Recently we paid for a service we use several times a year. The man who provides the service has not raised his prices in years. He is a lovely person who is providing support money to the mother of his grandson, because his own son prefers to get drunk rather than fulfill his parental obligations.
When the grandchild is sick, it's a paid passage to Cancun, a 500 peso consultation with the doctor, and then however much is needed to fill the prescription for medication to treat the ill child. I know from personal experience that the medication often costs more than the consultation. Going to the doctor is one thing, following up on the advice is another, especially when there is a shortage of cash.
This man also feeds hungry cats and dogs out of his hard-earned money. Right now, in this slow season for locals, his on-the-side work is poor - few people can afford the service he provides, and so his funds are even tighter. He himself needs dental work, but after paying for kids and animals, and feeding himself, there is little left for luxury. And yet he still tells me that if we need the service but don't have the money, don't worry - he will still come and we can pay when we do have the money.
And so, even though our own funds are tight, when I paid for the service the other day, I also handed him the same 50 peso tip that we've always given him. Normally he would thank me for the tip, but this day he kissed the 50 peso bill and bowed with thanks. He said "this means much more than you know".
That's where he's wrong. Actually, I do know. Slow season, season of 'hambres' (Sept-hambre, Oct-hambre), affects all of us depending on the tourist industry. I've always been a tip-giver, but have never been in the type of work to be a tip-receiver. Until now.
Occasionally our guests leave a token of thanks, and being on the receiving end of a tip, in these difficult financial times for everyone (including our guests), has given me a greater appreciation of the sincere gratitude felt by those I tip. I appreciate the tip, and the thought behind it. More than our guests would ever know.
In fact, perhaps I tip a little more because I understand how much that little bit extra can mean.
50 pesos to us means enough chicken breast for 4 or 5 meals, with scraps fed to the dogs or cats.
50 pesos pays for eggs, tortillas, a tomato, an onion, a pepper...a breakfast meal for a family, with some left over.
50 pesos buys 4 tamales - a meal for an elderly couple.
For many families, 50 pesos pays the monthly water bill.
So there you have it, my two cents...or rather, in these tough times, my 50 pesos.