How to Get the Most Out of Your Tip Jar

If you use a tip jar to collect your tips, it’s in part because you don’t have time to collect them yourself. You probably only have time to tell the customer how much their drink costs, take their money, and make them change – there are more customers waiting. But when you don’t actually print the customer a bill and leave them time with it, you’re also not leaving them much time to think about the tip, so they just throw in whatever. What that means is that your tips can end up being smaller. Now you can’t fix that by spending more time with the customer, because you just don’t have it, so you need to get the customer to think about tipping another way, and that way is with the jar itself. By selecting just the right jar, and sticking it in just the right place, you can get your customers to think more about tipping; and then by throwing a great sign on that jar, you can get them to feel like tipping just a little bit more. Here’s how to do all that:

The Jar

Not all bars will allow you to put a sign on your tip jar, fine, they have their reasons, but either way what you definitely will have is the actual jar itself. Now there really isn’t that much you can do with the jar itself to coerce someone into leaving you a tip – that’s what the sign is for – but there are definitely a few easy rules to follow, and a few mistakes to avoid that can help you get that jar filled up.

So you absolutely want to go with something that’s see-through, but You Don’t Want To Use Anything That You Also Serve Drinks In. The last thing you want is someone mistaking the tip jar for someone else’s drink, not be able to find the tip jar, and then not give a tip. So no rocks glasses, tall glasses, pint glasses, or coffee mugs (if you serve coffee, that is), whatever you use for a tip jar should be the only one of its kind anywhere near the bar.

Then Make Sure It Has A Wide Enough Opening For Your Customers To Easily Drop Money Into. You don’t want anything like a piggy bank with an opening marginally bigger than a toonie so the customer has to fumble with their change to give you a tip. You ideally want the opening big enough that the customer can just tilt their change filled hand over it, and let the money fall in. The easier you make it for your customers to tip, the more likely they are to do so.

That brings me nicely to my next point: Put The Jar Well In Reach Of The Customer. Most bars tend to put the jar next to the cash register, which makes a lot of sense because plenty of cash is moving around there, and the bartender can keep an eye on it, but if your cash register is off to the side, or somewhere where the customer is going to struggle to get near it, don’t put your jar there. The second your customer has to struggle to give you a tip, they’re going to think twice about giving you one.

And then one last point – the most important one – Put It Where The Customer Is DEFINITELY Going To See It. Not just where they can see it, but where they will see it. It doesn’t matter which jar you choose if the customer doesn’t actually sees it. The ideal place would be right underneath where your hand goes when you give them their change, so when they look down at their hand they see the tip jar right right behind it, and the mental connection is made. Putting it next to the cash register is usually a safe bet, but it could also go by the bar mats, the beer taps, the service station, wherever, it really doesn’t matter exactly where, just as long as the customer has no choice but to at least glance at it.

Those are the best ways to go about making sure the customer can spot the tip jar amongst all the hustle and bustle of the bar, but you may still need to actually convince them to leave a tip, and that’s where The Sign comes in. The Tip Jar Sign is there to draw even more attention to your jar, and to put your customer in a good mood where they’re more likely to tip, which means writing “Tips” on a post-it note isn’t going to cut it. So here are some tips of my own on how to create a great sign:

The Sign

First off, The Most Important Thing To Consider With Tip Jars In General Is Clarity! The customer should clearly be able to see the sign, and clearly know what it is that they’re seeing, so make that sign big. Not so big as to be tactless, but big enough to catch someones eye. Don’t stick the sign on the side of the jar either, that defeats the purpose of making the jar see-through, and it’s not a smart use of space. One of the reasons of having the sign there in the first place is to draw extra attention to the jar, so put it above the jar and take up some extra space.

Then make sure the message on the sign is easy to read. No small writing, no fancy fonts or light colours, big bold dark capitals on a white background is the best way to go. It can get pretty dark in some bars, and the people you’re trying to get to read your sign may have had a few, so make those words easy to read. Then choose a clear message, as in understandable. The customer shouldn’t be confused by or have to think too much about your message. The sign is there to make the customer think about tipping, not about the sign itself.

Now because there are plenty of messages written all over bars – menus, events, specials, directions – you’re going to need to actually reference tips on your sign so the customer knows that this message is for the tip jar. But you can’t just flat out ask for a tip on your sign the same way you can’t do it as a server, so the best way to go about it, without being rude, is with humour.

