Shortchanger: Multi-Generational Advice for a Tipping Dilemma

At last! An advice column that's 100 percent East Tennessee, so you can guess who wrote in (we'll tactfully change a few details). And it's twice the advice for the price of one. Each letter gets a response from "Jacki," a 20-something shoe-loving Jersey gal with a University of Tennessee English degree, and "Jill," who is a good 20 years older (oh, we hate that term "middle aged") and has been dishing out advice to soccer and swim teams, hapless co-workers, and fellow writers and moms for decades. One more twist: On occasion, we ask the letter writer to respond to the advice, and include the Take Three as well.

Dear Take Two:

I have a friend who embarrasses me when we're out because she's such a terrible tipper. She thinks nothing of leaving a quarter for a diner meal, or a dollar for a nice dinner. I've already tried being the one to leave the tip, but when the tab is $50 or more this gesture costs me a lot. How do you tell a grown woman with a full-time job she's got to leave more money for the server?

—Tipped Off

Says Jacki: Here's a tip: Be honest. At the end of your next meal together, tell your friend how much you're leaving as a tip and why. Explain that the standard percentage for a tip nowadays is 18-22 percent. Or start a conversation about service industry workers: "They work so hard," "They earn their living on tips." See if she picks up on your cues. If she doesn't, point out that you've noticed she doesn't show her appreciation for the work servers are doing for her. Further, if you have a close enough relationship, tell her that you have been picking up the slack for her poor tips and it's hurting your budget. If she resists all attempts, maybe it's time to start going to movies, instead.

Says Jill: If she's so young or so old school you genuinely believe she doesn't understand she's making a mistake here, talk to her, just once, about tips. Otherwise, for a once a month friendship, I'd stop being available for restaurant meals—suggest take-out, or pot-luck with other friends. Or just ease her out of your social life altogether. Life is too short to hang out with people who are willing to shortchange servers.

Dear Take Two:

It's hard to sit by, but what can I do? My cousin "Erica" and I are both friends with "Cindy," who recently took an AmeriCorps job in another city, but will be back in our area soon. Cindy wrote a few lines at first, but then she met a guy over there and doesn't bother to stay in touch with Erica at all, though she and I IM a little every now and then. Erica talks about dropping her altogether as a friend; I think Cindy has no idea Erica is so mad. Should I warn Cindy? Erica refuses to bring it up with her.

—Early Warning System

Says Jill: I recently posted on Facebook about a very similar scenario. To a woman, all my female friends said, "Stay out of it." The men, though, said they'd like a polite nudge to have a chance to change their ways before they lost a friend. Since this is womenfolks, I'm going to say let what happens, happen.

Says Jacki: Some people find it hard to keep in touch; Cindy might not realize she's been neglecting you because she's so busy enjoying her time away. If Erica refuses speak to your friend, I would say that you could let her know Erica has really been missing her and it would be a good idea to give her a call. Tell Cindy you all want to hear about this new guy and her adventures, set up a Skype date. Skype is free and the best way to keep in touch with friends all over the world. You can all grab a bottle of wine in your respective cities and video chat like nothing has changed. Most importantly, though, I would say don't sell Erica out. I'm sure she doesn't want your mutual friend to know she's upset, or else she would have said something by now.

Take Three: What advice did "Early" take?

"Although it is tempting to just say ‘forget about it,' I think I will make myself take the suggestion about setting up a three-way Skype date. And if that doesn't work, I'm just saying ‘screw it.' You can't force people to take a friendship seriously."

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