The Tipping Point A Word on Holiday Tipping Etiquette

 According to some sources, the word “tips” is actually an acronym—it's short for “To Insure Prompt Service,” and the list of people who are commonly tipped—at least in the United States—includes everyone from hair and nail salon workers to bellhops, cab drivers,  newspaper delivery people, porters, valets, bartenders, and, of course,  restaurant wait staff.

 As multifamily housing became the norm in densely populated urban and suburban  areas like ours, apartment building and condo association staff joined the tip  list. From the doorman who greets you, signs for packages, and keeps an eye out  for your safety to the superintendent or chief engineer who doesn’t grumble (much) about being called to deal with a leaky pipe at the crack of  dawn on a Sunday morning, building staff work hard 24/7 to make things easier  and more convenient for you as a resident. When the holidays roll around, it’s simply good manners to show your staff a gracious gesture of thanks for a job  well done.  

 The Tip-Off

 It’s not unreasonable to ask why we tip at all in the United States—plenty of other countries don’t do it, and after all, keeping the air conditioning functioning on a hot summer  day and helping residents out is the building engineer’s job—he gets a salary already, right?  

 The origin of tipping is interesting, though perhaps not exactly gracious.  Though there is some disagreement, most historians agree that the practice  likely began during the heyday of the Roman Empire with rich, landowning Roman  citizens tossing a few coins to the peasants as a conspicuous gesture of wealth  and largesse. It has also been suggested that “tipping” was the term used by feudal lords in Medieval Europe to describe their practice  of throwing the occasional piece of gold to their serfs as they passed on  horseback; the noblemen felt that the gold appeased the rabble and assured them  safe passage through the crowd. (No word on how the serfs felt about it.)  

 Though noblemen and ladies no longer ride through the streets on horseback,  casually tossing doubloons to the ragged masses (they mostly use Lincoln town  cars these days, and thanks to the recession keep what doubloons they have left  in offshore accounts), the practice of tipping has stayed with us.  

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