I think that Humour Is The Best Way To Go About Getting A Tip, Period. When you sit at a bar or a table, and whoever is serving you amuses you and makes you laugh, don’t you normally tip a little more? It works much in the same way with your sign. Customers go out to have a good time, so anything that you do to help them have one, often finds itself reflected in your tips.

So try to make the customer laugh with your sign. You could go with a classic one liner where tipping is referenced in either the setup or the punchline, or you could go with a pun on the word tip – you can make one up yourself, it shouldn’t be too difficult, the word tip has a few meanings; or, you could just pull one off of the web. You could replace some of the lyrics in a popular song with the word tip, or one of its synonyms (gratuity, change, gift, present), or you could just put up a funny image with a tip related caption. Whatever you can do to make the customer laugh is going to increase your tips.

The point there with humour was to please the customer, because the better mood the customer is in, the better they are going to tip. You can put the customer in a good mood by putting something they’ll appreciate on the sign, or if you aren’t sure of what your customers will appreciate you can just Take Something From Pop Culture. Going with a pop culture reference on your sign works in a couple of ways: first, it’s going to draw the attention of anyone who has an interest in that subject (and if it’s considered pop-culture, that means plenty of people will); and two, plenty of people are going to like it. Right now, Game of Thrones is wildly popular; put a joke about Game of Thrones on your sign, that references tips (the tip of someone’s sword – I don’t know, every time I switch that program on someone is swinging one of those things) and your golden. A couple of years ago, a Breaking Bad reference would’ve worked pretty well, or Archer’s classic “Just the tip?”

If you don’t trust yourself to gage what’s hot, then go with something that is perennially popular, like Star Wars, Harry Potter, Batman, or Jeans; whatever, there are plenty of things out there that never go out of fashion. Once you’ve chosen one of them, throw a related image on the sign – again, it’ll help draw peoples attention.

It doesn’t even have to be something that everybody enjoys by the way; it can be something that everybody hates. For whatever reason, Anti-Justin Bieber Tip Jar Signs seem to be pretty popular right now. I’ve seen “Justin Bieber Assassination Fund” signs, “Every time you tip, Justin Bieber gets punched in the face” signs. I’m not trying to put out some hidden agenda I have against the guy, I’m just trying to show you that whatever is “in the now”, likeable or not, can be used to help you get a tip.

Now if you really don’t trust yourself to guess what’s hot and what’s not, you can capitalize on that with what is called A Tip Jar Battle. A Tip Jar battle is when you have two tip jars side by side underneath a question with two possible answers. Remember, something easy to read like “Which is better, Star Wars or Star Trek?”; “Who tips better, Boys or Girls?” The idea is that the customer puts a tip in the jar that corresponds with their answer. It’s a bit of fun, and people tend to like to have their say on, well, pretty much anything that they can have their say on. What you’ll find is that one side fills up much more quickly than the other. Try to go for a question that’ll stay neck and neck so people actually have to tip for their side to get the edge. My personal favourite is “Who would you rather have narrate your life: Morgan Freeman or Christopher Walken?”

That’s the advice I have for you on what to put on your sign, but before I leave you, I want to briefly touch on a few things to keep off of it.

Obviously Don’t Write Anything Insulting, as in nothing overtly offensive, OR anything that has a reasonable chance of being taken the wrong way by someone. So no hot topics like race, gender, or politics – it really isn’t worth losing a customer over a joke on your sign.

Next. You would never dream of asking a customer for a tip, or trying to guilt them into giving you one in person, so Don’t Ask For, or Try To Guilt A Tip Out Of Your Customer On Your Sign. That’ll do one of two things: persuade them not to tip at all; or make them tip, but not want to come back (and that destroys any chance of getting a tip out of them again).
And lastly, Don’t Just Write “Tips”, it’s very similar to asking for one – it’s even almost a command, plus it’s kinda lazy.

However you end up approaching your tip jar, consider this: the tip jar is a representation of you, the bartender. After all, customers are putting cash in there for you to take home, not for the jar to spend. If you put up a sign that someone finds hilarious, it’s you they’re finding hilarious; and, if you put up a sign that insults someone, then it’s you that’s insulting them.. The same applies to effort, if it looks like you put a lot of effort into the sign, it shows the customer that you’re putting effort into your job, and that’s what customers tip for. So choose the right jar, make a great sign, and watch your tips increase, but remember, the jar and the sign can only make your tips better, you still need to give good service to get them in the first place.

Good Luck!

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