Around Diwali, the usual constant stream of “visitors” will show up. The crew of building watchmen (half a dozen of whom you’ve never seen before), the janitor, the postman, the maid, and probably some random strangers chancing their luck – they will all knock on your door looking for Diwali “Baksheesh.” Baksheesh is a term that loosely refers to either a tip or, interestingly, a bribe.
For people, the popularity of tipping has always been something of a mystery. Take restaurant tipping as a typical example. Since the tip is usually given at the end of the meal, what good purpose does it serve? Since the service has already been provided, it can’t by definition affect the quality of the service you received? It would make sense maybe for a repeat customer on the basis that a kind tip would lead to the probability of better service next time.
But researchers have something else to say. As per the researchers, tipping is equally likely to yield same service whether a customer plans to return or not. The consensus seems to be that tipping is best understood as a social norm, a form of charitable giving tied to the provision of a service.
But back to the folks knocking on your door. Should you be giving them? Why do they expect a tip at Diwali, when you tend to tip them anyway throughout the year, such as when the watchman helps bring up a heavy parcel, or maid comes thrice a day on your request?
During Diwali, Its believed and wise to make necessary pay-outs to avoid sudden disruption of services. So try the formula desribed below and let me know what difference did it make:
- Begin with a firm budget. Make sure you have in mind about how much to spend on Baksheesh during the festive season well in advance.
- Prepare a list of service-providers in descending order of importance. Like Milkman, Sweeper, Maid, Newspaper Wallah, Watchman etc.
- Divide the service providers into 2 different lists. First, those who need to be motivated and second, those who need recognition.
- Now divide each list further into 3 parts, depending the importance of work they do for you and your family. The persons in the first list are the most important service providers like the maid, watchman and liftman. If anyone of them is disappointed, it results in immediate fall-out action. The maid will come late, much after your wife or mom has completed half the housework. The watchman will permit hawkers to knock at our door in the afternoons and spoil your siesta. And the liftman will declare that the lift is under repair and ensure that you climb six floors. They, therefore, should be given top most priority.
- In the second list houses service providers that are not so important but are required alm0st everyday like, the milkman, the washerwoman and the sweeper. Since the milkman and washerwoman are paid on a daily basis, they recognise that we may have some cash-flow problems. They seem satisfied with smaller amounts. The sweeper, however, needs to be handled with care. He has the power to skip a few days’ garbage collection and cause serious nasal disorder.
- The third list consists of the people that are not so important like, telephone, post and telegraph community. This list does not evoke too much concern. The importance of the telephone lineman has taken a huge dip. A faulty line does not bother people any more in these days of the mobile phone except you are the broadband subscriber. The post and telegraph group too does not attract too much money. The e-mail has made letter-writing redundant. Therefore you may want to keep service providers alike in this list.
A little off topic, there’s a certain irony in being expected to offer a Diwali Baksheesh to someone like the postman who is a government employee and is supposed to do his job without expecting or receiving a tip. Perhaps the double meaning of Baksheesh is fitting here since people have become used to paying bribes for services that they’re entitled to.
I have always remained a keen observer of these Diwali pay-outs over the last so many years and am fascinated by the methods employed by the beneficiaries to gain more handsome pay-outs. Each one carries a list of neighbourhood donors. We know our neighbours well enough to realise that the figures are grossly exaggerated. This is an old technique called Peer Pressure.
I am also intrigued by the fact that the beneficiaries never come in a bunch. They stagger their time of arrival through careful networking, without doubt. All said, the Diwali baksheesh — both the handing and receiving of it — is an interesting exercise in human management.
Thanks for reading. Happy Diwali to you and your familiy in advance.
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