C-Suite Network™

Good Tipper or Scrooge – What Are You?


Some people love to tip and others don’t. However, it appears that, nowadays, everyone is expecting a tip even if they are just serving you at the checkout!

When you see a tip jar by the cash register what do you think? To me, the tip jar says “I deserve a tip”. But it says quite a bit more, too, and none of it good about your Customer Experience.

When ordering at a cash register, we Brits tend to feel a tip is not necessary as we offer gratuity when waited on at a table. However, I also recognize that when I am in the states, tipping rules are different.

The tip jar is there nonetheless. Now, as a customer, I must decide. Tip now, even though it’s not a situation where I would perceive a tip to be necessary, or ignore it and risk appearing rude to the person making my taco/latte/sandwich.

Say I go ahead and tip. How much do I tip? The loose change I get back from the cashier? A couple of dollars?  20% of my entire check? What is customary for the tip jar next to the cash register?

Let’s say I do tip, but then have a terribly long wait getting my taco/latte/sandwich. Or it comes cold. Or wrong. Do I get to fish my tip back out of the jar?

The presence of a tip jar reflects poorly on the Customer Experience. Whether it’s feeling unsure if you should tip, experiencing guilt because you didn’t, wondering how much to tip or wishing you hadn’t tipped at all, these situations do not enhance the Customer Experience.

The Origins and Customs of Tipping

There is some dissension about where tipping originated. One argument is that it originated in 17th Century England taverns where customers would give their server extra money “to insure promptitude” or T.I.P. Wikipedia asserts it began when English houseguests left money for the host’s servants.

Wherever it started, it didn’t make it to the U.S. until after the Civil War. The Washington Post submits tipping began because employers hired freed slaves to serve food but didn’t want to pay them an hourly wage. Over time, tipping became the norm for several industries, from hotel workers, to delivery employees, and your favorite coffee baristas.

Tips and the amount of them is subject to the country and social customs thereof. In the States, tipping is customary, ranging from 10% to 20% in most cases. In the UK, it isn’t, or at least not with same amount of expectation, which is also true in many European countries.

It’s different because of the compensation workers receive in the different countries. Many employees in the U.S. make less than the federal minimum wage because their tips are meant to make up the difference. In many states, these employees might make little more than $2 an hour in employer-paid wages. In the UK, however, employers must pay employees the minimum wage, which ranges from £7.20 to £9.40 ($8.99 to $11.74 currently), depending on the city where the worker lives.

Because UK workers make the “living wage”, there is less tipping. While there are still situations where a tip is given in the UK, there is not the same culture for tipping there that exists in the states. There are numerous situations where tips are neither given nor expected.

What a Tip Jar Says about Your Brand

Entrepreneur detailed all the ways the tip jar hurts your brand. First and foremost, a tip jar says you don’t pay your employees enough. A tip jar also make your establishment look cheap, which is never a goal of a brand. Affordable? Yes. Cheap? No. To my point, Entrepreneur asserts that tip jars are also misplaced because customers are “asked” to tip before they receive the service. Moreover, it confuses people that lack a shared cultural background.

Co-author Professor Ryan Hamilton and I present a related concept in our latest book, The Intuitive Customer: 7 imperatives for moving your Customer Experience to the next level (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016). One of our imperatives is to “accept that apparently irrelevant aspects of your Customer Experience are sometimes the most important aspects.” To summarize, this concept addresses the fact that when things get ambiguous or difficult to evaluate, customers might use high-level impressions of a brand to judge their experience. Expectations play a big role in these evaluations, and these expectations are set by your brand promise.

When a tip jar is present, it also creates an expectation. If you don’t live up to the customers’ expectations, your brand suffers for it. For small businesses, these small things can add up to big problems.

They are everywhere these days. They have weaseled their way into the most unlikely of places, quite brazenly if you ask me.

Enough is enough, as they say. Well, I have had enough with the omnipresent tip jar at the register of various establishments. If you have one sitting there now in your business, you should have enough, too, because it’s not doing anything good for your Customer Experience.

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy these:

Revolutionary Thinking on Customer Loyalty

Astonishing BIG Gains from Little Changes!

Act Now to Turn Customer Pain Points into Pleasurable Profits

Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading Customer experience consultancy & training organizations. Colin is an international author of five bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX


Roth, Carol. “Small Businesses That Encourage Tipping Are Killing Their Brand.” www.entrepreneur.com. 16 January 2017 Web. 30 January 2017. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/287793.

“Service 101: A Brief History of Tipping.” www.foodwoolf.com. Web. 30 January 2017. < http://www.foodwoolf.com/2010/08/history-of-tipping.html>.

Ferdman, Roberto A. “I dare you to read this and still feel good about tipping.” www.washingtonpost.com. 18 February 2016.

Web. 30 January 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/02/18/i-dare-you-to-read-this-and-still-feel-ok-about-tipping-in-the-united-states/?utm_term=.c4cc5b94ac1c

“Gratuity.” www.wikipedia.org. Web. 30 January 2017. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gratuity>.

“United Kingdom: Tipping & Etiquette.” www.tripadvisor.co.uk. Web. 30 January 2017. https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Travel-g186216-s606/United-Kingdom:Tipping.And.Etiquette.html

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