Tipping a waiter might not impress your friends as much as a new skin-tight lycra suit would impress a peloton of cyclists, but giving money away without any hope of a return does seem to suggest an act of largess that one might hope will score him or her some social status points.
No one would admit to it of course, that defeats the purpose of nonchalantly handing the money over in the first place. But maybe tipping can be seen as an act of ‘conspicuous consumption’ and is the reason we do it. We would notice when somebody else tips, maybe. What do we think when we see it?
We might say “He’s got no chance with that barmaid no matter how much he gives her”. But he tips her just in case and we find amusement at his misdirected funds.
Or do we surreptitiously, perhaps even subconsciously, compete with those around us? Someone leaves the change on that silver plate that so often graces the tops of bars, so we might feel the need to do the same.
Or is it, you know you’re entitled to $7.00 in change after paying for your share of dinner but nobody else is putting their hand in the pile of cash to collect theirs, so you think you had better not either?
Maybe its not that we’re conscious of climbing the social ladder via tipping, but that doesn’t mean we want others to use us as the rung that they climb on. Perhaps some of us tip because we feel we have to, just to keep up?
This all goes unspoken, but its happening. Its happens in Australia and it happens regularly.
Who better than Larry David to over analyse this minute and unspoken aspect of our everyday existence.
Larry: Remember I was sitting here yesterday?
Larry: Do you mind telling me how much tip the guy I was with left you?
[After some negotiating]
Waiter: It was a healthy, healthy tip.
Larry: Was mine a healthy tip?
Larry: Was his healthier? … Was it over twelve dollars?
Waiter: I can really get in trouble if I talk to you about that.
Larry: Nobody even knows what we’re talking about. Scratch your face with your finger if it was over twelve dollars. Go ahead just scratch it. Was it over twelve dollars?
[Waiter scratches his face]
Larry: Oh, for god’s sake. What an asshole! Let me ask you a question. Was it over fifteen dollars? Just tug on your tie up here. Was it over fifteen?
Waiter: This is making me really uncomfortable.
Larry: Nobody’s even knows what we’re talking about! Was it over fifteen dollars? Tug on your tie.
[Waiter tugs on his tie]
Larry: Oh my fucking… FUCK!
This might be a bit over the top compared to a typical Australian experience. But next time you’re out with people at a restaurant or bar, watch what they do. I’ll bet they’re watching you.