04/13/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Valentine's Day and Leaving a Tip for the "Little People"

<em>Take a good look around
and if you're looking down
Put a little love in your heart

-Jackie DeShannon

In the early 1990's, I was one of the nation's top producer for a mutual fund company. One of the head dogs from New York came to Kentucky to see what I was about.

He took me to dinner at Rick Pitino's fancy restaurant. He was rude, overbearing and berated the servers. He liked to lord over all the "little people." Even worse, he left a small tip.

I never did business with that company again.

If he was looking to stick it to the waiters, I figured that eventually he was going to stick it to me and my customers.

The way he treated the servers was a character flaw.

When someone thinks of working people as "little people," (he used that term) I don't want to do business with them.

Valentine's Day is Sunday and it is one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants.

If you want to make a impression on your date, tip your server.

People will notice.

I went to a nice restaurant on the way to a Kentucky basketball game recently. The server did a great job of getting us out in time for the tipoff. I left a nice tip on a debit card. (I don't use credit cards.)

The next day, I was checking the account online and didn't see the tip. I called the restaurant, talked to the manager and found that server had received the money but it had not credited the account yet.

The people at the restaurant were blown away that I called. I posted a note about it on Facebook and many friends wanted to pat me on the back.

I didn't get the praise. You shouldn't get a reward for paying a debt.

Every person in my family, for generations on all sides, has worked in a restaurant or bar. Tips were how we kept a roof over our heads.

Everyone in my family is a good tipper. My dad was in the 30% to 40% range. I'm more like 20% to 25% but it is still above average.

I pay extra for people who hustle and adjust down for people with bad attitudes. If you get a 15% tip from me, you should consider another career.

Serving is a profession, like sales, where you can get immediate feedback on your performance and on your customer base. You don't have to wait for the boss to tell you.

For some reason, tipping seems to be a controversial subject.

There is an attitude of some that confuses stiffing a server with being a smart consumer.

Being a smart consumer is doing your homework and getting a good deal on a car or house. Being a smart consumer is doing the research to find a good restaurant with reasonable prices.

Being a smart consumer does not mean sticking to the waiters and waitresses. At any economic level.

When the economy is this bad, people will find less expensive places to eat. If they go to a super nice place, they can make it work by cutting back on drinks, appetizers and deserts.

They shouldn't' make it work by cutting back on the servers.

Cheapskates will argue that restaurant servers receive a salary. They do. The minimum wage for tipped employees is $2.13 an hour. It's stayed that way since 1991.

Congress assumes that servers will make it up in tips. Also, the restaurant industry has a lot of well paid lobbyists and the "little people" don't.

Valentine's Day that is supposed to symbolize love. Remember that love is not about being flashy and trying to impress. It is about showing respect and appreciation for the people who are making your day special.

Along with the respect and appreciation, you never know when leaving a lousy tip is going to cause a customer or romantic interest to walk.

I'll always wonder if the mutual fund guy stiffed the servers on his next client visit. I'll take my decision a small victory for the "little people" and move on.

Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is one of the world's leading authorities in helping people deal with "Big Money" issues.

McNay is an award winning, syndicated financial columnist and Huffington Post Contributor.

You can read more about Don at

McNay founded McNay Settlement Group, a structured settlement and financial consulting firm, in 1983 and Kentucky Guardianship Administrators LLC in 2000. You can read more about both at

McNay has Master's Degrees from Vanderbilt and the American College and is in the Eastern Kentucky University Hall of Distinguished Alumni.

McNay has written two books. Most recent is Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers and What to Do When You Win The Lottery

McNay is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Round Table and has four professional designations in the financial services field.