Tip jars 2 (the glass is always half something)

A few weeks ago I posted Tip jars (and their slogans), with the overall message being that the various signs attached to the ubiquitous tip jar are more than just amusing puns or witty anecdotes – they are designed to change the way we think about tipping more generally.

Another thing is striking about tip jars. As one, over time, goes to a number of bars, coffee shops and cafés one will eventually realise they are never empty.

NEVER will you find a tip jar that has nothing in it.

The amount in the vast array of tip jars may vary – and vary considerably. Each of us might consider them to be half-full or half-empty (depending on your philosophical bent). Those of you who know me personally will know that I consider all glasses half-full, which reflects my constant sunny disposition to all things… but I digress.

However, I put a challenge to anyone to find a tip jar that is completely empty.

But shouldn’t we see the odd empty tip jar from time to time? People working at these places don’t fashion tip jars only to watch the money sit inside it. Presumably they want to take it and spend it on things (and maybe they end up putting some of it in other tip jars, so that the circle of life may continue).

However, they do not take the money, well not all of it anyway. There seems to be some sort of rule in these establishments to leave some of the money in the tip jar at any given time. If for some reason the tip jar finds itself empty I am sure the cash register is pried open to fill the void.


Because it gives the impression that others are tipping. It gives the impression that we’re all doing it and perhaps the fear of being left out will spur on the rest of us to tip also.

This logic does not only apply to tip jars.

Have you ever seen a busker without coins in their guitar case?

Have you ever seen a homeless guy without any money at all on the blanket that lay in front of him (and surely they have the least change to spare)?

These are all subtle messages that those around you are giving money to the cause. The complementary message is that if you want to be part of society, if you want to fit in, you should give too.

The money in the jar reinforces the message from the signs I wrote about in that previous post. The signs say that tipping is something that you should be doing and the money inside the tip jar says that other people in your position agree.

As I have said before I am not against tipping, nor am I against giving money to buskers or the homeless, but I am saying that not all is as it seems on the surface.

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6 Responses to Tip jars 2 (the glass is always half something)

  1. Kim says:

    Tip Jars: The PhD Student Strikes Back

    I agree in parts and disagree in other parts. I must expand my point of view, which people say expands much like a colostomy bag.

    Shouldn’t we see an empty tip jar at times? Absolutely. Statistics and common sense demand that it should happen. I mean even when you show up at a coffee shop early in the morning the damn tip jars are half full. Don’t show up so early that you are still in your pj’s though, that can be awkward. Especially if it is that special time in the morning. Yes, 6.42am.

    Have I seen hobos without money? Hell yes. In fact I think hobos clear up their “tips” sometimes so that it acts on those other aspects of our psyche. You know that annoying “feeling for your fellow man/woman hobo” part of your psyche. I once gave a hobo $10. I saw him in the TAB the next weekend. It certainly made me question the legitimacy of his hobo status. We need better government regulation of the hobo sector!

    To finish off I will take on your challenge of finding an empty tip jar. In fact I am going to travel the seven seas and find one. Arghhh matey! Sorry, got a bit piratey there. Alternatively I may just go to France, England, US and Japan. I will be watching the tipping habits of the natives of these countries closely.

    • tippingoz says:

      Maybe you could think of it as him ‘investing’ the $10 at the TAB?

      If you find an empty tip jar, take a photo and send it in. Maybe we can make a big deal out of it.

      Happy travels.

  2. Kirsty says:

    Perhaps always including coins in the tipping jar is as much an advertising ploy as it is about indirectly using peer pressure to get you to tip. I’d be worried by a restaurant/cafe that has apparently never delivered good enough service to get a tip.

    An empty jar may also make you question whether the good service you received was of a high standard after all or whether everyone else is used to getting better service and you just don’t know any better.

  3. JSnugz26 says:

    (Sorry for the late response :] )

    I worked at a Deli in California for one of my first jobs, and one of my trainers ALWAYS had money in her tip jar. One day I showed up a little early and saw her put money from her pocket into the jar, fluff it up like a pillow, and place it on the counter. I asked her why she did it and she said that it makes people think they are SUPPOSED to give tips.

    One day I tested this theory…
    Saturday – Put $15 US into the cup (all $1’s with a $5 on top [fluffed of course!!!] ) and watched the stack pile into $47 in the 3 hours I worked.
    Sunday – The next day, I placed my cup in front of me, no money in it, no dinero, no yen, and worked 5 hours with an outcome of $13 in tips.

    Now, I understand that the “Control Experiments” have shady areas, such as I could have had more ‘giving’ customers Saturday than Sunday that weekend, or I could have had better customer service one day, or worked on stuff in the back office more Sunday than Saturday. I can confirm, the days were just as busy, and I was working in the office and the front the same length of time…

    People feel “cheap” if they don’t “donate to the cause” after experiencing customer service.

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