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Tale of the Coat Check

Posted by gratrueities on February 3, 2009

Hi There—

Well, another trip to NYC and another interesting tipping scenario.

Really, I think tipping is more of an issue in large cities like NYC where you are out and about, going from place-to-place, and generally running into more service-oriented people who may or may not expect a tip.

                On  this trip it had suddenly turned very cold and  was definitely winter coat time. One morning, with my first business meeting delayed, I decided to run over to the new Museum of Art and Design (MAD) on Columbus Circle. It’s a fabulous new museum, just opened on the south side of Columbus Circle, in a beautiful new cube-like building designed by Brad Cloepfil and his Portland, Oregon-based firm Allied Works Architecture.

                It was a wonderful sunny, fresh, crisp and cold morning so I had on my nice, comfy winter coat, scarf, mittens, etc. Once at the museum I decided to tour the galleries without my coat to be more comfortable, and went to use the coat check.

            At the coat check counter (hidden in the basement, by the way) I noticed an odd, very prominent sign that read, “No Tipping. By Request of the Museum”. This sign was in bright red letters at eye level, not intended to be missed. Someone was very certain that there was not to be any tipping at the coat check.

              I noticed the sign, checked my coat and went on my way to see the exhibits. And, oh by the way, the coat check is free.

                About an hour later I went to fetch my coat and, since it was just me and the coat-checker, I decided to explore this tipping issue.

                “Is there really no tipping?” I asked.

                “Yep,” came the reply.

                “Why is that?”

                “I don’t know.”

                “How do you feel about it?”

                Long pause. I could tell this coat check person was very dedicated and proud of his position and didn’t want to be perceived as complaining.

                “I don’t know.” Long pause.

                Again, I wondered out loud, “I wonder why?”

                “I guess the museum doesn’t want to be seen making more money off you,” came the reply.

                Well, certainly a good theory. I ended up obeying the sign and not leaving a tip but feeling a bit bad about it the rest of the day. Obviously, the coat check gentleman doesn’t earn a lot of salary and he was extremely conscientious about his job. I would have gladly left him $1 or $2 for taking good care of my coat—especially in these difficult times. But, the sign really did make me feel like I shouldn’t tip. Like I was going against the wishes of someone at the Museum if I did so.

Really, though, why does the museum care? The whole thing seems a little wrong to me. What business is it of the museums; this relationship between me and the coat checker?

Now that I’m on my way home and thinking about this more, I really wish I would have gone against the sign and left a tip. This time, I’m questioning my desire to be a good citizen and follow the posted rules. I wish I would have been even a better citizen, and left a small tip and GraTRUEity with this nice, kind coat checker.



3 Responses to “Tale of the Coat Check”

  1. Sometimes tipping is not allowed because the poeple are employeed by a municipality or state.

    They make more per hour than the standard minimum ($2.13 an hour in Utah) for servers or service workers in that state.

    I volunteer for a film festival, and we are not allowed to accecpt tips, because it is not supposed to be a for-profit position (if you are a volnteer and are in a position where you could possibly make money, imagine the clamour for that position each year. )

  2. gratrueities said

    Hi SLC: I see your point, and that does make sense. I guess if you are volunteering for a non-profit, accepting tips would see a little unusual. The MAD may be non-profit, but I know that coat-checker is not a volunteer! I suppose I should have just ignored the sign and tipped him…

  3. […] Posted by gratrueities on March 1, 2009 A few weeks ago we posted about coat-check tipping. […]

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