Do tip jars alienate customers?

I'm thinking of putting out a tip jar on my desk at work. You should, too. People ask me to do my job all day. Why shouldn't they tip me for doing what I'm already paid to do?

Is this ridiculous? Of course it is. So how is the tip jar at the counter of your favorite coffee joint any different? News flash, kiddos. It's not.

The breaking point is when I went to my local, used book store and saw one. I found my own books and I carried them to the checkout. The clerk rang them up and took my money. For that, he thinks he deserves a tip? I'm sorry. He doesn't. And I simply refuse to support that kind of insanity.

Tipping is part of our culture. However, I don't think the tip jar has any place in a business. As a customer, I don't appreciate feeling cheap if I don't drop in a buck because the woman at Winchell's Donuts handed me a maple bar (and, yes, my local Winchell's does have a tip jar!). The point of sale should be a completely positive experience that leaves the customer feeling all warm and fuzzy (if you do customer service right, that is). The tip jar just makes me grimace and feel awkward. It's tacky.

So, how about it folks? Set out a tip jar on your desk tomorrow and see how it goes. Your boss comes to ask for that report? Pick up your tip jar and shake it at him. Your colleague needs those stats you have? Be sure he sees the tip jar! Because expecting you do your job for the salary you were hired at is ridiculous, is it not?

40 comments:

  1. Hmmm...I need to think this one over. In full blown restaurants service help does not get paid a regular salary and depends on tips to make the job worth their time. However they are not tossing tips in a community jar and sharing with the masses either, well maybe they pay the table bussing help as the quicker they clear and set up the faster the service person can earn more money. But in the types of businesses you are referring to, I'm surprised the franchise owner, store manager or district manager (if company owned) allows the tip jar thing to happen. The help is most likely getting paid minimum wage or above. The book store completely stumps me.

    But my irritation in this arena is when you are for instance picking up food to take out and are paying with a credit card and the owner of the business is who took care of bagging your order and expects a tip to be added to the receipt. I've had two owners from two different places ask me if I forgot to add one. I didn't go back to either place again.

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  2. Why not? bloggers are adding tipjars to THEIR blogs!

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  3. Yes, they are. And, notice you don't see a Paypal "Support My Blog" widget here. And, never will ;-)

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  4. See. That's unfortunate, cuz I'd leave a tip!

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  5. Hey Cheri, thanks for commenting.

    Yes, I made very sure when I wrote this post to only address tip jars. As for sit down restaurant tipping, what's another discussion for another day. I told even want to go there.

    As for franchises, yes, I'm surprised the tip jar is allowed, too. As a "corporate" name, you'd think they'd at least see that as a small town move.

    And an owner accepting a tip???? Wow, that's tacky! Kudos to you for taking your business elsewhere. People get away with whatever they can until someone takes a stand.

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  6. How about a recommendation on my About page? I accept nice words ;-)

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  7. Why not add a tip jar to your blog?? 

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  8. Hey Jordan! I've seen that done and it's just not something I have any desire to do. I try to maintain a certain degree of journalistic integrity. No Paypal virtual tip jar and no AdSense. Just two things that don't want to pursue.

    If you like what I do here, that's payment enough ;-)

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  9. Hahaha -> "Journalistic Integrity", I haven't heard those two words together in a long time! 

    I've been meaning to ask why you've chosen Blogger as your main blogging platform - Is there a particular reason for this, or have you mentioned why in a previous post??
     
    Thanks for edutaining us! 

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  10. How sad that the words "journalistic integrity" are funny. :-(

    When I first started blogging, I tried out WordPress and Blogger. And, for me, Blogger was just so much easier. Much more intuitive and less demanding from a technical perspective. I can do anything on Blogger that people can do on WordPress and it doesn't cost to add your own domain. I've had only positive experiences with Blogger and it's made the non-writing elements of blogging very simple.

    P.S. Love the word "edutaining"! I'll have to remember that one. :-)

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  11. Glad I'm not the only one! They make me uncomfortable too. I never leave a tip in the tip jar or anywhere I see one at a place of business. The only time I leave a tip is if I see a street musician. How do you feel about those? 

