One of the disadvantages of being a Brit and spending a fair bit of time in an environment, such as SL, which can tend to have such a strong US bias is that I can struggle to get my head around some of the Americanisms that are often inescapable when living in a virtual world.
One such thing that I don’t think I’m ever going to reconcile satisfactorily in my mind is the mindset in relation to tipping, which can sometimes seem, to one from the other side of the pond, to be overly prevalent, and often hard to justify.
Maybe I should say from the outset that the concept of tipping isn’t alien to me, and it’s something that I’m entirely comfortable with. I’ve spent enough time in cultures where it is both the norm, and an important part of a person’s earnings in some sectors, to completely understand that in some cases it is both expected and a necessity. I’m also fully conversant with the American service industry norm, where tips can form the greater part of a living wage thanks to a remuneration system that is both fundamentally flawed and totally inconsistent with what purports to being a forward-looking and progressive nation.
To understand where I’m coming from, you probably need a basic grasp of the British way. Over here, tips are neither mandatory, nor are they necessarily expected – rather than a supplement to income, they are a method of expressing satisfaction with a job well done; specifically, excellent service, or something over and above what is expected. They are, in a way, a reward for making the customer feel special. We don’t work to fixed percentages, neither do we reduce the amount for poor or disappointing service – essentially, you either get a tip, or you don’t. Tips are not considered a necessary expense, and indeed you’ll find that companies who reimburse their workers for meal expenses incurred whilst working will never cover tips – they are not a right or a necessity.
Despite that, should I ever find myself filling up on food Stateside, I’ll certainly be more than happy to pay my way and tip as much as a native.
I suppose it’s inevitable that this particular aspect of the American Dream should find it’s way into the virtual world, but the fact that it is so prevalent both bemuses and irritates me. Whilst I can see the justification for tipping in RL, I find it much harder to reconcile with a virtual setting, and with very few exceptions, I find it something of an anachronism.
Let’s take the common scenario of a music club, where tipping is apparently part and parcel of having a good time. Certainly, I understand there are costs associated with running a venue, and it’s perfectly reasonable to ask for a contribution to those costs and – other than charging an entry fee – I guess that putting out a tipjar is a sensible alternative. Fine, but then you have the DJ, who also expects to receive something for their efforts, or at least that’s the impression you get. Personally, even after playing music for a couple of years now, I still get embarrassed about being tipped, and whenever I can, I avoid it – I’m playing music because I enjoy doing so and all the thanks I want is to see those assembled enjoying themselves. I daresay there are those who DJ as a means to boost their inworld finances, but frankly – unless there’s an element of skill involved – do you really deserve my hard earned lindens simply for loading a playlist into some software? From my point of view, if you’re going to tip me for something that takes little effort and which I’m doing for the fun of it, then you may as well tip me for being in the crowd dancing, while somebody else plays the music!
Then you have the club dancers. Seriously, you want to be paid money for jumping on a poseball? And, my particular pet hate: Hosts/greeters, or whatever they want to call themselves… I mean, you can’t possibly be serious? Perhaps I should also be shelling out my hard earned bucks to every Tom, Dick or Henrietta who randomly says hello when I arrive at a club, because, as far as I can see that’s essentially all that these people do?
And, what if I’m not enjoying the music, the ambience is awful and the club is lagging like it’s been pumped full of glue? Even then, a tip is still expected; and I’m sorry, but if you think I’m going to pay not to enjoy myself, you can think again!
I have friends who frequent numerous clubs most nights of the week, sometimes several in one night. I can only imagine they’re rich as Croesus, or have far more money than sense… Or, somehow they’re avoiding the impulse and all the pressure exerted upon them to line the pockets of those around them through the medium of tips? Guys, if you want to give your money away, give it to me – I’ll even say ‘hello’, whilst poledancing to the music I’m playing in my own club, if that will assist!
There are other examples of gratuitous gratuities in SL that confuse me even more: Tipjars in shops, for one. Surely the whole point of a place that stocks things for sale is that you make a profit from the things that you sell? Isn’t that what commerce is all about? Why then, after shelling out for a new shell suit am I expected to leave something in the pot on my way out in addition? It makes no sense to me… But what makes even less sense to me is that some idiots are perfectly happy to do just that!
So, am I a cheapskate, or is the virtual world just money mad?
I’ll just sit and grin
The money will roll right in
Nirvana – The Money Will Roll Right In