Monday, August 3, 2009

The Gratuity Angels

Archy Taylor says: "It was bad. The 'chew'n'screw' crowd was bad enough, with their dine and dash mentality. But then you've got the tipcheats. If they left a nickel or a buck, you were lucky. TEN percent? HAH! It had gone far enough. Too far enough."
And so Taylor, along with a group of fellow restaurant frequenters, started the Gratuity Angels. "At first, if we noticed a 'light' tip on the counter in the diner, we'd just leave another buck to even the total up. Eventually, we'd talk to the guy."
Within months, the movement had become so widespread that Taylor started deputizing tippers. By 2009, the Gratuity Angels have over 140 chapters in New York City alone; members have developed iPhone apps for tip computation; and classroom courses about service appreciation are taught in some grammar schools.
Things have changed since the bad old days. The classic tipcheat might leave jingly change. No bills. During the Reagan administration, the years dubbed "The Me Decade," things were worse. The practice of stiffing because of imagined slights or impractical expectations became endemic.
"Oh sure," Archy laments, "A hundred bucks for the doorman or the D.J. or the maƮtre d'. But all a waitress might get was a leering glance down her blouse. Or worse. We took care of those guys." Since the Gratuity Angels have a strict "no touch" policy, that often meant simply moving the offending bar patron's stack of bills to the tip jar.
Or the Angel would simply leave a bigger tip.
This is still a favored tactic today because not only does it compensate a stiffed worker, it also acts as a means by which to lay a pretty heavy guilt trip on the tipcheat.
Of course, there are those who will say that they don't need to be reminded how to tip or when or how much.
"Tips are not your opportunity to tell a worker how badly he or she works. Tips are your opportunity to take ownership in your community and your community's businesses. The whole economy. As a whole. It all comes back to you -- are you doing your part to help the economy, or are you cheating us all? Are you not lifting a finger to end this global recession?
Sure, there's taxes, but everybody pays them. A Tip is You. Your opportunity to excel as an individual."
Local government sometimes balks at a citizens group taking matters like this into its own hands. "One mayor just figured that everybody would tip properly because he thinks it's a polite town. A lot of communities aren't like that. We're the last best hope for gratitude in a lot of
communities. Families don't eat together to share tips about tipping. Like: how to move the decimal to find ten percent and then multiplying by two to get you twenty percent. Fun stuff. Like that. We make tipping fun again. We have an in-school group of theater students that does role plays and games, teaching proper tip etiquette. You'd be surprised how many kids don't even know to expect a tip for delivering newspapers."
What about the people who call them the 'Tip Police' or the 'Twenty Percenters?' What about detractors?
"Sure, there's people who think that it's none of our business. That they know how to tip. Well, good for them! 'Keep it up,' I say! But you can't expect everyone to. Tip.
"There was one sad bunch of jerks who said that it wasn't in their rational best interest to tip. That workers were
compensated plenty for their work, and it wasn't up to them to supplement other peoples' incomes. We addressed that attitude in newspaper editorials, but this gang persisted. Because they were used to writing bitchy letters to the editor. But, like all of their other efforts, they didn't have the staying power and people simply got tired of their nonsense. Sometimes they'd leave a copy of The Fountainhead or just a a cover ripped off Atlas Shrugged. Hah hah. Very funny. But that died down when everybody realized the books sucked and most Tipjectivists were just selfish wackos who never would have tipped anyways."
Tipping, especially on this grand a scale, runs into some money. The Gratuity Angels Endowment Fund helps. Since its
inception in the mid-Nineties, the endowment has grown steadily and sometimes reinforces the work of Gratuitors in some hard-strapped areas. But "mostly, good tippers occur naturally and can even spread," Taylor admits.
Comparisons to Curtis Sliwa's Guardian Angels are certainly unavoidable. But Archy Taylor denies any crass imitation.
"Of course, Sliwa [who was a manager at a fast food restaurant] is after bigger game. Nobody tips at McDonald's, so tipping's not on his radar. We absolutely certainly help the red jacket and beret guys whenever asked."
Addressing the matter of uniforms, Taylor is resolute. "We do most of our work indoors. A man doesn't wear a hat -- even a beret -- indoors. 'Angels don't hide their halos under millinery' is our motto. Well, one of our mottoes. Well, it's more like a slogan. That I just made up. Not a motto."
Reminded that headgear is commonplace in the general population, Archy responds with characteristic inventive aplomb. "Here's another step we're trying to take, and an exciting one that'll create jobs. Hat checks. Minimum of expense -- heck, some places already have 'em from the old days. And it's another opportunity to show that you're a great tipper."

Archy leaves us with one bon mot, a 'tip' for us all, if you will: "Tipping comes at the end of the meal, just like dessert. Which is always good. So enjoy!"

1 comment:

Karie said...

Awe, see? I was hoping to join this crew and don a raspberry beret, but they are SO right... wearing hats indoors is pretty crass (except for kerchiefs or the like for a person in cancer treatment). I do encourage a generous tip to the coat & hat check attendants. Like the newspaper delivery folks, I think they are too often overlooked.