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Tipping, Showers, and Invitations: The New Etiquette or Money Grabs?

By , December 31st, 2012 | 8 Comments »


My newspaper carrier puts a card in our paper every holiday season thanking us for subscribing, wishing us a Merry Christmas, and asking for a tip. At the bottom it reads, “Please tip your carrier. Checks for tips should be made out to, “Mr. Smith.” (Not his real name.) This appalls me because I was always taught that tips are to be neither expected nor asked for. Needless to say, I don’t tip. (Not only because he so blatantly asks for a tip, but because the service during the year isn’t worth it. When we go on vacation and ask to have the paper held and delivered when I return, he never does it. But I digress…)

There are expectations to tip everyone these days, whether it is traditionally tipped position or not. Restaurant receipts tell you that a tip should be twenty-percent. Well, what if the service was terrible? People tip their garbage collectors and mail carriers. They tip teachers, nurses, doctors (really?) and FedEx drivers. To me, if a profession receives a wage or salary for doing the job, it’s not a tipped position. Sure, I will tip some people if they go above and beyond the call of duty, but most of these people do not. At least not in my area. And I can’t see myself ever tipping my doctor who has a boat, a condo at the beach, and drives a Mercedes. But maybe that’s just me.

I also find myself shocked these days by wedding and other invitations that ask specifically for money or enclose a registry. That seems presumptuous. If I want to give you a gift, I can ask you where you are registered or if there is something that you need. You can then hand me the registry, mention a gift card you might want, or ask that money be donated to a charity in lieu of gifts. Saying, “Thank you for thinking of me/us,” when you give me ideas is also appreciated rather than just shoving the list at me and saying, “Give me this toaster.” To stick a gift list in the invitation and to presume that your guests will give a gift seems to me to imply that the gifts you’ll get from them is more important than their presence at your event.

It’s the same with showers. I was raised that you had a wedding shower for your first marriage and a shower for your first baby. Now every time I turn around there are invitations for showers for third and fourth marriages, the third baby, “gender reveal” showers (in addition to the standard baby shower), and even “divorce showers” so that the man or woman can get the things they will need to live alone. And, many times, the invitations to these events contain registries and requests for money.

The other day I even saw an obituary in the paper that, instead of the usual “In lieu of flowers please consider donating to [the charity of choice],” said, “Please give money to my grandkids for their college funds.” All I could think was, “Um, what?” I thought that it was either the grandparents’ responsibility to leave that money to the grandkids in their will or for the parents to provide for their own kids’ college education. I would have felt differently if this was the obituary for a young mother or father of babies who didn’t have time to prepare for their kids’ future, but this particular request just struck me as a money-grab. Who’s to say that the money would even get to the kids and not be spent by the parents? And why is it on me to pay for the education of your grandchildren? Isn’t that your family’s responsibility?

Maybe etiquette has changed since my younger days and maybe all of this asking for money is considered normal now. Maybe this is the new etiquette. Maybe it’s all just a reflection of our current society where “enough” is never enough. There always has to be more. Maybe it’s a reflection of the entitlement mentality some people have. Maybe when you grow up celebrating your graduation from kindergarten, then third grade, then sixth grade, then eighth grade, then high school and college, having just one baby shower can seem anticlimactic.

It seems to me, though, that when there are expectations of tips and gifts that the specialness of life becomes lost. The point of a wedding is to unite a couple, not to get a truckload of gifts. The special part is the ceremony and having your close friends and family there for the service. The special part isn’t the KitchenAid mixer. The point of a baby shower is to celebrate the new arrival. Gifts are great and often helpful, but would you turn away your best friend if she only brought good wishes and not a Diaper Genie? The incentive to tip shouldn’t be an expectation but rather because the person did something special. Maybe you want to tip someone who consistently goes the extra mile for you, or the person who bends the rules for you in some way. But just to tip for doing an adequate job doesn’t really reward anything special. It only rewards mediocrity.

