THE BLOG
04/07/2011 10:42 am ET | Updated Jun 07, 2011

Here's a Tip: If You're Broke, Stay Home

There was a hard news/crime story in the Chicago media last week that had me SMDH. At first it almost had me ROTFLMAO, but the more I read and the more accounts of the event I found, the more disheartened I became.

At the same time, although I'm not an etiquette expert, I realized that there was a teaching moment to be had.

First, some quick context: now that spring is here faster than the headlines will read, "Cubs losing streak at 13 games," folks from all walks of life are now looking for new and novel ways to subsidize their leisure, recreation, and outdoor activities and travel as the weather continues to warm.

Most of us will spend the next several months enjoying more social events, staycations, real vacations, dining out more and so forth. We'll go more places and do more things, alone and with friends and family. We'll pay for additional goods and services, which involves tipping people who provide those goods and services.

And that is where the SMDH moment and the teaching moment recently and violently intersected.

First, the Shaking My Damn Head moment: 40-year-old Marcus Gordon of Chicago, who apparently was known as a notoriously bad tipper at a West Side car wash, was charged with fatally shooting Humboldt Park carwash attendant Cesar Rosales, 43, last August because Rosales refused to dry Gordon's car. Gordon is in Cook County Jail, held without bond, now that the cops recently caught up with Mr. Elusive.

Apparently, Gordon -- who is on parole for drug dealing and has a criminal history dating back to 1990 -- is too cheap, too ornery, too selfish, too cash-strapped, too pompous, too disrespectful of service workers, too in love with his 2002 model year car or too criminal-minded to believe that it's appropriate to tip the folks who dry cars.

On the occasions I get a car wash and don't do it myself, I tip. Most decent folks do, although in this day and age, joblessness and underemployment are forcing folks to re-think the amount of their tip... especially when it comes to still being able to buy gas at $63 a gallon to power the friggin' car you just had washed.

Back to the erstwhile Big Spender Gordon, who lives in South Austin. Because of his reputation as a cheapskate, the car dryers at the Citgo carwash elected to make a point. Rosales and his fellow attendants refused to hand dry Frankie Frugal's Toyota. Apparently Gordon and his passenger became madder than a wet hen and things turned physical, all in front of witnesses,

A fight ensued and Gordon and his passenger left, but Charles the Cheapie returned. He approached Rosales. He shot him in the upper left chest and ran off.

Before he died, Rosales "stumbled into the store and made a dying declaration that the guy he had fought with earlier came back for him, came back to kill him," recounted an assistant state's attorney. Rosales died at Stroger Hospital. Gordon, if convicted, could get life without parole.

A few lessons here folks. First, don't shoot people. Leave the guns at home... assuming you have a real or contrived need to own one in the first place. And don't start fights with employees at the local car wash. If you do, you're a dip.

To be sure, with the economy still battering consumers like we're all overweight, drunk and punch-drunk ex-boxers caught in a bar fight, folks are inclined to pull back on tipping for services or products.

Nevertheless, now the teaching moment, in a few words: if you can't afford to tip, stay your ass at home.

Tipping is a part of the dining experience, for example. If you have a problem with the service or food, immediately tell the server. If you're still not satisfied, ask for the manager. But don't not have a problem with the food or server and then leave the already underpaid server a measly three percent, or worse yet, nothing. The tip should be built into your dining budget. Etiquette says so, and it's the right thing to do -- to the extent that etiquette means anything to you.

Tips -- traditional, suggested amounts of which typically are well known, but which you as the customer determine the amount -- are a part of the experience of receiving a good or service. Bellmen, cabdrivers, shoeshine men, strippers, caddies, parking garage attendants, barbers, beauticians, limo drivers, pet groomers, masseuses and bartenders, for example, all get tipped. It's how they earn a halfway decent living (depending on who's defining decent).

So, if you can't afford to tip, stay at home.

Or at least, wash the car yourself. And leave the guns at home.