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Opinion: Tips, when and how much?

When we were first going together my late husband, Fred, was extremely tight-fisted with his money. On our first outing, I drove him to Fresno in my mother’s station wagon to pick up a batch of television antennas on sale at the Radio Shack he owned.

On this day, he had driven his Harley Davidson to work and needed help transporting the merchandise. Since it was a Friday night, I told him if I was going to waste one of the best evenings of the week, he had to buy me dinner. I was 19 years old, and he was 28.

He said he liked talking to the clown at Jack-in-the-Box. I told him that wasn’t good enough and that I wanted to eat in a restaurant with real plates and silverware. We ended up at The Leilani, an upscale Chinese Restaurant.

When the check came, he had no intention of leaving a tip. His philosophy held that since the waitstaff was paid an hourly wage, he saw no reason to augment it with additional money. After all, no one left a tip when he waited on them.

Therein lay the second argument of our very first date. Since he lost the disagreement of choice of restaurant, I left the tip.

I left a lot of tips during our first 20 or so years together, even after we were married and his money and my money became our money.

Later he had a change of heart. For several seasons we worked the concession stands at the Madera Speedway. Specifically, we worked selling beer and earning minimum wage.

Now beer drinkers tend to be very good tippers. At the end of the evening, we would go home with a jar containing as much as $50 or $60 dollars over and above our hourly wage.

After that, he greatly appreciated how much it means to a service employee to receive tips.

Having worked as a waitress, I always understood the value of good service and tipping. If a person can afford to go out to dinner, they need to have enough money to leave a tip.

Tuesday this week was a very trying day for me. I had two doctors appointments in Fresno. Upon leaving my house, when I tried to start my car, I got only a clicking noise instead of the ignition.

I called Triple-A and they sent a tow truck to get me running. I made it to my 11:30 a.m. appointment in plenty of time. But guess what happened when I left the doctor’s office? Again my faithful little car refused to start.

This time when I called the auto club, I had him replace the battery at a cost of almost $200.

When the first tow truck driver started the car in my driveway, he took the time to clean the battery terminals with baking soda and water. When he finished the job, I emptied my wallet of cash, giving him an $11 tip.

After the second road service call, I pulled an emergency $20 out of the bottom of my purse for the driver. To this day, when I tip a workman, I cannot help but see in my mind’s eye the scowl on Fred’s face. While he quit raising objections to my tipping, I can’t say he was ever really happy about it.

There are many ways for spouses to tell each other how much they are loved. One of Fred’s was to ensure I always drove the best car we owned. The thought of me having to deal with car trouble was wholly unacceptable.

Knowing when, and how much, to tip for good service can be difficult.

There are tip calculators on most smartphones that will figure the amount based on a percentage of the bill. I typically tip the amount I can afford and always in cash. Otherwise, I have no way of knowing if the person who rendered the service is the one who will receive the tip when added to a credit card or check purchase.

A movie Fred and I enjoyed is a comedy that starred Steve Martin as a mobster in the federal witness protection program. In this film, titled “My Blue Heaven,” the flamboyant Martin character says “I tip everybody,” a very good policy.

Have a blessed weekend and always remember to tip.

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Readers may contact Tami Jo Nix at or @tamijonix on Twitter.


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