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New tipping policy may cost local businesses

Clubs utilizing vendor services and hosting events, especially large events, now face a constraining tip policy aimed at cutting costs. In an email sent to the club leaders listserv on Jan. 26, Student Activities Specialist Robert Steinberg announced the new policy: a cap on tipping vendors of 20 percent or $40, whichever is lower. Such a restriction may serve to cut the overall costs of tipping, but may hurt local businesses.

Let’s say a club bought 50 pizzas for a large event it was hosting. At, say, $12 per pie, the cost easily reaches $600. If taken-out, the policy recommends that no tip be given. However, for all intents and purposes, let’s say the maximum 20 percent policy is employed. The simple tip in this case is $120. Of course, stipulations in the policy restrict tipping to $40, so $80 worth of service compliments are lost.

It takes a significant amount of work to produce such large quantities of a good, and tipping helps to offset the financial and physical taxes of that work. When clubs with large fees do not tip well, it not only reflects badly on the university, but it also hurts the business. Most of that financial tax and physical labor that would normally be recovered in tip would not be under this new policy.

As mentioned previously, a lack of proper tipping reflects badly upon the university. Unlike with poor-tipping individuals, a business will remember when a Brandeis club places a large order and does not tip well for it. If businesses feel hurt by a lack in tip, they may refrain from discounts or even overall service to Brandeis clubs and organizations in the future.

It isn’t fair to expect local businesses to understand the financial constrictions of the university as reasoning for diminished tips. According to Steinberg’s emails, clubs spent thousands of dollars in tipping last semester, but previous totals and the implications of such spending were never specified. We do not know how (or if) these cost-cutting measures are supposed to help overall finances. If we do not know the reasoning, neither will local businesses. Service is service, and spending caps should not serve to hinder a proper tip on said service.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating a $120 tip every time a club decides to place a $600 order for delivery. The point here is that these caps can act as unnecessary hindrances to a proper tip. Clubs should be free to compliment their vendors through tips they deem appropriate, not by what others deem as a maximum.

The cost-cutting policy is more concerning in a club budgeting context. By announcing these limitations, Student Activities is obviously looking to avoid any miscellaneous expenses possible. The overall system of club funding is broken; many clubs receive less than what they need while others receive exactly what they request, but never use those funds. Some clubs are awarded huge sums of money. If a portion of those huge sums are redistributed to under-awarded clubs and reserved for tipping expenses, the tipping issue would quickly become a non-issue. Perhaps Student Activities should look into restructuring how funds are awarded rather than restrict how clubs do business with the local community.

The alternatives to this new policy are far less detrimental. Giving clubs the freedom to do business with local vendors helps both the vendors and the university’s image in the community. Exorbitant tips are certainly counter-productive to club funding, but placing a hard cap on it only serves to make doing business more difficult both for clubs and especially for vendors. Although university finances must be taken into consideration, we cannot simply ignore the physical and financial efforts of our local community to help our clubs. It’s not the Brandeis way.

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