Brad Rateike: Gratuity and the art of tipping with $2 bills

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Brad RateikeI am a believer in gratitude. It is something that can stress me out—not the “receiving” gratitude part, but the thought of not sharing enough gratitude. I have written a column before about the importance of thank you notes, but when it comes to people who work in the hospitality/service industry, they would rather have cash than a handwritten note from me thanking them for cleaning my golf clubs, etc.

So many of us are blessed every day with a network of personal and professional friends and colleagues we want to thank for the role they play in our lives. Those relationships are long-term and usually seem to even out in the end.

Several years ago, my friend Tim picked up a dinner tab for the two of us when we were out watching a game. I protested and tried to pay, and his response was simply this: “By the time one of us passes, I am guessing we will be within $100 of what one of us owes the other.” Wise words, my friend.

I do think a lot about gratitude as it relates to short-term relationships. I am talking about servers, baristas, hotel valets, shoeshine people at the airport, coat check at a banquet. We usually meet these people once, they help us, generally with a smile, then we part ways. How do we say thank you for the positive impact they had on our day? If you have any class, it is called gratuity.

A former boss of mine when I lived in D.C. once pulled his wallet out during a team meeting to hand a colleague some cash in order to reimburse that person for getting him coffee. When he opened his wallet, another colleague noticed the presence of multiple $2 bills and asked him about it. His answer, “I always tip with $2 bills because people will remember that you tipped them.” There was no sentimental reason, just something he said. I thought about it for a while and ultimately decided it might be brilliant, so I gave it a try when I moved back to Indiana.

I am not describing a situation where I would walk down the street “making it rain” $2 bills. I just use a different denomination of currency sometimes. Some might say that intentionally drawing attention to myself by giving out uncommon legal tender is unusual, but I would remind you that I am not loudly yelling about it. Plus, it all spends the same.

I do not want to ever be accused of being the guy who did not tip (I learned that lesson). Many of us have been to a friend’s wedding reception, ordered a drink at the bar upon arrival and put $20 in the tip jar as an attempt to pay it forward for return visits. Predictably, on the next visit, there is a new bartender, and we feel “cheap” because Bartender No. 2 has no idea we have already “invested” in that particular bar.

Now consider a different investment strategy where you drop $2 bills all night. You could be so popular that every bartender in the place would bring you cocktails in the middle of The Electric Slide. It could happen. At least that is how I imagine Thomas Jefferson would have wanted it to be.

What is the point of all of this? A campaign for wallet diversification? No. I just think about this topic every time someone asks me where I get $2 bills (which happens a lot), and I reveal my secret … at the bank.•

__________

Rateike is founder and owner of BAR Communications and served as director of cabinet communications for President Donald Trump. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.


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