Crazy Tip

I got a great holiday card from an old friend today. The card included a $5 bill with a pay-it-forward request. It was a wonderful reminder to appreciate my life and a reminder to think about others.

The holiday pay-it-forward request is similar to a practice I've had since 2008. When the financial crisis hit, it changed how I thought about charitable giving. I moved my charitable donations to issues lower on Maslow's hierarchy of needs. 

Also at that time, I started doing this thing I call Crazy Tip. The name is self explanatory. It's the practice of giving someone a wildly disproportionate tip with the goal of making their day. It usually goes to a waiter, ice cream scooper, hair cutter, or shoe shiner, but it can go to anyone. Before I went electric, a smog-tester joined the ranks of Crazy Tip recipients.

The idea is to make someone’s day, especially if that someone probably doesn't have as much as I do, and probably has some rough days serving the general public.

The “rules” for Crazy Tip flex to fit the situation and also because it's more fun. I can do several in one week, and then nothing for a couple of weeks. The frequency can be whenever and the amount can be whatever

The trick with Crazy Tip is to make it be wildly high relative to the cost of what I'm buying and to what the person getting it expects. Sometimes the Crazy Tip is as little as a $5 tip for a $3 cup of coffee. Sometimes it’s a $30 tip for a $22 haircut. Every now and again, it’s a $100 tip for a $6 pastry or a $50 dinner. It's really that random. But it always feels great.

I have an annual budget amount that I allocate for Crazy Tip, but I only track it loosely in my head so that I don't go way over or way under my giving goal.

I usually try to do Crazy Tip without being noticed. I slip the $20 into the tip jar while my coffee is being poured. I'll put an extra $30 on the credit card slip and leave it face down so the waiter doesn't see it until we're long gone. My hope is that the randomness and anonymity of Crazy Tip brings hope and a "Woo-Hoo" smile.

Sometimes I get caught and that's how I know Crazy Tip can make people's day. I’ve had servers run out of the shop when they see the tip to thank me, in disbelief. More than once I've noticed a tear in their eye because their day went from “why did I bother coming in today” to “I’m on track to cover the rent.” All this for $20. Or maybe $5. Or sometimes $50 or $100.

One challenging situation is leaving a Crazy Tip when I get bad service or a cranky waiter. Yup. Bad servers get crazy tips just like everyone else. I just dig deep and think that maybe they provided crappy service because they are having a crappy day - and maybe a Crazy Tip can lessen their load and give them something to feel good about. It's not always easy.

I’m not naive. A random extra $3 here or $50 there isn’t going to change anyone's life.  But maybe it’s a little boost when they need it. And maybe a little more joy in their life brings more joy to someone else's as well. So who knows, there could be a little network effect to Crazy Tip.

All that said, the real benefit of Crazy Tip accrues to me. It reminds me of how fortunate I am and how easy it can be to bring a bit of happiness to others.

So I encourage you to give Crazy Tip a try :). You might enjoy it - and you'll for sure make someone's day.