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Do I Really Need to Tip for Drip Coffee?

I managed to get past my annoyance at the tip jar that appeared one day on the counter of my local coffee shop. (Tipping for what? Pouring coffee? Handing me a muffin?) But apparently that wasn’t enough. Now the proprietors have added a “tip screen” to the credit card payment process, reminding me to pay their workers for them in case I missed the tip jar on the counter. I am sick of being asked for handouts for people who are simply doing their jobs. No one has ever tipped me in my modestly paying job as a teacher. I would really like to say something to the owner of the shop. May I?

HAD IT!

There’s no need to create a race to the bottom here, pitting teachers against coffee shop workers. Our economy generates enough profit to pay all workers a living wage. Now, this would require fair-minded changes in the way opportunities are doled out and taxes are levied. But you probably haven’t come to me for advice on economic policy.

So, on to your question: Unless the cashier placed your change into the tip jar instead of handing it back to you, or the automated screen preselected a tip amount for your purchase, I’d keep quiet. Just put your change in your pocket and select “no tip” on the automated screen. I get that you’re aggravated, but this isn’t all about you.

Tipping options let people who sympathize with a problem make small contributions to alleviate it. Even if all full-time workers were paid the minimum wage (though many are not), it still wouldn’t be enough to survive in many places. So, I tip. I also know that I’m not solving the real problem.

Your suggestion that wages are the obligation of employers is a hedge, not a solution. Many employers are not stepping up. So, while we wait for meaningful change for working people, some people tip. You don’t have to. But why make a fuss about others pitching in?

My sister-in-law has three children (aged 2, 4 and 6). I had a doctor’s appointment, so I asked her if she could watch my 5-year-old son, who plays well with her eldest son. She agreed. After my appointment, I went to her home and found my son extremely upset. My sister-in-law had given him a 15-minute timeout for teasing her 4-year-old daughter. I think it was completely wrong for her to discipline my child. You?

MOM

Listen, I get that it was distressing to arrive at your sister-in-law’s house to find your son upset. But when you left him in her care — along with three other kids under the age of 7 — you implicitly agreed to let her use her best judgment with him.

If your son was teasing her daughter and didn’t stop when asked, a brief timeout seems reasonable. Would you have preferred to have him keep taunting her? Now, it may be that your son didn’t understand the rules. But that’s an argument for explaining them to him for next time, not for being upset with your sister-in-law.

Two years ago, my husband and I were asked to be part of a couple’s wedding party. Back then, we lived in the same town and saw each other frequently. Because of the pandemic, the wedding was postponed until this summer. We’ve been invited to be part of the bridal party again. But we moved away from the area and haven’t kept in touch with the bridal couple at all. Can we say no?

FORMER FRIEND

I don’t think you’re bound by a prepandemic promise to march down the aisle with the bridal couple. So much has changed in the interim! If you want to refuse because of geography, thank the couple for inviting you again and tell them that traveling to their wedding won’t be possible for you.

But if your reluctance is about the emotional distance between you, I’d urge you to reconsider. Many of us withdrew from friends during the pandemic; it got lonely. This wedding may be a chance to renew your friendship, if you’d like that. If not, just let the couple know quickly that you can’t make it, so they can replace you.

I started dating a woman recently who gets aggravated when I talk occasionally about female co-workers or make plans to see female friends. These are purely platonic relationships. She doesn’t change the subject or ask me not to see them. But our conversations suddenly take a turn for the worse. What should I do?

JIM

Talk to your girlfriend directly about this. Give her specific examples of what seems to you like jealous behavior. There may be another explanation. Or perhaps she’s coming to the relationship with a history of betrayal.

This is not your problem to fix. But depending on your interest in her, you could introduce her to some of your female friends and co-workers to help her feel more comfortable. If the jealousy persists, though, it’s not a good sign for your future together.


For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.

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