Flickr photo by juliejordanscottThe tip jar is one thing that's going over like gangbusters in the slow economy -- the NY Post called them the "ubiquitous scourge" of New York City, and I see them even in my small town.
But before that bleeding heart turns to mush from all your giving, we promise, sometimes it's OK to skip the tip.
"There are more and more tip jars popping up at venues where you'd least expect them -- from Starbucks to the local produce stand to bathrooms at restaurants," says Faye Rogaski, owner of SocialSklz :-), a Manhattan-based etiquette school.
But aside from "certain venues where a tip is required, such as a restaurant, bar, or hair salon, tip jars and the tipping are meant for exceptional service or if someone went out of their way for you and you feel so inclined to give something additional," Rogaski tells The Stir.
In other words, sometimes you're a sweetie ... and sometimes you're just a sucker.
How about a few hard-and-fast spots where you can skip the tip?
1. Gas station attendants. Yes, they pump your gas for you, and it seems like a service. But in most places, you're already paying a premium to sit in your car. That's enough.
2. Takeout joints. If they're overly solicitous -- throwing in extra fortune cookies for your kid or sliding you a few free salad dressings, it's OK to throw a little reward their way. But it's also not required -- you aren't getting table service. An exception -- you SHOULD tip your delivery person if the takeout comes to your house.
3. Convenience stores/concession stands. Another place where it's nice to tip if they're being solicitous, but much of what they're doing is just part of the gig.
4. When gratuity is included in the bill. Many places will automatically calculate a tip into the bill if your group includes six or more people -- usually around 18%, it's usually pretty fair. Another place where you can kick in something extra, but it's perfectly acceptable to just pay the bill as presented.
5. The mail carrier. Post office regulations are pretty strict -- postal workers aren't allowed to accept money from customers, and pushing it on them is just a good way to get them in trouble. If your carrier is a sweetheart, how about some home-baked cookies?
That's not to say you can never tip.
"While tips aren't expected, if you're able and did receive exceptional service, why not," Rogaski says. "You get back what you give, and if it's a place you frequent, it can be worthwhile."
Do you tip any of these folks?