In my experience, valet parking service at catered occasions usually leaves much to be desired. The attendants often readjust your seat, use the radio, pilfer change (or whatever else may be lying around) and sometimes even smoke in your car. They also don’t open the door for passengers and are not particularly courteous. Yet my husband, who admits that all this is true, insists on tipping the valet attendant two dollars – no matter how bad the service was. Today, they lost our car and we waited 25 minutes for them to find it. And he still wanted to give a tip. He feels that because we are Jewish, we must go out of our way to tip. Even when it is not warranted, he says, we must tip or we risk making a hillul Hashem and causing people to hate and curse Jews. But I think he’s crazy to think this would make a difference in that regard. I agree that a nice tip is called for when the service is appropriate, but I think that tipping for bad service is not polite, it’s just silly. Who’s right?
Signed, At The Tipping Point
Dear At The Tipping Point,
In my long and adventurous life I have learned a very important lesson – there is more than one way to be right. Both you and your husband have very valid points. Like you, I believe that tipping should be a show of gratitude for good service. After all, if I have already paid for a service or my host has paid for the service, then the only reason to add a tip on top of that is because the service was, at the very least, satisfactory. Not leaving a tip could be seen as a not so subtle sign that you were dissatisfied with service and that the service provider did not meet your standards. Unfortunately, in this day and age, when 18 percent tips are added to the bill automatically, tips have become a mandatory surcharge, rather than a show of gratitude for a job well done. So while you are technically correct – tipping for bad service is silly – in many cases we are not even given the choice.
At the same time, your husband’s point may not be as crazy as you think. Even in the relatively tolerant environs of New York, many of our neighbors do not need a reason to hate Jews. That has been our lot throughout history. And unfortunately, he is right to worry about hillul Hashem. One need only read a handful of the comments posted online, below news stories about famous or infamous Jewish personalities to realize that the misdeeds of any Jew is borne by all of us.
We therefore have a constant duty to preserve the honor of Hashem and aspire to behavior that is beyond reproach. Sometimes that means giving an undeserved tip. Looking at it from this perspective, spending two dollars every once in a while to make a kiddush Hashem, is actually a rather wise and even worthwhile investment.