A great topic, nolo.
I admit I've never really contemplated the implications of tipping for ski instructors, so it's interesting to do so.
Perhaps that's because my service industry career began at age 16. I pursued waitressing off and on for 20 years as an adjunct to other sources of income - journalism, ski teaching, outdoor ed.
Of necessity, I reframed early on the validity, dignity and worth of my work as a waitress in order to continue pursuing it and doing a good job - by adopting a kind of egalitarian world view which also helped me do construction labor and house cleaning. So a tip for me became physical manifestation of a compliment for work well performed rather than confirmation of inferior professional status. I felt no ambivalence in accepting personalized material recognition.
Where I presently work as a ski instructor tipping is the norm and significantly more substantial than most places in the industry. A long-worked-for personal sense of worth and ability in this field helped me come here. I feel genuinely appreciated both in word and monetary deed by my guests. A tip to me continues to be a good thing. While I don't work for it, it's welcomed when it comes.
Contemplating further, I continue to hold egalitarian views. A doctor, lawyer or academic teacher to me is no more worthy, whether or not they accept tips. This helps me: to feel undaunted and confident
: in working with people with lots more money than I; to believe in my work's intrinsic value; and to recognize those who do work I'd find onerous.
I'm uncomfortable differentiating myself in terms of "class status" from others as means of pursuing a solution to economic oppression. Even the terms "service" or "servant" I don't find negative, as "servant leadership" is definitely an ethos for my work life both here and in the summer.
These views help me stay open to the world without judging it or myself in ways which might limit how confidently and joyfully I interact.
Nevertheless as you point out, in the real world accepting tips also symbolically limits us sociopolitically, and hence economically, as a body of people pursuing an avocation. It certainly promotes inertia from an organizational standpoint. Perhaps others might argue my views help me stay in denial, minimization and rationalization of what really is a hierarchical world.
You've raised more than one interesting issue for discernment. Am I part of the solution, or part of the problem? What really should change? I'm in a reasonably good place here in many ways... but others elsewhere are not. [ March 28, 2003, 02:42 PM: Message edited by: vera ]