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m an old fart now who doesn’t get it. But when I see people tipping and gifting people just for breathing and then I listen to them complain about having no money, it riles me, especially when people say they felt forced into it. That’s just not eh etiquette I was raised with. Certainly if you can afford to tip and buy gifts for every little thing, then please go ahead. If that’s what you want to do, it’s your money and you should spend it as you please. But for those who have tighter budgets, all of these expectations can be disheartening. An invitation that basically says, “Gimmie” can so fluster a potential guest that they may decide not to attend your event at all if they cannot afford the pricey gifts requested. When you’re making out invitations or requesting tips, try to remember how the wording/invitation may look to someone who can’t afford to give lavishly. Are you really asking for their presence at the event or thanking them for being a customer, or are you demanding stuff or money? If it’s the latter, ask yourself which you want more: The person/customer or the present/tip? If what you really want is the person at your event or the customer for your business, then leave the money grabs out of it and consider any gifts or tips to be “gravy.”

(Photo courtesy of JefferyTurner)

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  • Melanie says:

    I totally agree with this article… except for ONE point. I think baby showers for subsequent babies are very important! Let me explain my position. I think ALL babies, not just “first” babies should be celebrated. Not that I think every new baby needs a ton of new “things” gifted for them, because that certainly isn’t true, especially if the babies are close together and/or same gender. That being said, I remember so clearly when I moved to a brand-new town when I was pregnant with my 2nd baby. My “new” church family kind of wanted to throw me a baby shower, but because it wasn’t my “first” I think the everybody wasn’t quite sure what to do. So they “told” me to come to this get-together, which turned out to be nothing more than a general church social and virtually no one even acknowledged the new baby. I was heartbroken. Not because I didn’t receive gifts, but because I don’t have any memories or pictures of a wonderful celebration to put into his baby book or talk to him about later. The SAME church did almost the exact same thing again for my next baby, except they did have a cake for me and a couple people gave me gifts. Finally, on my 4th baby, a girlfriend of mine decided that SHE personally would throw me a shower. SHE threw her heart and soul into making a beautiful, themed party for all the girls (no old men, finally!)and we celebrated and played games and passed that baby around and made wonderful memories. Yes, I got gifts. No, I did not ask for any or register or even worry about whether anyone couldn’t give. I wanted that moment for the fellowship and social aspects. I finally got it. I treasure that memory! I wish every baby could be properly celebrated with a sweet, fun party, with gifts as gravy, but not the substance or purpose of the get-together.

  • Unfortunately, weddings have become so expensive that gifts are pretty much expected to ever-so-slightly offset the cost of the wedding. At minimum I think the bride and groom hope that gifts and cash would offset the food for the guests.

  • Amy says:

    Well said!

  • zarmaxia says:

    My frustration is related to the 20% expected restaurant tipping. Many times this is placed on your bill without consent. I tip related to service rendered. I have no objection tipping 20% if the service was superb. My problem with this “new” tipping rule is, when did it become the consumer’s responsibility to increase the wages of people who work for tips? With the price of food going up every day, shouldn’t the restaurant owners have that responsibility, like factory owners or store operators? Perhaps things will change if more people stop eating out?

  • Gailete says:

    My favorite hate about tips is the tip jar on counters where you have to stand in line, order an over priced brownie or cup of coffe and they expect a tip–for what?

    A couple I know just got married and I appreciated what they enclosed in their reception invitation. They got married in Alaska and came home at Christmas for a reception, but had to be bold and ask in the invite that if you wanted to give them a gift to please mail it to their new home as they would not be able to carry extra things with them on the plane home. Very logical of them and they also mentioned an on line place where they had registered, so that any gift could be sent straight to them without having to pay extra for shipping. I appreciated their upfrontness (is that a word) about a ticklish situation, but I didn’t perceive the invite as a request for gifts only that if you did want to gift them, this is the easiest way.

    At this point even getting a note of where a couple is registered, I don’t mind so much so at least you can see the sorts of things that they like, but to get a gift registery ‘list’ that is four items long plus gift cards is ridiculous! And yes I got one of those!!!

    As to the other commenter about baby showers, I’ve had trouble with baby and wedding showers for a long time now. They used to be a nice social get together with nice small presents such as towels, aprons, potholders, little things. Now when people get $100 and up presents, those of us that don’t have budgets like that, our presents look stupid and ho hum. But I have noticed that those that could afford to buy all their presents themselves get tons of them, but those that don’t have much in the first place generally don’t have friends that can give much either so they don’t get as nice a start as their richer friends.

  • abhpyl says:

    In India, especially in the Western regions, a trend has grown stronger over more than a decade – please request explicitly in their wedding invites that guests should not bring any gifts. I like that trend.


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