As life generally gets back to normal these days, hoards of people are packing into restaurants each night every week and as a side effect, some old Southwest Oklahoma tendencies are becoming regular again... Things like cheap tipping and it has to stop.

I'm not sure the average person realizes just how lucky we all are to still have such a selection of food after the pandemic we've been through. 2020 almost closed most restaurants, hundreds of thousands of industry workers were out of their jobs, and even when things halfway returned with limited capacity, it was nearly impossible to get people back to work since unemployment paid more than these almost thankless service jobs... Still, cheap tipping is alive and well in Southwest Oklahoma.

Example: A man and his better half go out to dinner as a treat for themselves. They splurge a little, as much as they comfortably can... have a few drinks, maybe splitting a dessert, the bill comes in close to $60 and somehow they believe leaving a $5 tip is appropriate... Spoiler, it's not appropriate at all unless that server has earned such an insult.

Before you start to think I'm mounting my own high horse, I'm not. I don't think that people are being intentionally cheap these days, but I do believe we're witnessing the natural progression of a young generation failing to see how much the world has actually changed.

Here's another example. For most millennials, as it goes for every generation that came before us, we tend to latch on to the values of any given product that we remember from our formative years. When I started driving, gas was 97¢ a gallon. Because I paid that in the first years I drove, I still think seven bucks is gas money.

My Gen-X sister still thinks a buck-twenty-five will buy a Route 44 cherry limeaide at Sonic the same way my Boomer father stressfully talks about how light bulbs used to cost 40¢. I'm sure you can think of many similar examples from your own life too.

I believe it's our individual and never-evolving perception of value that partially skews the ugly underbelly of eating out that is proper tipping in this part of the state... After all, a quick and easy $5 tip was decent leavings in 2001 when you could order two meals, dessert, and drinks at Chili's for under $20. That's just not the case these days, especially with our current rates of rampant inflation. Thanks Brandon, but I don't think this is the only aspect affecting decent tipping in Lawton.

I honestly feel like the other half of this issue is one of a traditional small-town/small-life mentality. We're surrounded by small towns, and whether they want to admit it or not, going to Lawton for the whole day or just the evening is something people look forward to if they live in a town like Frederick, Hollis, Mountain View, Bray, etc...

They'll deny this even in their last breath, but I've lived in rural Oklahoma too. I speaketh the truth.

In those smaller towns, money has more value because they're typically much less of it. Lower costs of living are side-effects of lower median incomes. So a $5 tip for the high-schooler working as hostess, server, sous chef, cashier, and busser likely values it more than the single mom trying to pay her $750 rent for her tiny Lawton apartment.

All the same, the tip isn't 100% the customers' responsibility. The ugly reality is, it's up to the server to earn it, right? But some people seek to justify a reason to withhold a proper tip.

Here's the long and short of it. You cannot blame the server if your food comes out wrong. They aren't cooking it and will do whatever they can to fix the kitchens mistake... They only have influence over your beverages, so unless you're going thirsty or having to ask for refills, they've earned at least the normal, average, socially acceptable standard tip of 18-20%. Just take the total, throw away the last number, multiply by two, and you're covered.

Even better, if you're eating out in Lawton you don't even have to do the maths. Just take the ridiculously high Lawton sales tax and double it. At 9.5%, you're right in the sweet spot for a standard, regular, minimum tip. If your server has done an extraordinary job, feel free to bump it up by adding a dollar or two.

"But what if it's a once-in-a-while treat because we're poor?"

Cry me a river. I grew up poor too and you and I both know it sucks... so why would you want to pass on your poor with a bad/low tip to the server that will work to make sure your rare treat of a meal out is special? Instead, be poor a little longer until you can afford to be a normal, regular, functioning adult about it.

Besides, do you really want to develop the reputation as a regular as a bad tipper? Odds are those people get the floor-burgers.

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