big smile, implying that he was just happy with being able to provide his services. Lesson learned, ladies and gentlemen. When in doubt, tip with an open mind.
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