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County employees get bah humbugged on tips

Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Chicago Tribune
by Mickey Ciokajlo

A lump of coal wasn’t going to cut it for a clerk in the Cook County Recorder of Deeds office who hung photocopies of $1 bills above Christmas stockings next to cashier stations in what looked like a solicitation for tips.
The eight miniature burgundy stockings, hung from green garland and emblazoned with the words "Joy" and "Peace," gave the appearance the cashiers were seeking a little holiday appreciation. Seeking tips is a violation of county policy that's more naughty than nice. (Tribune photo / Chuck Berman)
“It’s unacceptable behavior,” said the office's chief deputy, Darlena Williams-Burnett, shortly after the Tribune asked about the stockings today. “I hope none of the customers felt obligated to donate because some fool had this hanging from his work station. I gave instructions for them to be taken down.”
Williams-Burnett, Recorder Eugene Moore’s top assistant, said she did not know if any tips had been solicited but added, “that’s the appearance that it gives.”
“I manage a bunch of knuckleheads on a daily basis,” she said.
Customers questioned by the newspaper this morning said no one asked them for a tip and they hadn’t even noticed the stockings.
Dan Brown, a lawyer who transacts real-estate business in the office on a weekly basis, said he recalls decades ago when the office routinely solicited tips.
Brown said a past recorder was fond of saying, “Tipping the torrens man is like tipping the barber,” a reference to an old method of land registration.
Brown said that by 1982 “no tipping” signs were hung in the office after the practice was banned. These days, he has nothing but praise for the office.
“These employees do an excellent job,” Brown said. “No one has ever suggested, ‘Christmas is coming,’ or ‘Gene is running for election,’ or anything like that.”
By noon, the stockings were no longer hung by the cashier stations with care. And the garland was no longer there.

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