#7: Principle of pleasant surprise

Hey folks,

I hope you’ve had a good weekend!

Mine was good, and it was especially good because I had let decided to let myself relax with this 1TPD (1 thought per day) project by not trying to write and share something over the weekend.

Going forward, to orientate you, this is how it will be: I will continue to share 1TPD with you, but I expect to be absent from your inbox on Saturdays and Sundays so that I can be fully present living out my most enjoyable days every week with my family.

I know that 5 days a week is already too much for some of you. Again, just to put it out there, it is okay for us to part ways if that’s the case. Life has phases. Mine is currently about intensively sharing thoughts with people who are like-minded and are receptive to hearing them. If that’s not where you’re at, I completely understand.

Now, let’s move on to today’s thought.


You know that feeling when it’s a Friday and it’s been a long week and one of your coworkers comes to your desk (or your DMs) and asks casually, “What’s your plan for the long weekend?”, and you’re like, “Wait, what?”

I’d call that a pleasant surprise. And public holidays aside, I believe we have the power to give it to people. To explain, let me tell you something about me…

Image: DALL-E 3

I was never a tipper.

The only times I tipped were when I travelled to the US. And in those times, it was not because I was willing but because I knew it was etiquette and I had to. I was coerced to pay extra.

Later in life, I learned that in the US and other parts of the world, waiters earned a big portion of their living through tips. I learned that paying extra was just paying fair. In Singapore, this is baked into the service charge (10%).

Tipping in a restaurant would be a pleasant surprise in Singapore. It isn’t in places like the US since it’s customary and therefore expected. So, depending on where you tip, you’ll get a different response from people.

But that’s the case for restaurants. Let’s leave that scene behind and enter a new one: food couriers. You know, the folks whom you and I magically summon to our doorsteps, food in tow, with a few taps on our phones several times a week?

Regardless of where you live, I’ll bet good money that your food courier will be pleasantly surprised if you said, before he briskly turned his back on you to make another delivery, “Here’s a small tip for you!”, and dropped a coin in his hand.

I know this because I started doing it a few months ago. Since a year ago or so, I’ve started to always tip at restaurants and to food couriers. It felt like something I could afford to do now that I earn enough money.

Every time I tip by hand, I can see the delight on their faces. Most of the time it’s just 1 euro, so it’s not going to improve their income significantly, but I like to think that the pleasant surprise gets them through the day with a slightly cheerier mood. Money can’t buy that.

I order food here in Düsseldorf via the Wolt app. The Wolt app has an in-built feature to tip couriers on every order, and it states clearly that the company doesn’t take a cut from tips. They say that the tips go straight to couriers:

Screenshot of the checkout page on the Wolt app

If the promise is true, which I believe it is, then there shouldn’t be a difference between selecting an amount to tip in the app and dropping a coin into the hand of the courier.


Well… I think there’s a subtle but powerful difference.

From my experience of tipping for a few months via the Wolt app and, ever since, tipping by hand with coins, I can tell that the latter delivers extra.

By giving an unexpected tip, what you’d have effectively done is become that person who inadvertently gave his coworkers a pleasant surprise.

In the case of realising you don’t have to work on Monday, the pleasant surprise heals you by giving you more time to do what you want to do.

In the case of receiving an unexpected tip, the pleasant surprise heals you by giving you direct evidence that some people still care about others.

So perhaps it’s sound to recommend this: Whenever we can, if it doesn’t take much extra effort, do the thing that gives people a pleasant surprise.

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