Marginal pennies and dollars

The give a penny, take a penny jar is a logical conundrum. It is not, on its surface, a rational thing. I have no data, but I suspect very few people who put money into them are doing so because they plan on taking money out later. A bank is different from a give/take a penny jar.

Personally, I put money in because I can and because I fancy myself not a jerk. The latter is what makes more rational sense. I put money in because it’s utility to me is marginal, but the utility of feeling better about myself is non-marginal.

In My Blue Heaven, Steve Martin plays a semi-reformed mobster in the witness protection program. He starts compiling a book of his truisms for living life. One is “it’s not so much tipping I believe in as over-tipping.” His character does this partially because he’s a little flashy, and partially, I think, because he has to be a likable protagonist.

I’d like to be a likable protagonist too, but I like over-tipping whenever possible for another reason. Pretty much anyone who works for tips is working really hard for every dollar they make. An extra dollar here or there is trivial to someone with a desk-job like myself, but less trivial to tip-earners who are technically paid less than minimum wage. An extra five or ten percent on a single tip won’t change their life, but it probably doesn’t hurt either.

I like making people’s day better with laughs and smiles, but I’m not above buying a tiny fraction of a better day for someone else. Marginal pennies and dollars add up.

Adam Keys @therealadam