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Tipping. The cash kind, not the cow kind!

How do you feel about it? And should it be part of the quilting economy? I would really welcome your thoughts and discussion in the comments.

I ask YOU this question as I was approached at my local guild’s sew-day by another member, who asked me if I thought we should be tipping our long-arm artists.

I had to pause for a moment… my first reactions was one of slight panic. I hoped I hadn’t committed some dreadful faux-pas by not tipping for my most recent long-arm collaboration. But then I thought about it, and my answer is no, I don’t think tipping should be part of this transaction.

My thoughts on tipping, IN GENERAL, are these:

  • I would prefer that businesses price their offerings at the true cost, and that’s the cost I see and pay (I feel the same way about sales tax, too)
  • Yes, I do tip servers and bartenders. I do this because it’s the custom in the United States. I would rather go with the European model, which is pay the workers well, charge the actual, sustainable price for the meal, and tip only for exceptional service (with the understanding that the basic quality of the service is not predicated on a tip.) The wages for such service positions are ridiculously low here, because the businesses count on us tipping their workers up to a decent wage. There is inherent abuse embedded in this model, and I don’t like it at all. Read here for some hard data about how tipping negatively affects workers.
  • Yes, I tip my hairdresser and my pedicurist. Same issue though – I do it because it’s the custom. I would rather have a set price for these services… if I don’t like what they deliver, I just won’t go back (and let’s face it, it’s sometimes hard to tell if you have a good haircut until you wash and dry it yourself!)
  • Yes, I have tipped for all my tattoos. Same issue… it’s the custom. Same issue as above… I would rather pay the actual rate and avoid the tip. Because honestly, once the ink is in your skin, a tip isn’t going to change the quality of the work. And if you don’t like the work, you won’t go back.

And my thoughts on tipping, IN THE QUILTING INDUSTRY, are these:

  • On my last long-arm project, I asked for a bid on the work, received a quote, and was invoiced according to the quote. And during the work, there was no discussion of needing to change the number due to unforeseen issues. So I paid the bill as originally estimated. I see it as a business arrangement, not a service arrangement.
  • Although I suppose you could argue that it’s a service… but then I suppose I could argue that I deliver a service of some sort also. Delivering good patterns is a service, yes? But then should I get tips from my distributors? Should there be a tipping box on Paypal when you buy one of my patterns? Do you tip the quilt-shop worker for cutting your fabric straight? Or should we all agree that you should get a straight cut from a quilt store as a basic tenet of good business? The semantics of this could be argued heavily.
  • We, in this industry, are far more likely to be underpaid than overpaid. Many of us don’t claim our worth, nor bill it. I would hate for this industry to start following food service in a system where the wages are artificially low, and need to be brought up by a tip to be considered decent.
  • Here’s that link about the abuses in tipping again, in case you avoided it above (although you might not want to watch the Reservoir dogs clip at work!)
  • Again, and again, and again, I advocate for pricing the work at its true cost. This is how we educate people as to the value of what we do. And I advocate showing that full cost on an invoice, even when a discount is given.

So in closing… no. I haven’t tipped my long-arm artist, and I doubt I will. But being as she’s a friend, there’s a good chance I’ll take her some chocolate soon 🙂