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  12. Hey Suki! Well, seeing as street musicians aren't already getting "paid" by someone, I don't think there's anything wrong with it. They're entertaining the masses and if someone enjoys it they can throw something into the open guitar case. Completely voluntary thing for them and for you. Nothing wrong with that. ;-)

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  13. tip jars annoy me a lot. Sometimes I wait until the dude at Starbucks (or wherever) turns his back and then I drop in some loose pennies so he hears the sound but can't tell how much it was. I know that's lame, but I don't want any delays on my beverage.

    That's a hilarious idea to put a tip jar on your desk. I like it!! I would do it if I had an office job. Maybe for a laugh, but really to make a point about how stupid tip jars are.

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  14. You're sneaky, Trish! Sneeeeeaky!

    I say you do the jar on your desk. I bet the results from your first graders would be hilarious. Crayons, used gum, legos...

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  15. Snoring Dog StudioMay 25, 2011 at 5:22 AM

    The proliferation of tip jars has reached the level of insanity. Panhandling, it is. I am so sick of seeing them everywhere. You asked a good question - why should I hand over more money just because they took mine? Occasionally, I'll drop in some coins at my local coffee shop - because I think the baristas aren't making much there. But then, I think: Wait a minute. I'm living on a thread, too and I haven't gotten a raise in 6 years! So, no more, Amber. And thank you for being gutsy enough to complain about it.

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  16. Snoring Dog StudioMay 25, 2011 at 5:22 AM

    I've done the same thing!

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  17. Snoring Dog StudioMay 25, 2011 at 5:24 AM

    That's right - and, frankly, Todd, I'll never subscribe to a blog that drums for moolah. It's distasteful.

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  18. As a musician who has occasionally benefitted (albeit minimally) from tip jars, I appreciate the allowance for those situations. But I have to agree with the general distaste for them especially at certain overpriced coffee shops that don't offer sit-down service. Glad to know I'm not the only one either!

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  19. Hey Mitch! I didn't know you played an instrument. I think street musicians get a pass. It's a totally different situation from the gal at the donut shop ;-)

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  20. Ha ha. Glad it struck a chord with you, Jean. And I have to agree with you. It is upscale panhandling, isn't it?

    Actually, I thank you for saying it's gutsy to write about this. Frankly, I think the subject of tipping is almost as volatile as religion and politics. Glad to know I'm not alone on this one.

    Thanks for chiming in, Jean ;-)

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  21. Yeah, I tried the tip jar at work and all I got was cigarette butts and candy wrappers. No respect........

    Typically I won't tip in a situation you described. However, I'm a regular enough at a local Starbucks they acknowledge me by name; typically have my order ready before I even make it to the front of the line; sometimes bring it to me; or give me a free cup if I have to wait while a new pot is brewing. I might be inclined to drop some change (and I saw the post below......they know the sound of pennies) but no green; I needs my cash.......just sayin'........

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  22. Sounds like someone at your local Starbucks is on his game! That's nice to hear. :-)

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  23. The fact that a tip jar would alienate a customer sounds really bizarre to me.  Its something that has been around for years and they aren't going to disappear.  Everyone has their own personal criteria when and who to tip in every walk of life.  When I see a charity person in the street asking for money I say "no thanks but have a nice day", they would only make you feel uncomfortable if you allow it.  There are people in every walk of life asking you for this, that and the other, it is ok to say no and its a personal decision if you want to have a guilty complex or feel uncomfortable about it.  Does the tip jar at Starbucks stop people going back to them?  I don't think so.  Its the fact that their product sucks, is overly expensive for the quality or someone is rude to you that would stop you going back.

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  24. There are certain places I go in which I am provided a service that do use tip jars. Of course there are others that don't provide a service past ringing up a sale. For the places that do offer a service, they don't allow the employees to accept tips off the table, nor are any accepted when you pay. You must put it into the tip jar. At the end of a shift, tips are pulled and split evenly among all of the employees working that shift. This takes the territorial aspects out of assigning certain tables to any specific person, so you get good service from everyone. As for the tip jars in non service industries, shine them.

