“We Depend on Your Generosity”

With my printed-at-home boarding pass in hand, I checked my lone piece of luggage at the curbside counter.  The whole process took less than two minutes – I set the bag on the scale, gave my boarding pass and ID to the baggage handler, waited a moment, and then received my boarding pass, ID and baggage claim ticket, all in a convenient little folder.  With a deliberate "Thank you, sir," I was on my way.  Or so I thought.

"Sir," the gentleman who handled my bag and paperwork said, looking me straight in the eyes.  "We depend on your generosity for our livlihood."  I patted my pockets, turned my hands, and said, "I don’t have any cash – sorry."  "Really?" the baggage handler responded, incredulously.  "Sorry.  When traveling, all I use is credit cards."  And with that I walked away.

This experience left me wondering about my bag, the economy, propriety, and convenience.

My bag.  Because I didn’t give this man a tip, was my bag going to end up in Miami instead of Minneapolis?  Or, perhaps, was it destined for an unofficial security check by the luggage handler?  I had an uneasy feeling about leaving my bag with someone whose livlihood I just nelected to support.  I doubt anything out of the ordinary will happen to my bag, but can I be sure?  He didn’t seem particularly happy about my lack of cash . . .

The economy.  Does this baggage handler really depend on travelers’ tips for his livlihood?  Is his a union or non-union job, and is he making a living wage, or struggling with the unsustainable minimum wage?  In an era when more and more middle and upper class folks use plastic money instead of paper money for even the smallest of purchases, how many workers are missing out on once-dependable tips?

Propriety.  When is it appropriate to tip?  Not to be cheap, but I didn’t realize that the work this man did – two minutes of paper processing my and a ten-foot toss of my bag from the scale to a conveyer belt – was tip-worthy.  As a child I recall my parents tipping anyone who helped us load or unload our car, or haul bags from our car to a counter, hotel lobby or hotel room.  But the work this man did today didn’t seem of the same caliber.

Convenience.  When traveling for business I prefer not to spend any cash, if I can avoid it.  Putting all my expenses on a credit card makes it easy for me to track my expenses and submit receits for reimbursement.  And the way I travel, I rarely need cash.  Of course, in certain cases, my personal convenience can run up against another person’s livlihood, and that is not desirable. 

Perhaps I need to become more aware of and sensitive to the cash economy and the number of workers who depend on it for their livlihood, and change my habits accordingly.  More importantly, however, we should advocate for livable, sustainable wages for all workers and minimize the need for workers to depend on the unreliability of human generosity.

About Chris Duckworth

Spouse. Parent. Lutheran Pastor. National Guardsman. Political Junkie. Baseball Fan.
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4 Responses to “We Depend on Your Generosity”

  1. PS says:

    I think I’ve been at the same gate at the same airport. The problem is that the curbside guy is a “sky cap”, I think that is the right term. He isn’t an airline employee. If you carry your bag another 20 feet into the airport, you get in line for the airline employees, and you don’t tip there. I’ve wondered how much these people make in comparison to the sky caps. I guess the key is to look for the airline company logo on the uniform and also to decide how much convience you want to pay for.
    But really, shouldn’t there be a sign or something? Do they have to “beg” for the tip? How’s a newby supposed to know?
    AND all airports are set up differently.

  2. David says:

    Aren’t they now employed by TSA? If so, I believe government wages are fairly sufficient.

  3. PS says:

    No, I’d guess the TSA people are only the screeners. At the airport in question, you can give the bag to the curbside guy, which apparently LZ did. If you go inside, you get the baggage claim strip put on by the airline people, then you carry it yourself about 20 feet to the screeners.
    In the airport on this end of the trip, you use a sort of self-done machine near where you are dropped off by your ride to the airport.

  4. Andy says:

    Having worked a job (in the very distant past) where I depended on tips, I try to tip well. At the same time, whenever I travel I try not to let anyone touch my bags because I know they’re going to expect money from me that I’d rather not give.

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