Tip jar

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A tip jar in a New Jersey restaurant

A tip jar, also known as a tip cup is a container, commonly a glass jars, into which customers can put a gratuity. A tip jar is usually situated at the point-of-sale at many businesses. Although common in many countries around the world, tip jars in food and drink establishments are ubiquitous in the United States.

The tip jar has become a source of controversy. Customers may feel discouraged from patronizing establishments using them. They may also feel that tip jars are inappropriate at certain types of establishments such as movie-theater concession counters, dry cleaners, take-out restaurants, gym locker rooms or grocery bagger's work stations. Many feel social pressure to use them,[1] or that they are paying too high a total price when purchasing a simple item.[2]


The tip jar may have originated hundreds of years ago. A 1946 editorial in Life claimed that English taverns used prominently displayed urns for tips that were labelled 'To Insure Promptitude'. However, there is no historical evidence to support this.[3][4][5]


Usually, the accumulated tips are divided among all of the workers during the shift. [6] In one case, a court case resulted when supervisors and assistant managers claimed that they were entitled to a share at a Starbucks coffee outlet in New York.[7]

At piano bars[edit]

A pianist at a piano bar may earn tips from a tip jar to supplementing the normally small salary. This may be a basket, jar, or oversized brandy snifter placed on or near the piano. Tips may be given by customers who have been played a song that was requested by being written on a napkin.[8]

Credit card tip jar[edit]

For convenience, a digital tip jar may be provided. This allows customers to swipe their credit card in a simulated tip jar. The card reader is set to charge a certain amount, normally one dollar. If the customer wishes to tip more, he or she can simply swipe the card numerous times.[9][10]


It is common for tip jars to display a humorous or compelling quote to encourage tipping.


Tip jars or the contents within are sometimes stolen, with such thefts being the subject of videos and newspaper articles. Some tip jars are box-shaped, and have a locking lid with a slot through which the tip is inserted. The entire tip jar may also be secured on a tether to prevent theft.

In popular culture[edit]

A main theme of the Seinfeld episode "The Calzone" involves George Costanza trying to retrieve money he put into a tip jar.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The culture of tip jars". Enquirer.com. 2004-09-13. Retrieved 2014-06-12. 
  2. ^ Susannah Cahalan (2010-04-11). "Tip-jar madness takes city | New York Post". Nypost.com. Retrieved 2014-06-12. 
  3. ^ "Kitchen Shrink: Counter Culture: The tip jar and you". Del Mar Times. 2011-09-29. Retrieved 2014-06-12. 
  4. ^ http://scholarship.law.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1267&context=jbl&sei-redir=1&referer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bing.com%2Fsearch%3Fq%3DTO%2BINSURE%2BPROMPTITUDE%2Bsite%253Aedu%26go%3DSubmit%26qs%3Dds%26form%3DQBRE%26filt%3Dall#search=%22INSURE%20PROMPTITUDE%20site%3Aedu%22
  5. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Etymonline.com. 1946-07-15. Retrieved 2014-06-12. 
  6. ^ "Tip jars: The new counter culture - News - The State Journal-Register - Springfield, IL". Sj-r.com. 2009-06-10. Retrieved 2014-06-12. 
  7. ^ "Starbucks tip jar at the center of NY high court case (+video)". CSMonitor.com. 2013-05-28. Retrieved 2014-06-12. 
  8. ^ Swenson, John. "Pat O'Brien's: The Song Remains the Same", offbeat.com, August 20, 2012
  9. ^ 9/04/12 5:20pm 9/04/12 5:20pm. "Digital Tip Jar Lets You Leave a Dollar With Your Credit Card". Gizmodo.com. Retrieved 2014-06-12. 
  10. ^ Funaro, Kaitlin (2014-06-06). "The tip jar gets a digital makeover". Marketplace.org. Retrieved 2014-06-12.