In the mundane universe where one is regularly involved with people serving you – car wash lackeys, grocery store clerks, bicycle shop repairmen, desk clerks, medical clinic assistants and to a lesser extent retail staff generally – the matter of tipping sometimes arises. I am not here addressing those situations in which tipping is  “understood” or expected such as in restaurants for servers or in hotels for bellhops or masseuses. Rather I speak of the low-level service industries in which tipping is not anticipated or presumed on either side of the transaction; or where the acquaintance is so hurried that the possibility of stopping along the way to extend a handout is awkward.

It is those day-to-day operatives who because they represent the lower echelon of the service industry could as a result benefit from the gratuity. I have heard one astonishing tale of a chap known to me, a wealthy gentleman en route across the United States of America (perhaps on the iconic Route 66) who bestowed a benefit of about $50,000 on a gas station restaurant server. Obviously that it not within the scope of tipping for most people. The fellow’s largesse may however reflect more his financial recklessness than his generosity.

My perception of tipping is that it seldom relates to the donor of the hand-out; that is, it is not to be expected that a well-to-do person will tip more generously than another of comparatively moderate means. Tipping is for the most part a reflection of the donor’s character not his wallet size. In fact more often it is those having the wherewithal who prove most stingy – perhaps because they object to being “presumed” for beneficence. Or, what is just as likely, they derive some curious strength from their niggardliness as though it were a mark of judicious austerity. Maybe they’re just fearful impecuniousness will overtake them for the wrong reason (that is, for the benefit of others as opposed to for themselves).

It is not unique to discover that some regular tippers are those who began life from lowly stations and who by fortuity have extended far beyond. Those people often subscribe to the “pay it forward” theory – something which is patently religious in the pan sense of mystery.

Pantheism is the belief that reality is identical with divinity, or that all things compose an all-encompassing, immanent god or goddess. Pantheist belief does not recognize a distinct personal god, anthropomorphic or otherwise, but instead characterizes a broad range of doctrines differing in forms of relationships between reality and divinity.[5] Pantheistic concepts date back thousands of years, and pantheistic elements have been identified in various religious traditions. The term pantheism was coined by mathematician Joseph Raphson in 1697 and has since been used to describe the beliefs of a variety of people and organizations.

My late mother donated to charities regularly. I know from handling her affairs late in her life that she seldom if ever considered the tax benefits of her generosity.  She just did it as a matter of course, almost as though it were expected of a woman in her position in society to do so. Philanthropy is for some such an imperative.  It did not however equate to tipping which I found she exercised less wantonly.  Some people believe they must donate to registered charities not the panhandler on the street. How readily we refill our own prescription or restock our cellaret while at the same time bemoaning the possibility the vagrant in the street will do the same!

By contrast there are those who would rather benefit someone directly rather than through a corporation howsoever registered and without a tax deductible receipt.

The amount of a tip for low-level servants is predictably within the zone of reasonableness only. As the reward for service is seldom expected by the recipient, it is a transaction of mutual benefit for both the donor and the recipient.  That is, the tip is viewed as outstanding. It may fall into the “every little bit helps” category but whatever the amount it is generally considered a favourable and uncommon benefit out of the blue.

In some instances the promotion of the tip is not the need of the recipient but rather the motive of the donor who may be looking for some advantage in return.  This however is infrequent as the benefactor is seldom high enough up the chain of command to make any difference.  I have no knowledge of favourable handshakes for lascivious purposes only. In matters both commercial and libidinous I have always relied upon my own productivity. To do otherwise is to extract the meaning of gratuity from the relationship.  The etymology of gratuity is both the Latin gratus “pleasing, thankful” and the Old French gratuité or medieval Latin gratuitas “gift”. Reciprocity is predetermined not causal.