I Didn't Loudly Announce I Was Tipping, Does That Make Me A Bad Consumer?

We’ve all done the Conspicuous Tip — you wait until the barista or employee behind the counter is looking before you stuff the dollar in the tip jar, lest you be thought a non-tipper. But should that apply in a confusing situation involving a hotel shuttle and a cupholder full of bills? Bill found himself wondering if his failure to narrate his act of tipping makes him a bad consumer.

We’re going to go ahead and preemptively tell Bill that no, you are not a bad consumer. The tip was given, money went from the consumer to the person providing the service, and really, this story is about a sassy shuttle driver and whether or not there’s a good way to tip conspicuously.

A few weeks ago I had an early flight from Chicago O’Hare. Since I had a bit of a drive to O’Hare, I stayed the night at a nearby LaQuinta. I don’t normally stay at those properties but I had some points that would soon expire so I took advantage of the free night.

The next morning, I took the free shuttle to the airport. I was the only passenger, and the driver, though not very friendly at all, was efficient at getting me to the airport through traffic. Not New York cab driver efficient, but efficient nonetheless.

While riding in the back seat, I noted that the cupholder between the front seat was filled with one-dollar bills. I figured that this is where people put the tips, so I dropped a couple of bucks into it. The driver apparantly didn’t notice this. We pull up to the airport and he gets out and puts my bags on the curb. I smile and tell him to have a great day.

Now comes the part that makes me wish I could have crawled back in and removed those two dollars. He smirks at me and says, “We usually tip the driver.”

Dumbfounded at actually being told that I was actually expected to tip him, I stammered that I had left his tip in the cupholder. He just kind of grunted and got back into his car. Looking back, I think that his cupholder full of bills was a “suggestion” to the passengers, not actually the place to put the tip.

So, was I a bad consumer? Was this a simple misunderstanding? Is it common, in Chicago, for someone to actually request a tip in that manner? I can tell you that when I worked as a pizza delivery driver, where tips are customary, if I were stiffed and then told the customer “We usually tip the driver,” I would have been fired. I did write a complaint letter, and while I hope I didn’t get him fired, I do hope that he was told to be a little more friendly. I travel on business quite frequently and I have never had anyone come out and ask for a tip… then again, I usually tip pretty well.

The real dilemma here is — do you politely inform someone in this case that yes, you did tip, sass the driver back with a sarcastic comment or just leave quietly, dignity intact?

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.