Everyone has the tip jar out

Everyone has the tip jar out.

Rob Earnshaw, The Times

The other day I ordered food from a local restaurant to be picked up by me. I ordered online using a gift card I received for Christmas. Near the end of my order I was stumped by a box on the screen asking to type a tip amount in.

I thought, well, they're not delivering it. I'm not dealing with a server, and I'm picking it up myself. Why tip? For the person to walk 15 feet to hand me the food? I'd rather walk in and get it, which I did. 

Requests to tip are showing up everywhere now. Not only in the above case, but how about the coffee shops with the electronic tip jars? Gone are many of the glass jars with a piece of tape with the word "tips" scribbled on it. So now when I slide my debit card through the screen asks me to punch in a tip if I wish. Sometimes I do and feel stupid. Sometimes I don't and feel less stupid. 

There are times when I want to tip and it's not expected. Maybe tip a server to tell the annoying band to stop playing. Maybe tip a gas station attendant to let me pay for my fuel without waiting in line behind a bunch of people buying lottery tickets. 

Then there's tipping when it's not tipping but it really is. Like the cashiers in stores who asks if you'd like to add a dollar or more to you check out total. I'm not exactly sure what it's for because I'm listening. 

Then there's the guy who walks up to you on the street and dabs some polish on your shoe and expects you to tip him to shine your shoe. This happened to me in New Orleans not long ago. I ignored him and walked on, leaving the little ball of polish on my boot as a badge of honor. Next time I'm bringing my own polish to dab on his shoe. Then we'll see who's boss. Or I'll just wear sandals. 

I'm a good tipper (even when the service is bad) when it's expected in a normal setting, although I'm not sure what normal is anymore. I'm not Mr. Pink in "Reservoir Dogs." 

But somewhere we have to draw the line. 

Or maybe I'll just walk around with my own tip jar. 

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Lake County reporter

Rob covers urban affairs and other matters in Crown Point, St. John, Winfield and beyond. Previously he covered Valparaiso, Hammond, Gary and East Chicago. He's also written for various magazines and pens a culture blog for The Times.