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  25. Hey Steven! I don't think it's a matter of someone having a guilty complex, it's a matter of how a business should start and end the customer service experience. In my opinion, at least. But, we all have different opinions and standards, so if it doesn't bug ya, more power to you! ;-)

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  26. Hey Tim, yeah, I'm familiar with the communal tip jar that's divided at each shift change. My issue isn't how the money is distributed, it's with the actual tip jar.

    If, for example, I have the lady at Winchell's Donuts hand me a donut, when I pay my 70 cents, do I really owe her a tip? Should there be a jar asking for a gratuity when I check out? Personally, I just don't think so.

    She has done nothing other than handed me something (which I would have happily grabbed myself if allowed to do so) and taken my buck. Putting out a jar hitting me up for more cash because she did the bare minimum of her job just rubs me wrong. But, hey, that's me ;-)

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  27. My friend will always leaves tips, he says it creates a relationship and rapport with the staff member and they are extra nice when he returns there ie gets freebies, special attention.  If you are going back to the business on a regular basis I think there is something to this argument.

    But, as I suggested in my previous comment, I don't let a jar on the counter make me feel awkward probably because I am not bothered by a warm and fuzzy experience and not really a customer service analyst that worries about these issues.

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  28. Hey Steven, I guess I look at most everything with a customer service eye.

    If an employee needs extra incentive (from outside) to treat a customer well, there's something wrong with how that place is being managed. The high level of service you mention above should be emphasized from within and not require those who patronize the establishment to resort to bribery. But, again, that's just me.

    I think you and Tim are just more easy going than I am ;-)

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  29. You would like the Japanese philosophy of tipping!  No tipping.

    Are there any laws covering tipping in the US?  There are laws in the UK here:
    http://www.bis.gov.uk/files/file52948.pdf

    My concern would be in some places tipping is part of someone's salary ie they will get paid less than minimum wage and have to make the rest up through tips.  There are laws against this in the UK but I'm not sure in the US & rest of the world.

    Tipping is such a contentious issue it wouldn't be a bad thing to do away with it altogether.

    Maybe in your industry Amber you can influence businesses about tipping in relation to their communication and marketing strategy, maybe some of them are reading this article.

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  30. A tip is "To Insure Prompt Service" and in fast food environments like donut shops and coffee bars, "prompt" is part of their business model. And don't even get me started on the book store!

    As for the general practice of tipping, that's another story for another day. My issue today is really the proliferation of tip jars. They're everywhere!

    But, yeah, I agree with you. Tipping is right up there with politics and religion. Yikes!

    * Thanks for sharing the link. I'll check it out ;-)

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  31. If you create a donate button on your site we'll all send you a tip for writing a great article!

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  32. Those kind words you just wrote are tip enough for me! Thank you, Steven ;-)

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  33. Amber,

    I agree that this post is edutaining ;-) I have enjoyed reading the post as well as the engaging conversations. Nice!

    Here in Nigeria, we don't have physical TIP JARS. However, when you go to the local restaurants or eatery, when you are set to leave, there is a manner the gate keepers are fond of greeting, to make one uncomfortable and give them a tip. Even the security men at banks.

    It is a Global thing. It is only practiced differently. A tip jar, is not something I would subscribe to too. no no no.

    Great piece.

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  34. Thank you for the comment, Jesse! I always love when someone can expand the conversation to one with global insights!

    The security men at banks expect tips in Nigeria???? Wow, that's incredible!

    Thanks so much for adding to the dialogue and sharing your experiences with tips. Very interesting stuff, Jesse. Thanks for chiming in ;-)

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  39. As someone who works at a sit down restaurant where food and beer are ordered at the counter than delivered to the table (including running to refill drinks or fetch whatever condiments/items are requested), I have a tip jar on the counter. Somehow because there is a counter, 75% of the customers do not deem it necessary to tip even after several rounds of drinks or trays of food brought to them. I cannot survive alone on the $9 an hour my job pays me and it's infuriating when I receive a handful of change in exchange for $100 meal.

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