Those %#!& Tip Jar Inscriptions


photo courtesy of rottnpagan

 Of the many indignities suffered by consumers in the first decade of the 21st century, the tip jar inscription is not the largest, but it may be the most annoying.

I got to thinking about the subject after a friend emailed me complaining about the enthusiastic sign on the tip jar at a Mexican carryout in his neighborhood:

“Thank you in advance for the generous tips you will give us as a result of our Excellent Service!”

My friend noted, “I am a generous tipper, but that makes me want to stiff them,” and I had to agree. The dictionary defines a tip as “to bestow a gratuity,” and a gratuity as “something given voluntarily or beyond obligation.” Clearly, the inscription tries to remove the “voluntary” part by demanding a tip. And further tries to wheedle you into being “generous.” Of course, this inscription is ham-fisted, and probably results in consumers giving less than usual.

How did the tip jar originate? While tipping has long been a custom confined to waiters, supers, and delivery people, tip jars started appearing on the counters of retail establishments with the advent of coffee bars. Baristas reasoned, “I’m kind of a waiter, and kind of a bartender, why shouldn’t I supplement my meager salary with tips as those professions do?” Soon, other retail establishments besides coffee bars got into the act, and we began seeing tip jars on the counters of bakeries, bodegas, carryout restaurants, and other retail food-related establishments that never had a tipping program before. While the jars may have been introduced by underpaid employees, the owners of these businesses must have rubbed their hands in glee, in contemplation of the raises they wouldn’t have to pay as a result of tip jars swelling with greenery.

As years have gone by I’ve seen the practice become more refined and nuanced. For example, I’ve seen counterpeople “priming” the tip jar at the outset of their shifts by borrowing a few dollars from the register and fluffing them up in the jar. While the original tip jar was ostensibly to collect the handful of change that remained after a transaction, suddenly change was not sufficient, and the pile of green suggested to the consumer that dollars were the proper remembrance for the staff.

I started looking around for examples of horrible tip jar inscriptions. While many are intended to be humorous, the underlying message is clear: Give generously, or else! Perhaps you can supplement my list with even better ones. (Several of these inscriptions are gleaned from photos on the web, hence the lack of attribution.)

“Karma is a boomerang.” – seen in a coffee bar.

“Tipping is soooooo sweet” – seen in a cupcake bakery, with a picture of a tiny cupcake underneath.

“Tipping – Its not just for cows and outhouses!” – seen in a Chinese carryout, with a smiley face.

“Good tippers make great lovers.” – unknown locale, with a heart and the further inscription “True!”

“Show us your tips!” – unknown locale.

“Tip $, because $4 a gallon is killing us!” – seen in a bakery.

“Thanks – a latte!” – seen in a coffee bar, with little stickers that say “Joy.”

“Support Counter Intelligence.” – unknown locale.

“TIPS, NO LIPS PLEASE” – unknown locale.

“This neato fruit puppet demands hard currency in exchange 4 sparing your worthless life.” – unknown locale.

“Tipping makes it hurt less.” – in a piercing parlor.

“Take a penny, leave a dollar.” – unknown locale.

“Tipping is sexy.” – in a coffee bar.

And, perhaps the worst of all:

“If you have no change for a tippity-tip, FEAR NOT!!! We also accept: Cigs, Vegan Candies, Pretty Flowers, Phone #s, Clip-on neckties, glow sticks, used fortunes, and so on.” – unknown locale