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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Tip Jar Etiquette Causes Confusion

The recent rise of tip jars at coffeehouses, sandwich shops, and ice-cream parlors has changed the tipping etiquette landscape, leaving consumers confused. Some even believe that the tip jar is an inanimate equivalent of an outstretched hand. I believe that putting money in a tip jar is completely voluntary. However, if I know the person serving me is making minimum wage or less and their income is supplemented by tips, I will usually be more generous. I pondered the etiquette of the ubiquitous tip jar and asked some of my other etiquette consultant friends what they thought would be correct. Here is what they had to say.

"When I first saw tip jars I found them egregious, But then I thought, 'If I tip the wait staff at a sit-down restaurant, why not tip the people who serve me at other types of food establishments?' I particularly soften when the tip jar is labeled “College Fund”, and the young people behind the counter are polite and accommodating. Generally a dollar and change drop into the jar, more for some people, such as the young man who manages an ice cream shop near my home. He is so friendly and accommodating! I know he has young children, so there is an incentive to contribute. The second came one day as he was packing my cone with two, chocolate-almond scoops. His wife came in with their two-year and an infant in a carriage—from that point on my tip doubled!!" Janet Parnes,

"I agree that putting money in the tip jar is completely voluntary and admit, that I very often do tip as a sign of appreciation. Love the quote referring to the tip jar as the "inanimate equivalent of an outstretched hand." I do believe great customer service needs to rewarded and whether it is in the form of a tip, in the tip jar, or a complimentary customer feedback card, the server is compensated for their fine service. Lauren Vitalie, The Vital Image,

"I once thought putting a tip jar out was a bit presumptuous and a bit 'tacky.' Today, it is so common that it does not offend me as it did before. The tip I leave is determined by the establishment. I usually give my leftover coin change at Starbucks…the employees are always warm and friendly and I am happy to tip. It is usually 90 cents for a $2.10 iced tea…40% of the bill. Occasionally, if I have exact change, I may not tip at all. On the other hand, this morning I left a $5 tip for a $12 ticket at the IHOP around the corner. It is close to my house and I often call ahead to order something for my son on the way to school. They are always giving us special treatment. This restaurant is amazingly clean, the servers are great, and I like to tip more.
  • If the restaurant offers “curbside” service, I tip 20% of the bill.
  • If I sit down and am served, I leave 20-25%.
  • If it is a “Mom and Pop” wait in line type place and the service is friendly, I will leave leftover coin change and a dollar bill.
  • If I leave a larger tip in any of the above situations, it is because like Pauline, “I am moved by the faces of the people behind the counter”.
  • Interestingly, you do not see tip jars at the chain convenience restaurants. Instead, often a charity display will accept your leftover change."
Theresa Thomas, Certified Etiquette Consultant, Villa Park, CA

"I'll contribute all change and a dollar bill. I think it's a little degrading to have a jar (handwritten note, et. al, ) on a counter --especially when food is being passed. However, I am moved by the faces of the people behind the counter. I'm also a sucker for tipping piano players (and any strolling musicians) who play a song I request." Pauline Winick, Miami, Florida,

"If I receive good service, I always drop a dollar or two in the jar. I do not feel it is obligatory. Even if it’s only a small amount, I do not feel people should be rewarded unless they do a good job. Sometimes, I feel it is presumptuous of a store/restaurant to have a tip jar."
Peggy M. Parks, AICI CIP, President, The Parks Image Group, Inc.,

Do you think it is necessary to leave a tip when you see a tip jar? Let me know what you think.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

On "Tip Jar" issue, I don't feel it's necessary to leave 'tips'. But if one has some coins that one doesn't want to carry along, one may drop into the jar to dispose off, not as tip.