Monica Bielanko
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Is A Tip Really A Tip If They Don't See You Tip?

Seems like every little girl decides to run a lemonade stand at least once in her life. I've had several. In fact, I believe I even dragged out some ratty, old stuffed animals and tried to foist those on the neighbors as well. I bamboozled several well-meaning souls into not only buying and pretending to like my watered down lemonade, but purchasing dog-eared stuffed animals my younger brothers had drooled on and chewed into saggy submission.

The other day, during our weekly pilgrimage to the mecca that is Wal-Mart, we passed three, little girls selling pink lemonade at the side of the road. They were jumping up and down, waving scrawly, unreadable signs as if the apocalypse was nigh. BUY LEMONADE OR PERISH! JESUS SAYS BUY LEMONADE!

About a block later Serge veered to the side of the road and slowed our truck to a crawl.

"Should we stop?"

"You have to now! You've already pulled over and they eyeballed us the entire time we drove by. They're probably wetting their pants in excitement."

He flipped a U-turn and we pulled up alongside the sweeties.

"You take credit cards?" I cracked. They giggled, but I swear they were courtesy giggles. Courtesy giggles at age seven. We-gotta-be-polite-to-the-stupid-old-lady-to-get-her-to-buy-our-lemonade laughs.

"How much?"

"Twenty-five cents" was the high-pitched chorus of replies.

"How much do you have in your wallet?" I asked Serge.

He pulled out two bucks.

I ordered two lemonades and watched as the youngest girl shakily poured the liquid into clear plastic cups. She handed the cups to me and I passed one on to Serge just as the girls' father rounded the corner of the house. I guess to make sure we weren't, you know, trying to kidnap his children.

I don't know what possessed me to do this but I rolled up the two dollars like someone hoping to tip their way to a good table with the maƮtre d' and put it in the jar the girl held out to me.

SHE GAVE US A DOLLAR I heard the girl shout for joy as we drove away. I'll mark it down in the notebook. A WHOLE DOLLAR!

Damn, I fretted to Serge. I gave them TWO dollars. Why was I acting all coy with seven-year olds for Godsakes? Rolling up the dollars like I'm tipping a stripper? Shit. They should know I gave them two bucks. Think how excited they'd be if they realized I gave them two dollars. Plus, we get, like, no credit for our awesomeness. Only a dollar's worth of credit, anyway.

Seriously. If you tip the girl in Starbucks a dollar and she doesn't see it, did you really tip her? I say no. Some say you still did a good deed but is it a good deed if she doesn't know it?

Total Costanza moment, right? Not like I can drive back and yell out the window, I gave you TWO DOLLARS. Mark that down in your sticker covered notebook, dammit! TWO DOLLARS!

Reader Comments (5)

Ha! Love the Costanza-ing here... I agree with the unseen tip, especially at coffee shops... A time-to-time visible tip (even a small one) at a frequently visited coffee shop goes a long way, I've found.

April 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJack W.

Eventually they will figure out you gave them $2. I'm betting they only got quarters, so your bills will stand out. Either way, your stopping by mattered to them.

My mother always stops at lemonade stands; it's a long standing tradition for her. Now that I am (step)parenting kids who have their own lemonade stands, I understand how important it is.

April 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWindyLou

I had to pull a Costanza at a Starbucks once. I tipped a dollar and she didn't see so I totally pulled it back out and then put it back in when she was ringing up my order. Now I always time my tips.

April 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGemma

THat's too funny. Once my son did an Alex's lemonade stand and a guy came up, drank the luke warm goo and handed him a 20 and waltzed away. My son shrieked "OMG! A TWENTY!!!" It's amazing how generous people can be.

April 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThe Domestic Goddess

Funny Monica. And if you did say something and the kids suddenly turned on you for doing it, you'd be having a Larry David moment. But you're right. At least half the value of tipping is for the satisafaction of the customer. I would have swung around a second time and yelled out " 2 dolllar!" I have never rolled my tips but tend to drape them, separated in various directions for fullness of effect. My mom folds the money into a "Z" formation.

PS. I have a different style of tipping at lemonade stands. Rather than just give them the money, I let the kids keep pouring it up. Rack up the sales. This is just as exciting for the kids, perhaps even MORE SO, as they get that same joy of making money, only with the added sense of accomplishment from selling more product. The higher the Sales, the higher sense of success and they learn the value of a good day's work. Blood sweat and tears. Good days and bad days. Of course, I don't really drink the stuff as I have my concerns re: hygeine during preparation.

April 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGina

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