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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Is Tipping the Right Thing to do, no Matter the Circumstance?

Living in Baja California has taught me that purchasing things from street tacos to hotel rooms cost about the same if not more than in California.  For instance renting a room at Hotel Fatima in the Valle de Guadalupe area costs $60usd, staying at Motel 6 in San Diego costs $56usd (cheaper if you search out coupon codes).  Tacos at Tacos El Trailero in El Sausal (Ensenada area) are about $20mxn (about $1.50usd), Tacos El Gavilan in Los Angeles are $1.39.  While the costs of purchasing things are close to similar, the worker wages varies vastly. Minimum wage workers in California earn $9usd PER HOUR, $72usd PER DAY (as of July 2014), in Baja California average minimum wage is $63.77mxn, about $4.91usd PER DAY.  That’s a $67.09usd difference in and 8-hour day.

For us locals, it can become a little tiring; tipping each and every person that helps us throughout the day. I put gas, I tip the gas pumper. I shop at Soriana, I tip the bagger then outside I tip the shopping cart pusher. I hop in my car, and then I tip the guy blowing the whistle.   When the dollar to peso ratio went up, so did the price of nearly every product on the market. Yet the salary wages remained the same.  So these service providers do count a lot on what we tip them.  I thought about the grocery bagger, if 50 shoppers gave 5 pesos, the total would be 250mxn, that’s less than 15usd.  I’ve
personally been in line with 5 customers in front of me, and not one would tip.  I completely understand if the 5 people in the shopping line hesitate to tip if they are earning $63.77mxn pesos per day.  But for us who are more fortunate.  How much to tip? I bring my own sturdy recyclable bags from Stater Bros or Trader Joes, and I ask them to organize my produce. So I tip about ten percent of my grocery bill or about 3mxn pesos per bag.  The gas pump guy tip, this is a tricky one because some gas stations have signs indicate, that gas pumping, window cleaning and checking your car fluids is part of the service.  But the majority of station workers won’t check the fluids unless you ask.  For regular pumping and front window cleaning I tip $5mxn which is about one percent of my fuel cost. If he cleans all my windows and asks to check the fuels or puts the fuel cleaning liquid in the tank then 2-5 percent of fuel cost is reasonable.  As for the whistle blower, sometimes I want to tip him extra just  to let me back out and drive in peace (so that’s just up to the kindness of your heart on how much you think is good, one the norm: it's 2-3 pesos).
With the holidays around the corner, we tend to go out a little more. When family comes down to visit, we’ll take them to the newest/trendiest places that have opened.  Some of the places have outstanding service and others have the young hip waiters/ wannabe actors who tend to act like they are doing us a favor by allowing us to eat at the establishment.  Would you tip for down right bad service?   What about when you go out to a restaurant that has a bar and order drinks there, and then your table is ready; do you tip both at the bar and the table service?  The server doesn’t bring you that glass of what you’ve been asking for since the start of dinner, or you see your plate is ready but the serve is too busy chatting with the host to notice your foods getting cold.  Do you tip?  Or you had the most fabulous server that’s not overcrowding, but brings you things even before you know you need them.  How much is the right amount to tip such awesome service.   What if you asked the taco guy to crisp your meat a little longer, is that worthy of a tip?  Should 20 percent be the same in Baja California as it is in California?  If the price of food is about the same, and the cost of living here is about the same, the 20 percent tip amount should be about the same in restaurants and bars.  Is tip mandatory? No, but it should be given.  Figure 20 percent is an average base. If you get bad service and the food is good.  Just pay for the food and let either the server know why s/he isn’t going to get a worthy tip or let the manager know.  Many people walk away without saying why they didn’t tip and the server might not understand that you found the service inadequate and misinterpret you as a cheapskate.   If the service is wonder, show it by leaving 25-30 percent of the bill. 
What about entertainers?  On the weekends on the main street, there is usually indigenous tribal dancers, break dancers and flame blowers so astounding that they make me wonder if they perform during the week for Cirque du Solei.  Their eye-catching acrobatic skills remind me of the arrow spinners that point you to a new cell phone shop. However those arrow spinners get paid and these other street performers don’t.  Other street performers include musicians.  If they catch your attention even for a moment, if they help inspire, relax or just forget about your worries; they deserve a tip, even if it’s just 1 or 2 pesos. 
These types of service provider jobs are mostly extinct in the California.  The Costco or Sams Club in California doesn’t have people to help push your cart or load your groceries.  I haven’t seen a gas station with full service in years.  Ralphs, Fresh-n-Easy, Target and Home Depot in the States have Self Service machines where you don’t need a cashier or a bagger.  When we wonder, “Where all the jobs have gone?” My reply, some of the jobs were this type of work.  If we tip 5 pesos to 15 people per week, it comes out to 75 pesos total, that’s about $5usd.  With such a small amount of revenue, we will help 15 people per week live better lives.  Let’s help keep jobs stable and let’s help keep great service by helping give tips.

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