December 18, 2006

Yesterday, after a successful shopping trip to a new outdoor mall, we stopped into a coffee shop for something to drink and maybe a scone or cookie. The establishment was small, tiny really, and boisterous with the energy of the people inside. We waited for several minutes until reaching the head of the line, giving me a chance to observe the constant motion ballet of the three women behind the counter.

Each was working as fast as she could, and just a soon as one latte or espresso was ready, a new order was handed to them. I paid using my debit card and therefore was presented a receipt with a blank spot for a tip. In an instant I decided that I would tip them as they were keeping up with quite a line of people.

Normally you get to tip at the end of your experience with a restaurant. You’ve been served, had a chance to sample the food and the correctness of your order. The tip is in effect a grade given to the server or wait staff; twenty percent is an “A”, fifteen percent a “B”, and five percent or less is failing. Due to the work-flow of the coffee shop, however, we paid before getting our drinks or snacks. I was rewarding them for observed behavior, not for the quality of my service.

As it turned out, the drinks were good and the snacks superb. The service was good too. The tip was earned in the end.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.