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Should you add to the tip of your elderly parents?

Should you add to the tip of your elderly parents?

I am a middle-aged father of 3 children living in the manicured suburbs of a city. My parents are 75 years old and still live in the same rural midwestern town they were born in. They technically travelled 872 feet from the “hospital” they were born in for a lifetime of shelter.

The reason I spotlight our differences in lifestyle is part of a theory I created to validate my father’s default to a universal $1 tip.

Even in retirement and managing a fixed income, our parents want to retain the feeling of providing for their children. The last opportunity to showcase this instinctual impulse is by informing the waiter/waitress to place the meal on 1 check. However, the seemingly unnatural height of their eye brow raise while reading the check amount suggests a subtle disconnect in following the changes in inflation (or cost-of-living) over the last 40 years.

I however am an optimist. I see an opportunity to educate my parents of the perpetual occurrence of “change” and an opportunity to empower them with training. After all, wasn’t it your father that told you to “teach a man to fish – and you feed him for life?”

I ask to see each of my parents iPhones. As I scroll past pages of misinformation based app downloads – I finally find the “app store”. I download and prepare myself for an applause following my mind-bending presentation on the unlimited technology at our fingertips.

I explain, “using apps allows us to leverage a diverse world of perspective and insight to discover a universal answer to everything ranging from the impacts of climate change to providing healthcare to those in-need.”

“Even after enjoying a meal with your family, you can use this tip calculator to determine the average tip amount for this type of dining experience based on survey results from hundreds of thousands of consumers, just like you.” I then pause for effect.

As my parents peered down at the smartphone through the eye glasses pulled to the end of their nose, they slid the screen back to the images app.

“I took a picture of the neighbor’s fence”, my father explains. “The fence has been leaning over our yard for 7 months now.”

The waiter returned and handed my father the check housed inside a weathered diary book cover. After signing the check for the same total listed on the “total line”… he reached in to his 7 pound wallet and pulled out a single $1 bill. He placed the signed receipt and $1 bill inside the “diary book” while giving us a silly look, as if he read something secret inside.

I now realize at the end of the day, the last thing your parents want to do is accept change by learning something new.

And it is my job to slide a $20 bill under the plate before leaving.

How much to tip editor

Matthew McCoy

Editor and Writer

Matthew McCoy is a author, blog contributor, and editor for

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