The Inappropriate Tip Jar

The tipping culture in the United States has gone a little off the rails in recent years, in my opinion. Tip jars appear almost everywhere these days. While I’m not opposed to giving a tip for good service, and even though I don’t agree with it I recognize that some workers rely on tips for their income. However, increasingly I see inappropriate use of the tip jar.

I encountered two such tip jar misuses recently.

Wine Tour Tip Jars

My wife and I went on a wine tour in which we rode a trolley to four different wineries in our area. Many tip jars were seen during the tour that were appropriate:

  • The trolley driver had a tip jar for expressing appreciation for keeping the tour on schedule as well as informative information and entertainment over the trolley’s PA system throughout the day.
  • At two of the wineries, the tastings were done by employees of the establishment. Tips were appropriate and appreciated.

In contrast, two of the wineries were small family owned businesses and the tastings were given by the owner/operator. However, I noticed they still had a tip jar front and center on the counter. The money paid for the wine tasting goes directly to them. The revenue for any products purchased to directly to them. We’re paying their salary directly through giving them our business. The tip jar in this instance is simply a way for them to pad their income without raising prices. I found this inappropriate and I didn’t put anything in the jar.

Food Truck Tip Jar

My wife and I went to a concert held in the grandstands of our local county fair. Two food trucks were inside the grandstand area providing food to concert goers. We quickly recognized one as a well known taco food truck in our city and got in line. Listening to the conversations between customers and the two men operating the truck, it was obvious they were the owners. I shook my head as I noted people putting money into the large tip jar on the counter. Again, these are the owners. They get 100% of the revenue from what you’re buying. There’s no reason for a tip jar in this scenario.

There are times when tip jars are appropriate within the confines of the tip culture. People in the service industry typically get tips for a job well done. In the case of the owner of a business actually running the business, I feel the tip jar is not appropriate. They are selling their product, and experience they provide is in support of their very own product. In my opinion it’s simply a way for them to keep their prices low and asking for donations to pay higher than the advertised price, and I refuse to do it.

What do you think, EOD Nation, would you tip an owner/operator?

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About Travis

5 Responses to “The Inappropriate Tip Jar”

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  1. Sassy Mamaw says:

    I definitely agree with what you are saying in principle, but in practice it is difficult for me to follow through. I worry too much about what people think, whether it’s the customer in back of me in the line, or the owner of the business, especially if it is a business I frequent often.

  2. Steveark says:

    Those are excellent points that I had not considered. I think you are exactly correct, great post!

  3. To answer your question at the end: Probably not, but I support their right to keep it out there!

    I tip at sit-down restaurants and when I get my hair cut. That’s about it.

  4. Den says:

    My pet peeve is the “tip” screen on the device when I swipe my debit card. Our local pizza place has it and when I pick up my pizza I feel guilty not tipping, but I PICKED UP MY OWN PIZZA!


  5. JoeHx says:

    I always felt that tip jars are for when tipping is optional and thus neither required nor expected. So, for me, it makes sense for an owner/operator to have a tip jar on a food truck – it’s there for the instances they go above and beyond, not for every transaction.

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