The Change

Today’s pet peeve is about change.  No, not THE change as the title implies.  I’m not talking about menopause.

The change I’m talking about today is the change I would get – or should get – when I order take-out food.  Over the past five years or so, I’ve noticed a big increase in the number of take-out places that A) have a tip jar right at the register where you stand in line to order and receive your food and B) have the number of cashiers that will outright ask, “Do you want your change?”

I was at a Starbucks a few months ago where my sister and I went through the drive-thru.  We each ordered a tall (which is the smallest) hot chocolate.  Our total was around $5, give or take a few cents, and we paid with a $20 bill.  Needless to say when the cashier asked if I wanted my change, I went off on the kid!  I yelled something to the effect of, “Of course I want my change!  I’m not going to give you a 300% tip for passing two cups out a window!  As a matter of fact, I want all my money back!  Now!  You can keep your overpriced hot chocolate!”

While my reaction might seem extreme, I had reached my breaking point of people begging for my money.  When I go to a sit down restaurant, I tip very generously.  In fact, I get embarrassed if I’m dining with someone who’s cheap with the tip.  But as for walk-up counters or drive-thrus, I’m sorry, but the prices are high enough, and I have no intention of tipping anything then.

I live across the street from an outdoor walk-up ice cream store.  It costs roughly $7 there for a single scoop cone.  Yet they still have a tip jar on the counter, and they don’t hesitate to ask if you want your change when you place an order and pay with cash.  My daughter worked there one summer, and my sister and I walked over to see her working.  She was in the back making ice cream, so we ordered from the other girl.  When I declined to let her keep my $3 change from my $10 bill, she went to my daughter to complain about “the cheap bitch” that just left.  My daughter ran like her bed was on fire to tell me about it and go off on me about how much I embarrassed her.  My response?  “Tough!  Tell your friend to get an education so you won’t have to work at a place like that.  If you want tips, go work at a real restaurant where you actually serve and wait on people, then you can expect tips and not have to beg for them.  Then you can report all those tips to the IRS, and you can pay taxes on them as well.”  Needless to say, she was not happy with my answer as well as my message to her friend.

Sonic is another restaurant I now boycott because of their constant haranguing me to allow them to keep my change.  It costs roughly $7.50 for a meal at McDonalds here in Florida.  That’s approximately 43¢ less than our state’s minimum hourly wage.  So figure a person has to work roughly an hour and fifteen minutes at a minimum wage job, picking up dead animal carcasses off the side of the road or putting the blue smelly stuff in port-o-potties, just to net enough money to eat a low quality meal that’s likely not even hot, and then they get harassed by the restaurant’s employees who are doubling as panhandlers begging for cash under the guise of guilting us into thinking we owe them a tip in addition to the cost of the overpriced food!

I think it’s bad enough on the rare occasion when I go to a sit down restaurant and the waiter takes my money and asks if I need any change.  Even if the change is the exact amount I want to leave them, what their statement says to me is, “I don’t want to have to walk back over to your table unnecessarily.  I’ve got better things to do.”  Also, if perhaps the tip I was going to leave was $5, and they asked that question when my change would have been $8, it now makes me feel like they think I’m cheap if I ask for my change, even if the $5 tip I would have left was well over 20%.

The very word TIPS is an acronym for To Insure Prompt (or Proper) Service.  And I’m sorry, but I don’t feel that it is proper service to solicit tips when I have to go to the counter, stand in a line, wait for my food or beverage, wait for the cashier to get off their cellphone, wait for the person in the back to stop joking around with someone else, and actually get my order placed in a bag, and then have the cashier fail to even greet me or thank me for my business.

A tip is also like a gift.  It is in addition to the cost of the item, and it is at my discretion how much I choose to leave, if anything.  And I, for one, will always leave a much larger tip if the person I’m tipping refrains from asking about it.

Okay, will someone help me down off my soapbox for today?

Let’s talk:  Have you ever encountered a cashier who asks if you want to keep your change?  When you go to a restaurant, do you calculate your tip to the suggested 15-20% guideline, or do you just leave a standard flat amount or round up the bill to the nearest $5 or $10?