Double Tip Day

I very recently - as in late last night - finished reading a book called Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. This I had to read as the first book in my Public Policy class for school. To summarize, it is a kind of pseudo-experiment by a writer for Harper’s, or some such East coast magazine, to delve into the life of a lower class person forced to work minimum wage jobs. The author, Barbara Ehrenreich, chooses three cities and, to varying degrees of success, attempts to live there with the aforementioned minimum wage philosophy for a given period of time that, to my fuzzy memory, is expressly given. It should be noted that her “research” was done in 1999 and that the book was first published in 2001.

Other than to say a few words in criticism of her method, this is not a book review. Her method though, to put it quite frankly, stunk. She first gives a lengthy introduction in which she basically explains that, “I am not going into this in a realistic manner and will pull back to my rich, comfortable life if I see even the hint that my temporary life as a poor person isn’t working out.” (1) She starts out each visit with several thousand dollars in her pocket to get her started, something I’m sure most (read: all) newly poor don’t have. (2) She refuses, if things start to not work out, to get assistance from a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen. (3) She decides that under no circumstances will she be car-less and absolutely refuses to buy a bike or use public transportation, although many poor do not have the luxury of an automobile. (4) Finally she writes things, at least for the first half of the book, such as, “In this, my fake life,” or, “If this were my real life,” and whenever I read something to that effect I found myself yelling at the pages. Obviously it is hard to convince oneself of this, but if her mentality throughout the assignment was that, “this is not reality and I will be returning to my normal life shortly,” then how am I as a reader to believe the accuracy of her reporting? If she enters into this experiment with a shallow mindset as to how far she is willing to follow the story and get the facts on how many people do in fact live then she is doing a disservice to them, the readers, and her own journalistic integrity. While this may sound like a great deal of vitriol for her book and her work, the reading was very enjoyable but not as a result of her own poor attempts at being poor. The real insight to be gained comes from the people she covertly interviews and chronicles. I mostly came away from this book thinking I could have done a better, more realistic job and also one other thing…

More to the point of this post (and I apologize it appears that my anger at her inadequacy got the better of me and stretched that bile into a halfhearted review), her trials and what are, doubtless, the tribulations of millions of Americans every day have inspired an idea in my more-or-less empty head that I haven’t ever heard anyone throw out.

Why does the government (U.S.) not declare that on a certain day, once a month there is to be a totally voluntary Double Tip Day? Hence the title of this post, obviously. To explain: Persons with the means to do, if they were to go out to eat at a restaurant, stay in a hotel, or do some other activity which in the course thereof usually requires a tip should double the amount they would normally tip. From what I can gather in my area of the country the appropriate tip is 20%, so therefore 40% or as close as you can comfortably come to double. It does not seem unreasonable to ask twelve times a year for the upper-middle and upper-classes to give a little extra in the interest of improved general welfare.*

Now, I am not a math or economics genius, but I have to think that if given enough publicity so as to cause awareness every month, for say, one year, this could have some sort of positive effect on the economy. I do not pretend to understand any economic forces other than supply and demand, but it would seem to me if enough millions of people (and I’m not saying even everybody) do something at a given time, then it is bound to have a visible effect. The hoped for effect being that more money circulates its way through the economy into the lower classes, where it will almost certainly be spent or saved for upward mobility and then spent.

This is my idea, one perhaps shared by others, although a Google search for “Double Tip Day” did not provide any returns relevant to what I am proposing here. If you like my idea, hate it, or have other constructive criticisms for it then please feel free to comment them. Above all, if you feel it could be effective - please share this idea.

*This idea is based on the assumption that Americans want to help their fellow man.

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